Relay race to bolster Breton language turns 10

We are talking to Ar Redadeg director Kateliñ Al Laññ

2016 Ar Redadeg race.
2016 Ar Redadeg race. Author: Ar Redadeg
A relay race that hopes to raise more than 100,000 euros to help boost Breton language use is starting in Quimper 4 May. Ar Redadeg (The Race, in Breton) will be covering some 1,800 km throughout Brittany, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of its inception. But not everything is about running, as Ar Redadeg will be featuring side events —concerts, exhibitions, talks, games to name a few— until 12 May, when the race is set to end in Plouguerneau.

The race’s previous five editions —that was born out of inspiration in the Basque Korrika— have raised more than 500,000 euros, according to organizers’ data. Individuals, associations, businesses and public administrations are welcomed to support the cause of Breton by buying race kilometres. The money raised is then distributed to civil society organizations proposing projects to bolster the social use of Breton. Half of the money is given to Breton immersive schools Diwan, the other half to other initiatives. In 2018 these include a radio station in Nantes, a Breton-medium leisure centre in Guingamp or a web series, among others.

To learn more about Ar Redadeg —the event brings together 15,000 people each time— we are talking with race director and coordinator Kateliñ Al Laññ.

Nationalia: How was exactly the story of the Breton inspiration in the Basque Country’s Korrika to launch Ar Redadeg? Was there a particular person, or group of people, who were in contact with Basques and decided to establish it in Brittany?

Kateliñ Al Laññ: We were a group of friends regularly visiting Basque friends in Donibane Garazi, Baigorri, or Donestebe, and we had several times the opportunity to run the Korrika, just for fun. But we were very touched, and found its concept to be great, as well as the energy that emerged from it and the symbols conveyed. We told ourselves that we would need an event like that in Brittany for our language. Thus, when the opportunity of the 30th anniversary of the Diwan immersion schools came out, we thought it was the right time. We contacted the team in Bayonne with Jakez Bortayrou, who remarkably welcomed us and helped us in our project —we had all the necessary explanations and we even received training!

N: How was the reaction of local and regional authorities when the Ar Redadeg pioneers explained to them that they were seeking to launch a one week-long race through the roads and streets of Brittany?

K. A. L.: Overall it was hesitant. It was necessary to explain and convince and clear the ground. But as the organization progressed, people came and participated. Then they were delighted and the first edition —that was 600 km long— was a success.

N: Was Ar Redadeg surprised by the growth of support and reach of the race by the Breton society throughout these 10 years? Would you have imagined that it would get such a social projection?

K. A. L.: We had faith in the concept, we knew about its strength and its ability to succeed. Our team was built and became consolidated over time and meetings. Enthusiasm encouraged others to follow, and proposals came out from everywhere as regards communication and animation.

N: Is Ar Redadeg establishing any cooperation, contacts or participation with other pro-language races in Europe —beyond the Korrika— such as Rith, Correllengua, etc?

K. A. L.: We have regular contact with our Basque friends —we participate every time in the Korrika and reciprocally some teams from the Basque Country join us to run in Ar Redadeg. We also established contacts with representatives of Ireland —Rith— and Wales —Rhas—, and more recently also with the Correllengua… But especially since the departure of the 2018 race in Quimper, some delegations will be welcomed for an exchange around our practices and to lay the foundations of a network of minoritised languages.

N: In your website it is explained that you have already chosen the 2018 projects to be funded. How is the procedure done? What are the criteria you use, who are the people that make the choice?

K. A. L.: The choices are made the year before the race, by a group of wise people, who are different from the organizers to ensure a certain impartiality of choices and to unite people beyond our teams. We select these people so that the widest possible representativeness of the Breton society exists, as well as its needs regarding the variety of age and sex groups, professional circles, people living in urban or rural areas, having an idea of what may be interesting for the development and use of the Breton language.

N: 10 years have now gone since the first Ar Redadeg. What is your goal for the next 10? How do you imagine the race to go on? What changes, or goals, are you foreseeing?

K. A. L.: Stabilizing, developing, professionalizing, and continuing to unite Bretons around the issue of the use and development of our language. Then stopping because we will have done so well that the fight will no longer be necessary [she smiles].

N: We imagine that the Ar Redadeg organization has been aware of the Minority Safepack Initiative that has collected 1,2 million signatures throughout Europe for the linguistic rights of speakers of minoritised languages. What is Ar Redadeg’s opinion on such an initiative?

K. A. L.: We have obviously lent support to that initiative, and we have invited our supporters to sign it.

N: Speaking more specifically on Brittany, what is Ar Redadeg’s opinion on civil society demands for an official status for Breton? Do you support those demands?

K. A. L.: We are off course on the same line, and we wish that the Breton language has an official status in France. We are also aware that this request is not ready to succeed in the current state of French politics.