Our Claire makes ’em dance in France

Play it again: Claire Street and Les Zazou
Play it again: Claire Street and Les Zazou
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In Brittany, in northern France, they are semi-famous, the go- to group for anyone putting on a street carnival, village fair or town festival.

Les Zazou are one of the region’s premier street bands, a typically French mix of musical flare, eclectic fashion and a desire to see everyone in sound-range stop shrugging and start dancing to the tunes of their trumpets and trombones.

But this 15-strong group of Gallic horn-blowers, drum hitters and jazz singers – who play all across their own country – hold one slight surprise: they are led by a Sheffield lass.

Claire Street is the Gleadless born-and-bred daughter of a steelworker who can be found on the streets of France starting any given party with her accordion and merry musicians.

“How do they feel about having an English woman among them?” ponders the 46-year-old who first learnt her own instrument while a pupil at the now demolished Ashleigh Comprehensive School. “I think they like it. They’d been begging me for ages to arrange a trip to the UK and to Sheffield to play.”

So she did just that.

The group – an amateur collective who have also played in Bosnia and are currently planning a tour of Peru – have spent the last 10 days in South Yorkshire,

In that time they performed on the Tramlines Folk Forest stage in Endcliffe Park, as well as doing shows in the Peace Gardens, Fargate, The Rutland Arms in Brown Street and The Broadfield in Abbeydale Road.

“They loved it,” says Claire. “Everyone here was so friendly and really appreciated what we were doing. I also showed the group a fair bit of the city and the Peak District, and they liked the English beer. You can imagine the surprise in The Fat Cat when 15 French musicians turned up. We went around Attercliffe too. You might laugh but there was a real desire to see the old English steel factories.”

Claire herself joined the band 14 years ago.

She moved to Brittany in 1992 to work as a translator and has been there ever since. Before that she had worked at Attercliffe steel firm George Clarke as an office clerk. Her family – including dad Rowan, brothers, sisters and cousins – all still live here.

Now, the group are returning to Brittany where they have a packed summer schedule of home town gigs. “But we’d like to come back again,” says the mother-of-one. “Sheffield made us feel like it was a second home.”