2021 in review: a year of French culture in Australia

Reading Time: 7 minutes

As we prepare to farewell 2021, we thought we’d take a look at the highlights of French culture in Australia this year on Matilda Marseillaise. We’ve had celebrations of French food and wine to art exhibitions, festivals and other events with French themes. We’ve interviewed people across many areas including international touring artists and local French and francophone people. Join us as we look back over 2021.


French culture in Australia: French Food days

Food is an extremely important part of French culture in Australia as much as in France. January was of course the month of the Galette des Rois which is always one of our most popular posts and has become the go-to resource for French and Francophiles in Australia to find out where they can buy this special cake around Australia.


We celebrated Croissant Day with a brief history of the croissant and again letting you know where you can buy croissants from French bakeries in Australia. Then we turned to a sweeter treat for Chocolate Truffle Day. Another day to indulge in all things cacao was World Chocolate Day.


We also wrote about Cheese Lovers’ Day for the first time with a focus on cheese subscriptions and celebrated Mouldy Cheese Day in October. As always, Christmas was celebrated with the Bûche de Noël.

French culture in Australia - food days


French culture in Australia: Drinks Days

You can’t have food without something to drink and we continued our French wine varietal series throughout the year with facts about the varietals and recommendations from French wine importers in Australia. We also celebrated World Bartenders Day with French cocktails.


We looked at French spirits and liqueurs: Chartreuse Day with a look at the history of the green drink and a day celebrating another often-green drink: Absinthe Day. In addition, we discovered strong French links in one of the most popular spirits of the moment: gin. We also celebrated another spirit that you probably don’t associate with France: vodka.


Champagne and sparkling wine gave us moments of celebration throughout 2021 with various festivals: Sparkling Fest, Bubbles Festival, Taste Champagne, Effervescence Tasmania.

French drinks days


French culture in Australia during Festival time

Australia’s borders were still shut due to COVID-19 so festival time didn’t feature any international acts in 2021. 2021 highlights instead were French themed shows or shows from artists with French links at Adelaide Fringe, Adelaide Festival and Sydney Festival. These provided opportunities to enjoy French culture in Australia.


Particularly strong French links were found in performances at Adelaide Fringe including music in different styles, theatre and more. The White Mouse told the story of Australian French Resistance leader, Nancy Wake. Louise Blackwell and the Paris Set took us to Paris for the night.


By the time June came, Adelaide Cabaret Festival was able to bring in a few international acts including Brent Ray Fraser, who paints with a very unique and personal tool. Kim David Smith gave a strong nod to Marlene Dietrich with his show Mostly Marlene also at Adelaide Cabaret Festival.


Auburn in South Australia’s Clare Valley was transformed into a French village and a celebration of French culture in Australia for a weekend at the inaugural Auburn Frenchfest, which will return in 2023.


Le Festival was held over 4 separate events throughout the year, bringing 4 weekends of French joy to Brisbane.

French culture in Australia - festivals


French and francophone culture in Australia: National Days

We celebrated (even if virtually for some) the national days of a number of Francophone countries: Canada Day, Bastille Day, Belgian National Day and Swiss National Day as well as Alsace Fan Day.


French culture in Australia via exhibitions

Fortunately, COVID-19 didn’t stop international works of art coming to Australia. Exhibition highlights included a number of exciting exhibitions with French links including: French Impressionism: From the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Camille Henrot: is Today Tomorrow, and She-oak and sunlight: Australian impressionism.


Most recently the NGV opened the Gabrielle Chanel: Fashion Manifesto exhibition and the Art Gallery of New South Wales opened its Matisse: Life and Spirit.


An international exhibition of a different scale and type, Van Gogh Alive also toured in 2021 and continues to tour Australia. Our Hearts are Still Open, a photographic exhibition and book were recently unveiled in Sydney and we chatted to Australian-born photojournalist Tony Maniaty about them.

French culture in Australia / la culture française en Australie


French and francophone film

The Alliance Française French Film Festival returned to the big screen in March and April 2021. Highlights for us included Bye Bye MoronsMiss among those that we reviewed. Countless others were also enjoyed. Because of COVID-19 lockdowns throughout Europe for much of 2020, Australian audiences were the first to see a number of films shown at the AFFFF 2021 including Eiffel and Delicious. We interviewed incoming Artistic Director of the festival, Karine Mauris.


One of our most read film reviews this year was for a film which is now on SBS on Demand: Roxane. With most of the Eastern states in lockdown over several months of the year, our articles about previous festival films available on streaming services were also well-read.


French and francophone films also featured at the Jewish International Film Festival and at the Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals.


French culture in Australia via music

We interviewed Sydney music duo Goldfynch on the occasion of their release of the beautiful escapist song “Ballooning over Paris” something we all longed to do with Australia’s closed borders. Baby et Lulu’s much anticipated Album Trois was finally released and we chatted to Lara Goodridge.  Pauline Maudy of MZAZA toured her show “Take me to Paris” around Queensland.


Sticking with the musical theme, we also interviewed Elena Gabouri ahead of her performances in Opera Australia’s Aida in Sydney and in Melbourne. Nicolas Fleury, French horn player from Melbourne Symphony Orchestra chatted with us. On the theme of opera and classical music, Pinchgut Opera presented Platée for the very first time on Australian stages.


Our favourite French festival So Frenchy So Chic announced a return to Melbourne and Sydney in February 2022.

French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie


French culture in Australia via theatre

2021 saw the return of French theatre to Australian stages. Brisbane French Theatre presented its original play Us and Them. Perth French Theatre invited you to the circle of illusionists and after many false starts, Melbourne French Theatre was able to present its new show, The Candidate.


French culture in Australia in sport

The French Rugby team Les Bleus played 3 test matches against Australia’s Wallabies in Sydney and in Brisbane. We told you where you could watch them around Australia.


Other French happenings

Adelaide’s Les Deux Coqs in conjunction with Holdfast Bay City council started Rendezvous Market, a European Market with foods and crafts from many European countries being represented.


Glasshouse Fragrances’ launched a French inspired collection just in time for Bastille Day with delicious scents of Montmartre Macaron and Sacred Heart.


We made sure you knew your French (and Belgian) dogs from the imposters for International Dog Day in August.


In November, Sacreblue, the Embassy of France in Australia’s brand new website dedicated to French culture in English was launched and we were finally able to announce our partnership with them.

French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie



We interviewed cabaret singer Caroline Nin and director Craig Ilott about L’Hôtel, an immersive theatrical world of French intrigue which made its worldwide debut at Adelaide Cabaret Festival in June.


We interviewed a man who is perhaps Australia’s most famous French television chef, Gabriel Gaté for International Chefs Day.


One of the first international productions to visit Australia since COVID-19 struck and closed our borders in March 2020 was The Little Prince, direct from Marseille to the Sydney Opera House. We interviewed Chris Mouron who adapted the book for stage, Ebony Bott of the SOH about the logistics of bringing an international team to Australia, and staging a large show during COVID-19 times. The Little Prince is making a return to Sydney for a limited season of shows in early January – read our interview with Lionel Zalachas and Laurisse Sulty


We chatted to Michael Boyd, illusionist and also show director of Cabaret de Paris which started its Australian tour with new lead, Rhonda Burchmore.


We spoke to Australian author Pip Drysdale about her thrilling novel The Paris Affair.


Most recently, we chatted with Priscilla Doueihy ahead of her performances at Sydney Festival 2022 show 44 Sex Acts in One Week; Erin Helyard about piano and French composers ahead of Adelaide Festival 2022 shows Four Hands at the Érard and Evolution of the Piano.


French businesses in Australia

We published interviews with founders of French businesses promoting French culture in Australia including:


French culture in Australia/ la culture française en Australie

We supported local French businesses by getting them to contribute their recommendations for Christmas gifts for francophiles. When many of the Australian states went back into lockdown, we let you know where you could purchase French take-away food.


Sofitel Adelaide, its French restaurant Garçon Bleu, and street level champagne bar Déjà Vu, were long awaited additions to Adelaide’s 5-star hotel and dining scene.


The French Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry held events both virtual and in person, where permitted, throughout the year including the French ANZ Business Days 2021 business forum which covered a number of interesting and pertinent topics.


It’s been a busy year! What have your highlights been? Is there anything you’d like to see on Matilda Marseillaise in 2022?

REVIEW: Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide is its first showing in The Grand Pavilion, a purpose-built space, which will then tour Australia throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022 (COVID permitting). Van Gogh Alive is an immersive digital art show where Van Gogh’s works are shown, not in full in a frame on walls in a gallery but in enlarged segments, on large video screens throughout the space.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

The North Adelaide purpose-built space comprises 4 rooms. You enter via what I’ll call the entrance room, off which a replica of the tiny bedroom as shown in the painting Bedroom in Arles has been carefully constructed. This entrance room also houses a ticket booth, merchandise and in the other corner a café, which is a recreation of Van Gogh’s Café Terrace at Night, serving a daily changing menu of French dishes.

Also off the main entrance room is a small enchanting space called The Starry Night room, which brings Van Gogh’s Starry Night to life – the floor and ceiling have been painted with large scale parts of Starry Night and strings of fairy lights hang from the ceiling to the ground. Mirrored walls make the space seem far larger than it is and it was proving quite popular for selfies when we visited.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide - Starry night room

This is all a prelude to the main event in the SENSORY4™ Gallery– where a 90-minute video plays on loop taking you through not just Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous works but also moments of Vincent Van Gogh’s life. As your entry into this room isn’t timed from when you first present your ticket – it’s possible that you will enter part way through the video but it really doesn’t matter. We entered towards the end of the loop and stayed and watched it through to the end again.

The Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide experience recounts Van Gogh’s days from his Dutch period in his homeland The Netherlands right through to his days in the asylum in Saint Rémy. While Vincent had a very sad life, the experience itself is not depressing. This is largely because of the brightness of the artworks displayed throughout acting as a good contrast to the somewhat sad quotes displayed on the sidelines.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

In our interview with Bruce Peterson of Grande Experiences, we asked Bruce “What made you choose Van Gogh as the subject?”. He answered it in the following way:

A couple of defining reasons, probably three.

First of all, we’re story tellers so whatever we do we need to be able to tell a story and to be able to educate people around that story. And Vincent has a slightly tragic story but a story to tell that we’re able to get across through the medium without spoken word.

Secondly, his artwork is really bright, colourful, big brush strokes, it lends itself to the medium we work in.

The third is his popularity, so it was going to be commercially successful, you know that’s the reality of things, we might be able to find good stories and great artwork but we might not have the brand or the subject matter that gets the visitors along.

In Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide, Vincent’s tragic story is told through quotes and significant moments of his life being signposted on side screens in the SENSORY4™ Gallery. The quotes relate to

  • his love of painting:“The only time I feel alive is when I’m painting

    I dream of painting and then I paint my dream”; and

  • his tormented mind and his relationship with alcohol – we all know he was a fan of the green fairy (one part of the experience makes you feel like you are inside a bottle of sparkling green absinthe) and it was said to have been a factor in him cutting off his ear:“If the storm within gets too loud, I take a glass too much to stun myself

    Though I am often in the depths of misery, there is still calmness, pure harmony and music inside me”.


Seeing Van Gogh’s paintings on such a large exaggerated scale allows the viewer to appreciate the brush-strokes and the detail in the paintings which one may not otherwise have the chance to get close enough to. Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide brings his works to life with the addition of moving elements – for example his Almond Blossoms are seen with leaves falling, when Starry Night is on the video screens, the luminescent water moves and shimmers and a shooting star flies across the sky.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

The projections weren’t just on the walls but also on large areas of the floors, which enabled children to get up close to the art. In one part, where a train track was projected onto the floor and the sound of a train puffing along was played, children jumped onto the projection and ran along the tracks as if they were chasing the train. It was a great way to see children get involved in art.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

The paintings are projected to a varied score of classical artists, which brought another enticing immersive sensory element to Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide. Music/painting pairings include:

  • Carnival of the Animals VII Aquarium Jeff Megan to Starry night
  • Lakmee Act I: Flower Duet – Jeff Meegan, Julian Gallant played to accompany projections of Van Gogh’s correspondence.
  • Suite No. 1 for violoncello solo in G Major BMV 1007 I. Prelude – David Tobin, Jeff Meegan,
  • The Cherry Blossoms Toshiko Yonekawa to Almond Blossoms
  • Pizzicatto from Ballet “Sylvia” – the images change in time with the song
  • Gnossienne No. 1 – William Masselos


And once you leave the SENSORY4™ Gallery, you enter the sunflower room – a room filled with sunflowers all around with mirrored walls, and a sky painted ceiling to make you feel like you are in a French sunflower field. Another popular selfie spot.

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide - Sunflower Room

Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide is the immersive experience we all need at the moment – escapism, a taste of something different, international art that we can’t travel to see and in a way we’re not likely to see it again, and photo-worthy images to share on the gram.


Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide runs until 22 August in The Grand Pavillion, on old Le Cornu site on O’Connell Street, North Adelaide


WHAT: Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide

WHERE: The Grand Pavillion, O’Connell Street, NORTH ADELAIDE

WHEN: Until 22 August

Hours: Monday – Thursday 10am to 9pm, Friday 10am to 10pm, Saturday 9am to 10pm; and Sunday 9am to 6pm.

HOW: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=VANDAIL

HOW MUCH: Adult $40, Children 2-12 years $25, Child 13-17 $32, Family of 2 adults and 2 children or of 1 adult and 3 children $115. Discounts are available for concession card holders, students and groups.


You can read our interview with Bruce Peterson of Grande Experiences here


For other events happening in your city and online, take a look at the August what’s on



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Van Gogh Alive in Adelaide