On Sunday 19/2 I made my way to Dunkerque in the Nord-Pas de Calais region to see what the Carnaval de Dunkerque (Dunkirk Carnival) was all about.
I arrived at about 3.00 pm and found that the city had been taken over by tens of thousands of people all dressed up, singing and dancing in the streets and having a mad few hours!
The Dunkirk Carnival is a centuries old tradition for the town of Dunkerques and began when the employers of local fishermen and their families wished to see them off to the Icelandic fishing waters in style. It was a dangerous job and the men were away for months at a time and so began the tradition which has carried on to this day.
It was without doubt the maddest carnival I have ever been to – the predominent theme was men dressed as ladies, ladies dressed as men, animal costumes, strange make up and wigs – in fact the weirder and more outlandish the costume the more the crowds roared their approval!
There was singing and dancing, fluorescent colours – fun songs, traditional sea shanties a band of men dressed in sou’westers and trumpeting for all they were worth, the crowd singing along carrying brightly coloured umbrellas on long handles. The mayor threw herrings to the crowd from the magnificent old belfry in the town centre and it felt a bit like a very strange dream – but a very happy one!
These people of Dunkerque – they are without a doubt the most friendly and welcoming people in France – et ils sont là les Dunkerquois!!