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Sing out to keep Jèrriais alive

Sing out to keep Jèrriais alive

Sunday 20 May 2018

Sing out to keep Jèrriais alive

Sunday 20 May 2018


The Festival of Words has launched the Jersey Song Project in a bid to channel the power of song to keep Jèrriais alive and is inviting local musicians and speakers of the threatened Norman-French dialect to create new songs.

The songs will be performed at the opening event of the Jersey Festival of Words on 26 September 2018, which will be filmed for Youtube.

The Jersey Song Project is led by Jèrriais expert and musician Kit Ashton, whose Jèrriais band Badlabecques is doing its best to revitalise the island’s language through their concerts and recordings. The project will form part of his research towards a doctorate from Goldsmiths College, University of London, on how music can help endangered languages.

The compositions can be on any theme and in any genre or language but must include at least one word of Jèrriais. The organisers hope that new songs generated by the project will be good enough to keep being sung into the future.

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Pictured: Kit Ashton will be helping participating bands with L'Office du Jèrriais.

Mr Ashton said: "I am really excited to be launching this project with the Jersey Festival of Words, though a little nervous too as it really depends on the creative involvement of the community. Anything could happen! Jèrriais is now a critically endangered language and, unless the people of Jersey revitalise it, it could disappear from our culture altogether, taking with it hundreds of years of literature in the form of songs, stories, poems, reports, recipes, local wisdom and more.

"Music is one of the most powerful ways to keep a language alive in our hearts and imaginations, so we are hoping for some really interesting new music to come out of this process."

Kit Ashton and L’Office du Jèrriais will help the participating bands who will be able to take part in different ways, by collaborating with some of the remaining speakers of the language, by setting an existing text to music or by translating their own lyrics. 

Festival vice-chairman Paul Bisson, himself a musician and teacher, said: "Kit Ashton, Badlabecques and L’Office du Jèrriais have done fantastic work in recent years to reignite interest in our native language and its rich literary tradition. We are proud to be working with Kit in this new project, which will create a unique and very fitting opening event for the whole festival."

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Pictured: "Music is one of the most powerful ways to keep a language alive in our hearts and imaginations," says Jèrriais expert and musician Kit Ashton.

As well as the Jersey Song Project, this year’s festival will include the launch of a translation into Jèrriais of Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury’s children’s classic 'We’re All Going on a Bear Hunt.' With its publication by Walker Books coinciding with the European Day of Languages, the book will be presented to every child starting at primary school in September, with the aim of sparking interest among the young while also giving parents an incentive to learn some of the language. 

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