Deux Sèvres is nicknamed the “Terre de Festivals” because from May to September they are almost continuous, with a few starting in March (sheep and cattle festivals mainly) and several in October. Some are huge and happen every year, some are small affairs put on by a town or village. Then there are whacky ones like Festifurious which appears to be racing unorthodox vehicles. If it moves you can race it! Including combine harvesters apparently! But I’m cheating with that one as it is not actually in Deux Sèvres (but close enough to visit) If you are into cars and bikes then the biennial Vintage and Veteran Grand Prix in June in Bressuire is fun. Or there is the 3-day hot-air ballooning Montgolfiade in early September in Thouars.

If you enjoy live music then there is something for every taste. Jazz is very popular and practically all year round. The annual Ramparts Festival in the grounds of the ruined castle in Bressuire in May features rock, funk and ska. There are many choirs and orchestras and smaller groups performing classical music. There are blues and folk festivals and one nearby specializes in music from different parts of the world.

If you like food there is a festival for most tastes. They always have music and other things going on but the focus is on a certain type of food or drink.... steak.... snails... wine... raw chillis... sauerkraut...

Dance, storytelling, street theatre and circus skills are also common themes. The “Very Big Clowns’ Reunion” is held every other year in June and is centred around Niort. “Voice and Dance” lasts for 3 weeks in October and tours around north Deux-Sèvres. The annual Festival “AH!” lasts a week in and around Parthenay and includes music, street theatre, magic and articulated puppets taller than houses. Art, sculpture, photography and film all have their own festivals. FIFO in Ménigoute in October is a competition and screening of the year’s best films of birds and wild animals.

One of the biggest festivals is FLIP. This is an international games festival in Parthenay which lasts for two weeks every July. A large part of the town is closed off and over 3000 games set up for people to try. There are many different sections with truly something for everyone. You can join in modern team games, try medieval challenges, play board and card games (hundreds of them from the already published, to brand-new ones being tried out by their designers) or be taught basic circus skills. The streets all have games set out, so as you wander along you can stop and play or watch others test their skill. Every morning the section for children is open. This has sand and water play areas for the youngest but tents full of other activities for older children. The most amazing thing about this festival is that it is completely FREE!

The Highland Games held in June in Bressuire is a biannual 2 day display of Scottish (and Irish and French) muscle and accompanying hospitality! Great fun!

How about a welding festival? Yep! Artists come to Parthenay in September and spend 24 hours welding scrap metal into sculptures while the audience watches and applauds!! Or a festival for illustrators? This is in June in Niort and involves cartoonists and illustrators demonstrating how they draw their main characters, whether for books, comics or mangas.

There are loads of collectors’ festivals where you can go along and admire the collections, buy, sell and swap items if you happen to collect the same stuff. I never realised there were people who collect sugar cube wrappings!!!

So you see there really is something for everyone, from the whacky to the highbrow, and going on all around. Every village too has its annual fête with activities in the afternoon and then a meal and dancing in the evening (St Paul en Gâtine is always the last weekend in August) and you don’t have to live in the village to take part.

Festival AHFestival AH! - The puppets being prepared for the parade