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Bayeux and the Game of Thrones® tapestry

An interview with Fanny Garbe, head of advertising and communication at Bayeux Museum, and Séverine Lecart, consumer marketing manager at Tourism Ireland
Nathalie Dupont

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1Produced by and aired on HBO between 2011 and 2019, Game of Thrones® is a television series that was notably shot in Northern Ireland.1 The series includes 73 episodes spread over 8 seasons2 and was celebrated by a nearly 90-metre-long tapestry commissioned by Tourism Ireland and HBO. It took about 4 months and 30 volunteers to make the tapestry that was first exhibited at the Ulster Museum in Belfast in July 2017.3 It was incomplete at that time as the 7th season was being broadcast, while the last one aired a year later (between April and May 2019). The tapestry was subsequently completed, and its full version exhibited at the Ulster Museum in Belfast in July 2019.

  • 4 Associated Press, “A Stitch in Time: Tapestry Immortalizes Game of Thrones,” The New York Post, Sep (...)
  • 5 Ibidem.

2The Game of Thrones® tapestry then went on display between September and December 2019 in Bayeux, France, the location of the famous 11th-century tapestry that narrates the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. Considering that the Bayeux tapestry was “the grandmother of [the] Game of Thrones® tapestry,” Tourism Ireland indeed wanted to exploit the similarities between both works of art “to boost tourism to Northern Ireland.”4 The present interview sheds light on how this came to be and the tourist impact Game of Thrones® had on Bayeux and Northern Ireland.5

Fig.1: Poster for the Game of Thrones® tapestry exhibition

©Alexandre Nestora - Tourism Ireland

Fig.2: Game of Thrones® tapestry exhibition in Bayeux

©Nathalie Dupont

Nathalie Dupont: When did you learn about the creation of the Game of Thrones® tapestry?

I read a post on Twitter in July 2017 about an exhibition in Belfast displaying a Bayeux-inspired tapestry that depicted the first 7 seasons of Game of Thrones®.6

I shared it on our social networks and a local paper asked us what we thought of it. I then forwarded the article via Twitter to Tourism Ireland, together with our congratulations on their initiative.

In Bayeux we are always very happy to hear that our tapestry has inspired new projects.

ND: Did you get in touch with those who designed the tapestry? Did they travel to Bayeux to see the Conqueror Tapestry and did you discuss a possible partnership with them?

We had no contact with them at that stage. There is no copyright of the Bayeux tapestry design, and it has been endlessly copied by artists, advertisers, filmmakers, etc. who do not usually contact us.

ND: As far as tourism is concerned, how did you think you could locally benefit from the link with the Game of Thrones® tapestry as the series had not been shot in or near Bayeux?

The link between both tapestries does not rely per se on the shooting locations nor on the stories they depict, but on their narrative codes, on their formats (the Game of Thrones® tapestry is a little longer than the Bayeux tapestry), the material they were made of (linen and wool). Aesthetically speaking, both works of art look very similar, and this naturally created an obvious association in people’s minds. Though both stories are different, they nevertheless tell us about comparable medieval epic or fantastic tales: in both cases, it is about claims to a throne and its conquest.

ND: Did you organize an official opening of the exhibit and were there special guests who had been involved in filming Game of Thrones®?

For the official opening, Tourism Ireland had arranged for an Irish band to play Irish music, for stand-ins to be dressed as characters from the series (fig.3), and for embroiderers to demonstrate their craftmanship. There was also a display of Northern Irish products, and Tourism Ireland people were on hand to promote Northern Ireland as THE Game of Thrones® place to French visitors.

We had thought about inviting a cast member, but we would not have been able to pay the requested fee, and in fact this would have overshadowed the Game of Thrones® tapestry and its link with Bayeux.

Fig.3

©Alexandre Nestora - Tourism Ireland

ND: Was there a larger number of tourists in Bayeux while the Game of Thrones® tapestry was exhibited there (from September 13 to December 31, 2019) and did they come just to see it? How did you benefit from the exhibit?

In fact, in 2019 there were lots of big events in the area such as of course the exhibit of the Game of Thrones® tapestry, but we also benefited from a large number of foreign visitors thanks to the 75th anniversary of the D-day landing, with D-day themed events spread throughout the year.

The season was therefore lengthened to December as hotels were fully booked during the October and Christmas holidays.

2019 was thus an excellent year for us as far as tourism was concerned with a record number of 411,000 entries to the Bayeux tapestry museum (the highest number since 2004).

As for the Game of Thrones® exhibition, entry was free and we only counted the number of visitors (41,000), but not where they came from. However, when speaking to them, we realized that some had indeed come to Bayeux just to see the Game of Thrones® tapestry, while others had added it to their itineraries (and also rediscovered the Conqueror tapestry).

ND: Did it attract many French tourists when compared to foreign tourists? Did you notice new nationalities among the visitors?

We do not have precise statistics beside the quite large number of 41,000 people who came to see the exhibit.

What we did notice was that there was a 50 % increase in the number of French visitors to the Bayeux tapestry museum from October onwards. Normally French people only account for 30% of yearly visitors to the Bayeux tapestry museum, while foreigners make up about 70% (the latter also visit the local D-day landing sites). In fact, we welcome many nationalities here, that is why our audioguide tour for the Conqueror tapestry is available in 16 different languages.

In 2019, visitors to the Game of Thrones® tapestry were mainly French (at least 70%) with many locals, as was the intended goal. Most of the foreign tourists who came to see it were already in the area, visiting D-Day sites when they heard about the tapestry being exhibited in Bayeux and so decided to make a detour.

ND: Did the Game of Thrones® tapestry increase Bayeux’s visibility among all the touristic attractions in the area?

The exhibit of the Game of Thrones® tapestry was above all a ‘win-win’ image-enhancing operation for both Bayeux and Northern Ireland, as well as for the Bayeux tapestry museum and Tourism Ireland.

Its echo through the media went beyond all our hopes. The local, national and international press (TV, radio), as well as social media influencers, got interested in its novelty and the originality of associating a world-renowned 11th-century work of art with a worldwide popular TV series.

The Game of Thrones® tapestry enabled us to present Bayeux as a nice and easy-to-plan weekend outing while modernizing its image (more particularly that of the Conqueror tapestry).

The agency in charge of developing tourism in Normandy also used the exhibit in different ways to promote Normandy as a modern and entertaining place.

ND: What was the impact of that campaign?

The resulting media coverage was amazing, with an estimated 960 articles and news reports in local and national French media (press, radio, TV and social media), as well as in about 30 countries. It is estimated that if we had had to pay, we would have spent €16 million in advertising costs to reach a similar level of media coverage.

ND: The Game of Thrones® tapestry was created at the initiative of Tourism Ireland and highlights Northern Ireland’s craftmanship in textile manufacture.7 Did it also have an impact on tourism in Ireland?

The Game of Thrones® tapestry was unveiled on July 22, 2017 at the Ulster Museum in Belfast and was there on display until August 2018. It attracted about 150,000 visitors. This initiative has enabled to cast a different and innovative light on Northern Ireland, while creating a real and long-lasting heritage.

In fact, the Game of Thrones®-induced tourism has contributed to boost the Irish economy and has enabled the Irish tourism industry to develop new Game of Thrones®-based attractions for tourists. It has been calculated that in 2018, 1 out of 6 visitors went to Northern Ireland thanks to Game of Thrones®, which represents a total of about 350,000 visitors who locally spent £50 million (more than €55 million).

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Notes

1 With scenes also shot in Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, and Spain.

2 “Game of Thrones,” IMDB.com. https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0944947/?ref_=ttfc_fc_tt <accessed January 8, 2022>.

3 “Game of Thrones Tapestry Exhibited in Bayeux”

4 Associated Press, “A Stitch in Time: Tapestry Immortalizes Game of Thrones,” The New York Post, September 20, 2019. https://nypost.com/2019/09/20/a-stitch-in-time-tapestry-immortalizes-game-of-thrones/ <accessed on January 8, 2022>.

5 Ibidem.

6 (Northern Ireland Game of Thrones® tapestry. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aZV4PclhHeA <accessed on July 4, 2020>.

7 (Game of Thrones® tapestry - Northern Ireland. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lXHVawhn40 <accessed on September 10, 2020>

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Référence électronique

Nathalie Dupont, « Bayeux and the Game of Thrones® tapestry »InMedia [En ligne], 9.1. | 2021, mis en ligne le 15 janvier 2022, consulté le 22 juin 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/inmedia/3029 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/inmedia.3029

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Auteur

Nathalie Dupont

Nathalie Dupont is Associate professor of American studies at the University du Littoral Côte d'Opale (ULCO). Her research focuses on the contemporary films produced by American studios, and what those films tell us about American society. It also focuses on the links between Hollywood and American Christians. She has published several articles on those subjects, as well as Between Hollywood and Godlywood: the Case of Walden Media (Peter Lang, London, 2015). She is a co-founder of CinEcoSA (https://www.cinecosa.com) and co-organizer of several of its conferences.

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