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Art and Rugby Success in the Roannais!

It is extremely unusual for the two disparate activities of Art and Rugby to come together and create a unique opportunity to celebrate their almost diametrically opposed spirits of sensitive creativity and sporting aggression.

Of course, here in the Roannais, Rhône-Alpes, anything is possible! The internationally popular, ‘rough and tumble’ of Rugby may by some, perhaps, be seen as a form of ‘art in sport’.

Well, in Roanne, in the Roannais region of the Rhône-Alpes, this fascinating combination became a surprising reality during a special event in November this year.

Rugby in Roanne has quite a long and eventful history, and the locals support their team with demonstrable commitment.

France is certainly a country committed to the game.

Children, too, are encouraged to take part at an early age, and there are many local, communal ‘Ecoles de Rugby’ (Rugby Schools) which are self-funding, and run by dedicated local volunteers who offer their rugby experience, and much time to help thousands of children all over France have fun playing this popular national game.

Always in need of additional funds to support this activity, Roanne Rugby Association (ASR Rugby XV) had agreed to hold an Art Event. This was the ‘brain-child’ of our friend Fabrice Merceret, one of the club’s volunteer trainers and promotion organisers.

The idea was for both professional and amateur artists, and children, too, to paint a rugby ball (In fact, anyone could contribute! If they had the inclination, that is!)

The balls would be placed on show as exhibits to create local interest, and to be auctioned off during a two-day exhibition in the centre of Roanne. All in order to stimulate additional funds for the club.

Brian Franklin from Purefrancenow also decided to contribute, along with his 8 year old son Ellis, and John Clough, a friend from England.

Ellis is a fully-fledged member of the club in Roanne, and trains regularly with all the ‘boys’ and has already played in several regional rugby tournaments. One even held in Lyon!

Ellis really enjoys the camaraderie, and it is good exercise and fun, of course. So the whole event was ‘close to home’ and relevant, as well as extremely interesting, and a chance to see some of the local Roannais, professional artists getting involved.

On a personal note, Brian’s wife, Lucy, takes the story from here, and comments: ” Brian had originally hoped that by getting our son, Ellis to help out with painting a rugby ball he would be able to take a bit of pressure off himself – no such luck!

Having created a design along with our enthusiastic 8 year-old, Fabrice arrived with yet another rugby ball, so that Brian would be able to do one all on his own.

So, along with another friend in England, John Clough, who had sent a decorated ball over to France specially for the event, Brian eventually submitted 3 artworks, or should I say, ” works of art” to be exhibited at the ‘Espace Congrés de Roanne’.

The exhibition and reception took place on a Friday evening, and we all went along to take a ‘look’ before the auction commenced on the Saturday.

It was brilliant!

We were all amazed at all the different, and extraordinary ideas

that the various artists (professional and amateur) had created

around the simple, basic rugby ball.

Some were either painted, or appliqué, and some had, incredibly, been cut apart and recreated to form amazing sculptural and constructed items – from space ships to a working ‘face’ lamp, from musical instruments to ‘planets’.

The ideas seemed endless, and it was with great satisfaction that we saw that many people had come to take a look, and marvel at the patience and originality of the various creations. Several from locally and regionally famous artists.

There were over 60 rugby balls on display (although some of them seemed to have fantastically metamorphosed into things beyond the recognition of the original rugby ball itself!).

When the actual auction took place the exhibition and reception room was abuzz with over 200 people present. Everybody was waiting in excited anticipation for the auction to commence. Our son, Ellis, was enthralled, chomping at the bit to make a bid.

He was determined to come home with a ball. It was all that we could to contain him, and stopping him from putting his hands as the bids progressed. Prices for some of the rugby balls were going for well above 100 euros. One, in fact, reaching a final bid of 460 euros! So you can understand our wish to tie Ellis’s hands behind his back!

We were fascinated to see the price that different balls were sold for. It wasn’t always obvious which ones people would pay the most for. In fact, some of my favourites went for a mere 30-40 euros (even those of some of the more well-known, and capable local artists). It all added up, however, and continued to build up the ‘pot’ for the rugby club.

I am very proud to say that Brian’s painted ball raised 55 euros, Ellis’s 30 euros, and John’s a further 30 euros. The British Artists did our country’s creative reputation proud!!

It was all a total success, and a very enjoyable event. Fabrice was relieved and congratulated, of course, for all his efforts. We have since heard that the rugby ball auction raised well over 4000 euros. Excellent!

I think even I might put my artistic talents to the test next time!”