Marseille-Provence 2013: A tale of two cities

A damp and dark evening in Belfast didn't deter the 30 Francophiles who attended the first talk of the new CFB season. Our conférencier for the evening was Dr Nigel Harkness from Queen's University, Belfast who presented Marseille-Provence 2013 - A tale of two cities.

Dr Nigel Harkness at CFB talk on Marseille-Provence 2013
Nigel had revisited Marseille over the summer and was able to see at first hand the changes that had taken place in France's second largest city as it had prepared itself to carry out its role as Capitale Européenne de la Culture. Beginning with a short historical background to the city, Nigel stressed that the designation took in other places in the Provence region.  This sharing was most noticeable in the exposition à deux volets that had concluded only a few days earlier at Le Grand Atelier du Midi.  This exhibition in two parts assembled paintings from artists who had lived and worked in the area. Marseille's Musée des Beaux-Arts was the venue for works from Van Gogh to Bonnard while those from Cézanne to Matisse were exhibited in Aix-en-Provence. This exhibition, while it may not have reached the anticipated visitor numbers, clearly impressed our speaker who urged us to go online and snap up a copy of the exhibition catalogue
A good part of Nigel's talk dealt with the architecture of the new buildings that had been constructed since Marseille won its bid to be European Capital of Culture in 2008. One building in particular stood out. This was MuCEM - the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. In an interesting sequence of slides Nigel revealed a structure covered in a veil of lace-like concrete. As visitors make their way around this structure they can see outside.  It turns out that this building is quite a hit with locals and visitors to the region alike.
The talk was subtitled, a tale of two cities and Nigel reflected on some of the darker aspects of contemporary Marseille. Referring to recent newspaper and magazine articles he had found few instances where the positive side had been highlighted without a negative being mentioned. 


Members were pleased to get a booklet on MP2013 that had been produced and kindly supplied by the Alliance Française de Londres - Un très grand merci!
Some copies remain so if you would like to have one let's know.  You can also read the text on the AF's website here.
Our evening visit to the sunnier and warmer climate of Marseille-Provence concluded with a question and answer session which I imagine could have continued for quite a while given the interest shown. Still, there is room for comment below so feel free to share!
Finally, one last big thank you to Nigel for getting our season off to such an excellent start. 

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