Tocane: An Irish Traditional Music Festival in France, 1991–2016

Every year since 1991 an Irish traditional music festival – Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane – has been held in the small rural town of Tocane Saint Apre in the Dordogne region of south-west France, some 140 kilometres east of Bordeaux, and thousands of people have attended it since its inception.

Tocane Journal Article

In late July, Irish musicians, singers and dancers, a different group every year, give concerts, classes and workshops, and participate in sessions and other events with performers and followers of the music from all over France and further afield. The old-world buildings, striking scenery, sunny weather, and local food and wine, combine with the music to make this one of the longest-running of the celebrations of Irish traditional music which take place outside Ireland.

The initial impulse for the festival came from Tocane-based musicians and enthusiasts Philippe Giraud and Claude Fossaert. They had been involved in Irish traditional music since the 1970s, part of the wave of continental followers of the music who had been attracted by the performances of Planxty, the Bothy Band and other touring Irish groups. They set up a voluntary committee and asked Dundalk fiddle player Gerry O’Connor of the group Lá Lugh, a frequent visitor to France, to organise Irish performers for the initial shoe-string 1991 festival in Tocane. The performers for all of the subsequent festivals, from 1992, have been organised from Ireland by Dublin set-dancer and singer Irene Martin.

Gerry O'ConnorIrene Martin

Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane continues with its original mission of bringing Irish traditional music to France, and it has already celebrated a quarter-century anniversary of successful activity. A CD featuring Irish performers who have taught at Tocane was produced to mark the 10th anniversary of the festival in 2001, and another for the 25th anniversary in 2016. Details of the most recent festival are available here.

Documentation Project
As part of its work of documenting Irish traditional music worldwide, and of learning about the globalisation of the music that has been ongoing for the last half-century, the Irish Traditional Music Archive began an experimental cooperative project with Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane in 2014, with the aim of gathering sound and video recordings, and photographs and paper ephemera, which had been made by participants over the years. We thank all those who have contributed materials to date, and present here in this Discover ITMA page a small sample selection of the items and information received so far.

This project continues, and new material is always welcome. Information on how to contribute is available here in French and here in English.

With thanks for material, information and other help to Philippe Giraud, Claude Fossaert, Marie-Pierre Giraud, Hélène Le Breton, Patrick Lafont, Irene Martin, Mick Crehan, Annette Munnelly, Paul de Grae, Margaret Crean, Mary Kelly, Terry Moylan, Fintan Vallely, Evelyn Conlon, & Gerry O’Connor.

NC, July 2016


Concert recordings from Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane, 2010

Selection of recordings from the 2010 Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane.

View item 
Tocane: An Irish Traditional Music Festival in France, 1991–2016

Selection of images from Rencontres Musicales Irlandaises de Tocane from its first year in 1991 to the present day.

View item 
Hugh Shields’ Field Recordings, Tocane, 1979

A selection of the recordings made by Hugh Shields in Tocane Saint Apre in 1979, many years before the Irish festival began.

View item 
Hugh Shields’ Documentation of his Collecting in Tocane, June 1979
Digitised Books

Documentation relating to the recordings made by Hugh Shields in Tocane Saint Apre in 1979

View item