450 000 people attend Marseille Capital of Culture
The weekend’s most popular event was the opening day in Marseille itself on 12 January. It is estimated that some 450 thousand people were out on the streets at around 11:00 in the evening, the largest such gathering of people since 1989. Their ranks were also swelled by high-ranking politicians, including European Commission President José Manuel Barroso. The joint festive celebration began with everyone present combining to create a wall of sound or Big Noise so giving the year of culture a resounding start. The sound consisted of ships’ horns, sirens and church bells, with everyone joining in by singing, playing different remarkable musical instruments, whistles, drums, etc.. The city’s streets became a dance hall, filled with concerts, performances by acrobats, a parade of lights and many firework displays both large and small.
The whole city of Marseille was ruled by an optimistic atmosphere steeped in southern European temperament well into the night, with DJs and video-artist performances at the docks, students on the streets operating huge representations of the wheels of time mounted on trucks, and courtyards featuring a Mireille Mathieu lookalike concert and passionate, heart-rending Gypsy songs.
The official opening ceremony for the European Capital of Culture programme took place in the soon-to-be-completed Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. The museum is located in the historic port area and will open in the middle of the year. The weekend offered an opportunity to view the, currently still empty, but architecturally dramatic museum premises.
As part of the opening programme, the Mediterranean region, home to 1.8 million people, witnessed a flypast by the French Air Force’s acrobatic team aircraft staging an air show in the colours of the French flag, specially created for the event. Arles saw the start of a hunt for treasure hidden throughout the Marseille-Provence region. A multimedia exhibition devoted to Mediterranean history in the port’s huge J1 hangar displays bridges from the past to the present ‘constructed’ in different places on the Mediterranean coastline, linking historical facts and characters with people today and the current problems being experienced by the specific sites. The exhibition’s concept in the old docks is visually stunning, displaying scenes constructed from containers, real works of art and multimedia stories. But visitors should realise that French speakers will have an advantage as they can listen to the stories and read the annotations while others have to make do with visual impressions.
The ambitious contemporary art exhibition involving 39 artists was another of the central events of the opening. The opening weekend concluded with a light show in Arles presented by world-famous French firework company Grouppe F.
Marseille has divided its 2013 programme into three segment, wanting to show the region’s openness to the world, its special relationship with nature and the art of diverse cultures being able to live together. The title of European Capital of Culture is an opportunity for Marseille to improve its image in the long-term, says the artistic director of Marseille, European Capital of Culture 2013, Ulrich Fuchs.
900 events will make up Marseille’s European Capital of Culture programme at a total cost estimated to be 90 million euros, with additional substantial investment in infrastructure.
This year’s other European Capital of Culture is Košice in Slovakia which will launch its Capital of Culture programme on 19 and 20 January. Next year, Rīga will become a European Capital of Culture alongside Swedish city Umeå.