New bridge of understanding between France and UK

Celebrating our shared history: Portsmouth mayor, ccc vvv and Ouistreham mayor, Romain Bail in portsmouth

Celebrating our shared history: Portsmouth Lord Mayor Ken Ellcome and Ouistreham Mayor, Romain Bail in Portsmouth

Historians from the University of Portsmouth are to play a role in a new €15m museum on the D-Day beaches celebrating the 1,000 year relationship between France and Britain.

Historians, politicians and tourism leaders from the UK and France have welcomed plans for the new Centre for Franco-British Relations at the port of Ouistreham in Normandy.

It is planned to open in 2019 – the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

Mayor of Ouistreham Riva-Bella, Monsieur Romain Bail, officially launched the project at the National Museum of the Royal Navy at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

He said: “From William the Conqueror to the Brexit vote, our 1,000-year relationship has always been eventful.

“We have a duty to establish a place that commemorates the Franco-British ties. It’s important it’s not just French history, we need to enlarge our reading of history and have British historians with us.

“This centre will help more French people understand the British, and more British people will understand the French – that is the aim of this project.”

One of the exhibits will be a table football game where the players include the Queen, Napoleon and other key current and historical figures.

Monsieur Bail said: “Our exciting Centre for Franco-British Relations will tell the dramatic story of Sword Beach and much more about our shared history. It will be a ‘must-see’ for anyone visiting Normandy.

“We are already working with our partners at the University of Portsmouth and elsewhere to tell the stories of our two countries. We are reaching out to people in Portsmouth and the rest of the UK to tell them about our plans and look forward to sharing more about it as the project develops. The city is an important partner for us.” The location, on Sword Beach, was symbolic in Franco-British history, he said.

The museum will have 800 square metres of exhibition space taking in highlights of the cross-Channel relationship and ties from medieval times to the 21st century, under three themes: Culture, conflict and commerce.

Award-winning Paris architects Atelier Phileas and London design company Casson Mann have been appointed to create an atmospheric museum on Sword Beach, the main focus of D-Day, when it was liberated by French and British troops. Casson Mann has previously worked on exhibition staging at the Imperial War Museum, Churchill War Rooms and La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux, and beat 133 other bidders to win the contract.

Ouistreham, the port of Caen, is visited by more than a million people a year who arrive on Brittany Ferry services from Portsmouth, 85 per cent of them British. It is estimated around 90,000 visitors will visit the museum each year.


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