Be More Sensitive to Political Situation in Brittany GS Tells Arts Council
News from Celtic Press
The General Secretary (GS) of the Celtic League has written to the Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Wales to ask his opinion about an incident that occurred at their stand at the Lorient inter-Celtic festival in Brittany at the beginning of the month.
In the letter the GS suggests that the Arts Council of Wales should have been “more sensitive of the political situation in Brittany and have not made a clear distinction between Loire-Atlantique and the rest of Brittany, especially in consideration of the event they were attending.” The full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Nick Capaldi
Lorient inter-Celtic festival
I am writing to you following a report the Celtic League received from a member of our Breizh branch about an incident that occurred at the Arts Council of Wales during the Lorient inter Celtic festival. During the festival a visitor to the stand, Herve Morvan, was arrested by the police, after a discussion with staff about Breton reunification that resulted in him drawing on one of the maps that was displayed on one side of the stand.
As you will be aware, the display in question was about the various twinning committees that exist between Brittany and Wales and rightly illustrated the good work that these committees do. As part of the display the Arts Council of Wales was exhibiting two maps – one large, the other small – on the wall of their stand with a list of the different twinning committees written along side. The large map was of historic Breizh and included all 5 Breton departments, but the smaller map next to it did not include the Breton département of Loire-Atlantique (i.e. only 4 départements shown). In addition to these two different maps, the Arts Council of Wales had listed in two separate columns on the same wall the towns and cities that were twinned in Loire-Atlantique separately to those from the rest of Brittany.
Our member, Jakez Derouet, was at the stand and in fact had brought Mr Morvan along with him to see the display for himself and to explain to the manager in English why Breton people disagreed with the way the display had been presented. It was the opinion of Mr Morvan and Mr Derouet that the display was presented in such a way that it seemed as though Loire-Atlantique was not part of Brittany. Mr Morvan and Mr Derouet were surprised that the Arts Council of Wales had made this distinction and were concerned that the organisation was making a political point.
It is important to remember that in 1941 Breizh was partitioned by the French Nazi collaborator Marshal Pétain under the Vichy France political system in order to weaken Breton culture and the département of Loire-Atlantique – where the historic capital city of Naoned/Nantes lies – was removed from the rest of Breizh and joined with the French Pays-de-la-Loire region. This partition was at first abolished after the fall of Vichy France, but reinstated in the years after the war. The Breton community feel understandably cheated that their historic nation has been partitioned in this way and have campaigned tirelessly since partition to have their land reunited once again. In the recent past the French regional administrative assembly of Brittany and the departmental assembly of Loire-Atlantique have both stated that they are in favour of the unification of Brittany and earlier this year a constitutional amendment was purposed that raised the prospect for the first time of a future referendum in Loire-Atlantique on reunification.
Mr Morvan asked to see the manager of the stall and began to explain why the display should have been presented differently. Mr Derouet reported that the manager was obviously annoyed at the two visitors and argued that it was not a political map. Consequently to illustrate the point and in protest Mr Morvan calmly drew an extension to the outline of the small map on display to include Loire-Atlantique. Mr Derouet reported that the outline was done in a clean professional way with a black marker pen and was hardly noticeable and in fact improved the accuracy of the display.
However it was at this point that the manager decided to call the police and Mr Morvan was arrested and spent the next two hours in custody at the local police station before being released on bail. Mr Morvan is now waiting to see if the Arts Council of Wales will press charges.
Mr Derouet explained that the arrest was thoroughly disappointing and that the discussion could not have been more amicable. Mr Derouet has stated that he will now contact the twinning committees to explain the situation and has already reported the incident to a Breton organisation that campaigns for reunification, who has expressed sympathy with the Bretons. In case you were not aware there is widespread support for reunification throughout Brittany and demonstrations can easily attract up to 10,000 people. Mr Morvan, who visited the Arts Council of Wales stand along with Mr Derouet, may have been hoping for their Welsh compatriots to have been more sensitive of the political situation in Brittany and have not made a clear distinction between Loire-Atlantique and the rest of Brittany, especially in consideration of the event they were attending.
The Celtic League would be interested in knowing what your views are on this matter.
Professor Dai Smith, Chair, Board of Trustees
Breton Arrested After Visit to Arts Council of Wales Stand at Inter-Celtic Festival:
For comment or clarification on this news item in the first instance contact:
Tel: 0044 (0)1209 319912
M: 0044 (0)7787318666
The General Secretary will determine the appropriate branch or General Council Officer to respond to your query.
ISSUED BY THE CELTIC LEAGUE INFORMATION SERVICE
The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues.