Neufchâtel-Hardelot, on the French Channel Coast, is probably the only commune in France whose municipal coat of arms features the Union Flag. This is because it was founded in 1905, by Yorkshireman Sir John Whitley, whose Anglo-French investment company created an exclusive beach resort out of  the sand dunes.

Dr Ian Magedera’s work on an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project on French-language representations of India, led him to Hardelot via the company archives of the Indian multinational Tata Group (owners of Tetley Tea, Corus [formerly British Steel] and Jaguar Land Rover). Suzanne Brière, a Frenchwoman, had married into the family in 1902 and she lived in Hardelot with her husband and their five children. Indeed, the Tatas were one of the founder investors in the beach resort. Another investor was Louis Blériot who would land his planes on the 9km long beach at low tide.

Image of JRD Tata (c) Tata Central Archives

Dr Magedera brought together documents and images from India and France to create an exhibition which will, this summer, celebrate fifty years of the presence of the Tata family in Hardelot. The exhibition is funded by the Mayor’s Office and the Tourist Board (with matching funding by Tata Group) and will be displayed on all-weather panels next to Hardelot beach where this curious moment of Indo-Franco-British cultural contact began.

The exhibition focuses on Hardelot as the place where the Tatas became acquainted with technology (principally planes and cars), which they then went on to promote in India. You can read more about this research, and the upcoming exhibition in a feature in the municipal magazine (edition mars 2011).

Find out more about the AHRC-funded project ‘Peripheral Voices and European Colonialism’ here. A conference on the project, organised by SOCLAS researchers will be held in Hardelot on 15–16 September.