Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

MEDIAWATCH

Provocative sculpture 'unplugged'

Read more

ENCORE!

Encore's Film Show: Brad Pitt's 'Fury' and Woody Allen's Magic

Read more

FACE-OFF

François Hollande: The mid-term blues

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French papers pay tribute to Christophe de Margerie

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

Anti-IS group fighters: When foreigners join the fight against jihadists

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Pistorius and the lone walk to prison

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Armed clowns terrify the north of France

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Stability still a struggle ahead of 2015 elections

Read more

DEBATE

Oscar Pistorius sentenced: Does the punishment fit the crime? (part 2)

Read more

Culture

Marseille, Europe’s new cultural capital, seeks to shed its shady image

Video by Charlène Pelé , France3

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-01-13

As Marseille takes the baton as European Capital of Culture 2013, it is hoping its full programme of arts and entertainment events will reshape traditional – and less savoury – perceptions of the city.

On Saturday, France’s second city Marseille started its year-long role as Europe’s culture capital. The city and outlying region will host more than 100 exhibitions and performances linked to a ‘Mediterranean’ theme. These will include everything from public contemporary art exhibitions, circus events, pyrotechnic performances, a Rodin exhibition and a major retrospective on modernity in painting.

Councils from Marseille to Arles, and several towns in between, have invested more than 90 million euros in the event, known as Marseille-Provence 2013 (MP 2013).

The port city’s credentials as a capital of culture have received a further boost from the injection of 660 million euros into the building and upgrading of more than 20 different cultural sites.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault and the president of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, marked the start of festivities by placing the final stone in the Museum of Civilisations from Europe and the Mediterranean (MuCEM). Built close to the city’s iconic old port and overlooking the sea, the museum will open in June.

A challenge for Marseille


Yet behind the bright veneer of culture, stands a city with a distinctly shady reputation.

Unlike other French cities such as Lille, which was the Capital of Culture in 2004, Marseille is more commonly regarded as a city that is rebellious, noisy, and violent – and with Mafia connections to boot.

In recent months, Marseille has been gripped by a spate of organised crime that resulted in more than 20 deaths in 2012, and has experienced numerous police corruption scandals.

Well aware of the city’s sulphurous reputation, MP-2013 president Jacques Pfister has turned it to his advantage. When it comes to culture, Marseille, he said, “will not be like a well-behaved child, but a turbulent creator of multiple cultures”.

Yannis Augustides, who heads a local association that welcomes new residents called AVF, told French daily La Croix that it was a unique occasion to change perceptions of the city. “People who come here have an image of the city as being complicated and fascinating. Either you love Marseille or you hate it.”

The Marseille native has been fighting a daily battle against the clichés that erode the city’s reputation, though which often have a kernel of truth at their heart. “Either Marseille evokes the sun, its football club Olympic Marseille, crickets, beach and pastis, or else it’s the Mafia town with its settling of accounts and Kalashnikovs,” he said with regret.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-01-12

  • FRANCE

    Marseille hopes to rebrand in 'Capital of Culture' year

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    Two shot dead in latest Marseille gang killing

    Read more

  • France

    Marseille mega-mosque gets go-ahead

    Read more

COMMENT(S)