London’s French community flock to South Kensington for exhibition


Hundreds of people attended the event.


By Francine Beleyi

Hundreds of people attended the very first exhibition of the Federation of French Associations (FAFGB) in Great Britain in South Kensington this weekend.

The event, held at Baden-Powell House and organised by the new president of the FAFGB, Anne Faure, aimed to promote the various types of French associations and the services available to her fellow compatriots.

Thirty-three associations ranging from education, spirituality, business schools alumni, life in London, business, culture, leisure and other charities were present. 

Mrs Faure said she was pleasantly surprised by the big turnout.

“It’s good to see so many people coming and wanting to know about the associations, that’s great,” she said.

The French community in London is huge, particularly in West London. Unofficial numbers suggest they are about 300,000, leading Boris Johnson to say there are more French people living in London than in Bordeaux.

There was a selection of high quality regional products to taste such as cheese, cakes, pâtés, wine and other regional specialities.

Gout de France, an online retailer of traditional French products, displayed its range of delicacies from pâtés, cheeses, jam, and honey, all sourced from independent manufacturers.

The founder of Gout de France, Alain Picard, has been living in England for nine years and started the online distribution because of the need for French food in England.

“English people are more interested by the wine, white wine and red wine. They are also interested by French pâté and the rillettes. They love it,” he said.

“Surprising enough we also sell, not massively but a bit of snail to English people. I guess those are English people who use to go to France and discovered the taste of snail and say well this is good even if the taste is a bit different and a bit surprising but they definitively love it.”  

David Badman, a British consultant who was visiting the show with his French wife said: “I think if you go half way to a community they will come all the way to you.

“I have learnt French because if you don’t know the language how can you get inside a community?”

 Another visitor, Jeanne-Andrée, a French woman from Corsica, has only been established in London for a few months to learn English after being made redundant from her PA job in a pharmaceutical firm. She said: “It’s very useful to know there are associations that provide help if you are in need.

“I was very happy to see Corsica stall and people coming and taste our products.”

The Association of Alsacians in Great Britain, created in 1995, was also present. They help newcomers in the capital city to know the environment although not all Alsacians coming in the country are looking to join the association, as they’d rather integrate with local people.

They have 240 members in UK not only from Alsace but friends of Alsace, people who have studied in Alsace, known Alsace and friends of friends of Alsace.

Jean-Michel Ditner, who has launched Eurostar and represents the Association of Alsacians said:  “We do many things and have a close cooperation with the French Embassy for Bastille Day for example. On November 6 we have a big gala dinner event with a top chef where we bring together Alsacians and friends of Alsace.” 

One of the biggest French schools, l’Ecole Centrale de Paris, has 300 alumni in UK and was represented by Flavien Kulawik, 43, Entrepreneur and CEO of KLB, an operation consultancy. The association was created only two years ago and organises four annual dinners, networking events that bring top speakers to members who are predominantly in finance, energy, and services to discuss industry topics. They also help new ‘centraliens’ who want to set up here to find a flat or a job.

Regards de femmes, an association for women who speak French, created eight years ago with a mailing list of 600 people, organises four conferences a year. Marielle Plummer, property developer in France, and responsible for table animators during the conferences, said: “We want to give time to women to express themselves between women with a high standard-not just having coffee with other women – but have the time to think.”

Photo courtsey of Ben Sutherland, with thanks.

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