As well as the Celtic Days on Lake Constance, there is another harp festival happening at the end of May - this time in Belfort in France. The FIMU Festival (Festival International de Musique Universitaire) is in fact a general music festival, but it makes a special feature of honouring a particular instrument every time - which this year, is the harp!
FIMU's story is an amazing one, as I discovered when I called Director Richard Gorrieri. It began when students in Belfort wanted to have the university's work more internationally recognised, and to meet students from other countries. They decided music was the best medium in which to do this and began to organise a three-day festival every year. That might not sound so unusual, although student-organised events often impress just because they are organised by students. But the FIMU festival is huge. In just 3 days, over 240 concerts take place, with 130 different orchestral formations, and 1500 musicians from over 30 different countries. All the concerts are completely free, and draw an audience of 24 000 in total, or 8000 a day.
As you can see from the harp programme, the festival offers concerts from world-class artists, who also offer their services entirely for free. The result is a massive, convivial community event focused around a common love of music, both within Belfort and from much further afield.