One of Canberra’s longest standing multicultural institutions, Alliance Française de Canberra, is turning 75.
After officially establishing in July 1944, founded by George Vincent, the not-for-profit association has been a part of the city’s cultural fabric since Canberra’s earlier years.
Having grown and evolved with the city since then, Alliance Française (AF) de Canberra has gone from first teaching French classes to the public at Civic’s Griffin Centre in the 1960s, to opening their Turner building, the Maison de France, in October 1973 with Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, and hosting their famed Bastille Day Balls at Albert Hall in the 1990s.
Today, AF de Canberra has around 1,000 members and 650 students.
Head of Community Engagement, Nancy Waites, tells Canberra Weekly that AF de Canberra is a proud local organisation.
“There’s a real misconception that the Alliance Française is a French organisation, it’s not.
“It’s a network where the parent body is French, and housed in Paris, but all of their locations around the world have been locally created associations, and that’s how we started,” she says.
To prepare for the 75th anniversary celebrations, Ms Waites has gone back through their records to consolidate AF de Canberra’s storied past, a project she’s found greatly rewarding.
“It’s been fascinating because you realise the history of Canberra growing as a city is reflected in our organisation.
“You can see the growth of the numbers of people in the organisation as Canberra grows along, then there’s all these really well known buildings popping up along the way, YWCA, ANU’s Haydon Allen Tank and then the Griffin Centre.”
Looking ahead, Waites says the organisation will continue to modernise as they look to expand their online offering and renovate their Turner premises, while also taking note of the past and hopefully engaging a historian to chronicle AF de Canberra’s backstory.
Anniversary festivities kick off with a VIP invitation only reception on Friday 25 October at the French Ambassador’s residence.
Public events include a Formed in the Forties French Party at their Turner premises on Saturday 26 October from 6.45pm, featuring a classic French menu, live jazz and swing dancers with around 90 people expected.
On Sunday 27 October, there will be a family fun French film party at Palace Electric Cinemas, with a birthday cake and a clown to entertain the children.
For more information, visit afcanberra.com.au