In France, in the lost triangle between Grenoble, Gap and Valence there is a little and cute village between mountains and vineyards. The trip isn’t easy to achieve but Châtillon-en-Diois, that small medieval village, is invaded once a year in may by dancers from all Europe. That festival is very dear to me, because it’s in my beautiful region of birth,and because of its very special atmosphere that makes everyone fall in love with the festival.
If every festival has its own unique signature, where some festivals will focus on the quality of the teaching like Dansstage, other focusing on promoting different dances like Andancas , the Nuit du Folk Dioise is more built like a funny holidays camp with amazing music.
Wandering from festival to festival, I’ve met Manu and Rosemarie, members of Châtillon’s organising team. In front of a beer we discussed what makes their festival so popular.
First ingredients : fantastic line-up and fancy costumes
First thing to know, the festival is quite long starting from wednesday night to sunday, with an important line-up of amazing quality, mostly neo. The festival is opened to new sonorities, like 2 years ago an evening dedicated to Electro folk. Between the different sets, “small bands” (but always great) are selected to play acoustic to entertain motivation.The bal folk world has countless small bands and I like festivals giving a chance to smaller bands to play for big crowds and extend their popularity.
When we first decide to organise a festival, we went to a lot of different events to see what’s happening elsewhere, what we liked or not… We made a list and we decided of priorities, the golden rules of our own festival.
We agreed on several points :
– HOSPITALITY, warm welcoming and quality of life are essential for musicians and for the dancers
– The bands have to be very good to make people travel to our place
– The sound and dancefloor have to be flawless
– A « night » is a full night, we’re not closing if there is anyone still standing
– A beautiful room and decoration makes a nice atmosphere
– Local food network
It happened that Chatillon has one of the biggest room in the area. And we are so very lucky, the room in itself is beautiful and the medieval village is so charming, it does half the work of conquering people’s heart. It’s already beautiful even before we start decorating and after 7 éditions we are so proud and surprised to see people love the place as much as we do.Manu & Rosemarie from Châtillon
Every night has its own color with a crazy dress code from disco to sailor and Holly glory, their ability to craziness is endless. 2017’s themes will be prehistoric, viking to Louis XIV, eighties, and futuristic. Looks promising !
Add a bit of nature
Châtillon-en-Diois and its surroundings are astonishingly beautiful. Therefore the organisers, in addition to music workshops with the artists, organise activities in order to make a link between villagers and dancers as they expect people to take a coffee (and dance) in the villages, at the market, visit the wine sellers… and enjoy the place !
As the musicians fee are not as high as we would like, we decided to make us attractive by inviting them for the whole week, propose them “résidence” if they have time so they can spend some time working on their music. But strangely the attempts of résidence were not very efficient, and always ending in naps, beers, walk in the forest, pétanque… In Châtillon people are catching up with the smoothness of life and don’t seem able to focus…Manu & Rosemarie from Châtillon
If you’re looking for walks around the village, 2017’s plan is a bal in the market on friday, followed with musical walk to the wine cave of the Maupas organised by the festival (amongst many other things) and again followed by a bal. Open stages are scheduled now and then. And for those who wants to enjoy a hike, many walks are proposed by the Tourism Office.
Spice up with food, food, food (and drinks)
French have the reputation of excellent food and beverage, the Diois has both. The area is especially famous for its Clairette de Die, a sort of sugar-ish delicious bubbly wine, between Cider and Champagne. You’ll find plenty of that at the festival’s buvette.
I think we have the biggest score of beer volume amongst festivals. At least 150 bottles of clairette and 700 liters of beer. And not a single drunk people problem. When we started the festival it took a few years for Châtillon’s inhabitants to really take measure of the kind of party and people it is. They kept announcing a rave party in the local journal. Took them a while to realize we party and we drink -a lot- without disturbances. It’s been 3 years since we started to really extend the festival to the village. Last year we organised a concert with Montanaro Cavez in the Temple. It creates activities for the villagers, and show the village to the dancers. It’s a step by step. At the beginning they didn’t pay attention to us, after several years they started to pay more and more attention. Now it’s the 8th edition and the festival has priority to any the other event at the same period. We had an inside evolution in the organising team, it completely renewed itself since the first edition, and we organise other events during the year so there is a lot of work there on that side as well.Manu & Rosemarie from Châtillon
Châtillon-en-Diois is part of the beautiful department of Drôme which is famous for Ravioles, small raviolis of cheese and herbs. Did you know Drôme is the department with the highest rate of bio farms in France? If you’re visiting for the first time, I hope you’re ready to eat kilos of Ravioles, cheese and excellent ham.
We work only bio restaurant owners, and local food circuit. We evaluate there will always be people rotating around the bar. That’s also why we decided to make a different and unique atmosphere with a bit of craziness around the bar with music, videos effects… So it has a life on its own.Manu & Rosemarie from Châtillon
As every event gaining popularity, the festival of Châtillon-en-Diois is now victim of its success : 2017’s edition was sold out in 2 days. But the chances for the festival to grow bigger in the future are not very high.
Unfortunately we don’t have much space to extend the festival. Surrounded by mountains we don’t have anywhere to put more stages or welcome more campers. Probably we won’t increase our capacity and keep it as a simple and local festival. Our improvements now tend to encourage the dancers and the villagers to meet and discover each other more by organising side activities. We also organise other events during the year, more local ones, and a big party of 3 nights for New Years Eve. Our ambition for a bigger festival would be to create a huge event on a week with all the bal folk associations of the region, based on summer festivals. Put a lot of traditional and neo music with awesome bands, and show people from Europe how great a party can be in our beautiful region !Manu & Rosemarie from Châtillon