In 1755 the French writer, philosopher and playwright, François-Marie Arouet, known to most by his nom de plume Voltaire, was on the run from an angry Frederick the Great, the Prussian King, who he’d offended with some of his writing. He first headed to Paris only to find that King Louis XV of France had banned him from the city. From there he sought refuge in Geneva where he bought an estate. He was welcomed at first but then life became difficult when one of his publications was banned. Geneva’s ban on his beloved art of theatre also made living there less than ideal.
In 1759 he bought the estate of Ferney directly across the border in France and moved there from Geneva. Geneva’s ban on theatre was a key reason behind his move. Voltaire was responsible for setting up watchmaking and pottery industries in Ferney, along with theatres to serve a mainly theatre-deprived Geneva audience across the border. After the French revolution his name was included in the town’s name to honour his contribution to the region, which was his home for 20 years from 1759 to 1778.
Every year in Ferney-Voltaire the town celebrates his life and works at La Fête à Voltaire (Voltaire Festival) with music, dance, fireworks, costumes and of course theatre! If you feel the urge to soak up some of the region’s heritage you can as the 2015 festival is this weekend.