On July 14, the anniversary of storming of the Bastille in 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution is marked in France and by French communities around the world with festivals and military parades. To coincide with this important day, we spoke to Crawley resident Jeff Herbert who recalls when he wrote to the Élysée Palace.
As Bastille Day approached, Crawley resident and keen artist Jeff Herbert explains how he received a personal message from the office of then French President François Hollande 11 days after writing to him. Jeff was prompted to put pento paper and contact the president following some of France’s darkest days in 2015.
In January 2015, following the devastating terrorist attacks at the offices of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and hostage siege at a Jewish supermarket, Jeff wrote to France’s head of state to offer his condolences. The attack resulted in the loss of 20 lives, 22 serious injuries sustained, and at the time in January 2015, the attack was the deadliest act of terror in France for more than 50 years. The terrorist attack
would remain the bloodiest until attacks in Paris at the city’s Bataclan theatre and Stade de France sports stadium in November 2015.
As well as offering his sincere condolences, Jeff enclosed a picture of his artwork which was installed in Théoule-sur-Mer in the Alpes-Maritimes region in the South East of France in 1989. Jeff had created the artwork for the bicentenary of the French Revolution that year, entitling the work 200 Years Of Freedom, as the French nation marked 200 years since the abolition of its monarchy.
The artwork made of wood, stone, steel and glass features unchained hands, the French tricolour and the national motto of France – liberté, égalité, fraternité. As well as producing art to celebrate the significant date in French history, Jeff has produced work for the Australian nation too, in 1988, he produced a piece marking Australia’s bicentenary which is housed in Australia House in London.
In response to his letter to the French President, Jeff received a photograph of President Hollande. Speaking about what compelled him to write to the French leader, Jeff says he wanted to express his support and solidarity to President Hollande and the French people. He added that for him as an
artist he wanted to do something positive at a time of such a great and grave tragedy.
The Original Entente Cordiale
The Entente Cordiale series of agreements were signed in April 1904 between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the French Republic. The signing of the agreement marked the end of almost a thousand years of intermittent conflict between the two states. The Entente Cordiale was the culmination of the policy of diplomat, Théophile Delcassé, France’s Foreign Minister from 1898, who believed that a greater level of Franco-British understanding and co-operation would give France increased levels of security against any German system of alliances in Western Europe.
By Jacob White