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Our History

Formed in 1949, the Cercle Français de Palmerston North held its first meeting on 15 July that year in the Workers Educational Association (W.E.A.) rooms, Church Street. The President was Mademoiselle Geneviève Pichard. The Cercle then began to meet fortnightly with a programme of talks, plays, music, films, andconversation groups, ending the year with a Soirée de gala, attended in 1949 by thirty-one members and guests. Among its members, then and now, are native speakers of French resident in the region and others with an interest in the French language and culture. The Cercle established links with French teachers and schools in the region. For the first time, it organised an Oral French Competition (a Concours oral) in 1959. This continues to be an important annual event.

In 1954, the Cercle became affiliated to the Alliance Française de Paris. In line with other Cercles Français in New Zealand, it changed its name in the 1970s to Alliance Française de Palmerston North. The Fédération des Alliances Françaises de Nouvelle-Zélande was established in 1979 to link the Alliances, and in particular to organise annually a national Oral French competition for senior pupils of French, with prizes consisting of airfares and a course of study in Paris or New Caledonia.

The focus of activities has now changed from regular monthly meetings with social and cultural programmes to French language classes for adults and children with a Francophone teacher. At different levels, these classes serve a variety of purposes. In addition, the Alliance participates in the annual Festival of Cultures and the City Library’s cultural programme, and celebrates the French National Day, 14 July. Café-conversation meetings take place most weeks in the city.

The Alliance Française de Palmerston North benefits from the support of the Alliance Française Foundation in Paris, the Embassy of France in Wellington and the General Delegation of the Alliance Française Foundation in Auckland.

In 2010, the Alliance Française de Palmerston North became an Incorporated Society and registered as a Charitable Entity.

A summary account, in English and in French, of the history of the Cercle Français and the Alliance Française de Palmerston North, with other documents, is held in the Ian Matheson City Archives, Palmerston North City Library, The Square, P. O. Box 1948, Palmerston North.

Glynnis M. Cropp, 7 March 2011