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At the very end of summer 2018 my family and I went to the beautiful, picturesque mountain town Le Grand Bornand in Haute Savoie to spend a week enjoying the children’s festival Au Bonheur des Mômes. It was our first time visiting this festival but we had heard amazing stories of an enchanted village alive with street performances, workshops and shows to be enjoyed by both children and parents alike. First created in 1992, the festival was celebrating it’s 27th year and we weren’t disappointed despite our high expectations.

The opening day of the festival is a big celebration in and around the streets, showcasing many of the acts that feature throughout the week. There were plenty of street performances and I took the opportunity to record some of these as I made my way through the town.

This first recording features Les Wagonotes, a group of musicians and circus performers as they paraded colourfully through the village.

I continued to head north through the village and soon met Galiro, a funny Italian one-man-band.

Further along I met a fantastic brass band called La Ripaille A Sons who were playing triumphantly as they paraded through the centre of the village.

Throughout I felt an overall sense of happiness, something that seemed to be fairly common amongst the other people also there for the festival. There was a fantastic vibe in the village and everyone I met seemed to have a big smile on their face. This festival was a great opportunity to disconnect from our daily lives and immerse ourselves into the young, creative, free spirit mentality.

One of the most fascinating areas of the festival was the Jardin Musicale (musical garden), an amazing multi-sensory experience created by Étienne Favre. A large area was dedicated to showcase giant homemade instruments, many of which were made from found objects, including bicycle guitars, flute wheels, giant lyres and pans and playful sound objects to see, touch and hear. I made the following recording as I walked from instrument to instrument.

Another wonderfully creative musical invention was L’Orgareve et Ses Joyeux Nuages (The Dream Organ and It’s Happy Clouds), an amazing experience created by the Theatre de la Toupine. Put simply, it was two machines in one : an organ and a merry-go-round. Reminiscent of old fairground carnivals, l’orgarêve and its happy clouds features an extraordinary organ made of 48 alpine horn pipes, a mechanical piano, an accordion and musical bottles. And to add an element of fun and participation for the parents, it’s also an ecological ride driven by parental propulsion (yes, parents had to push for this to work!)

We also spent some time away from the village and did a couple of nice walks in the mountains. This part of France is famous for it’s Reblochon cheese and it’s common to pass herds of grazing cows high up in the mountains. I made sure to record some as they grazed the green pastures, their cow bells adding a lovely musicality to the recording.

On the way back down from our walk we passed through some meandering paths under the canopay of the forest. At one point we passed a small stream so I stopped to record.

We loved our time in Le Grand Bornand and will return again in 2019 for another week of festivities. Although the festival is aimed at families with young children, there really is something for everyone and it was a fantastic way to disconnect and simply focus on having fun. Au Bonheur des Mômes comes highly recommended!