Foreign Correspondent: Peter Lennon’s Paris

Image: The Guardian

Vingt Paris Magazine, 09/08/2011

Peter Lennon died in March of this year at the age of 81. He worked throughout the 60’s as Paris correspondent for the Guardian newspaper, and also worked for the Sunday Times, the BBC and The Irish Times. He produced, alongside Nouvelle Vague cinematographer Raoul Coutard, the groundbreaking and controversial documentary film The Rocky Road To Dublin, and had short stories published in The New Yorker and The Atlantic Monthly.

Lennon detailed his time in Paris in a book, Foreign Correspondent – Paris In The Sixties. He left his native Dublin and arrived in France at the end of the 1950’s, attempting to find work as a journalist. He got his break as a foreign correspondent in his mid-twenties when a train he was travelling on, full of Irishwomen returning from Lourdes, struck a lorry at a level crossing. ‘Miraculous escape of Irish pilgrims to Lourdes’ was the front-page splash the next day. Continue reading “Foreign Correspondent: Peter Lennon’s Paris”

Oliver Burkeman and the Happiness Industry

Image: Oliver Burkeman / Canongate Books

Vingt Paris Magazine, 13/07/2011

Five years ago the journalist Oliver Burkeman embarked on a mission, a mission that might sound about as enticing to some of us as a bout of gastroenteritis, but a mission nonetheless. He decided, through his weekly column in the Guardian newspaper, to explore the world of self-help books; taking a rational, reasonable, journalistic approach to an area not always synonymous with rationality or reason (or indeed reality).

“I think everyone on some level would like to be a bit more happy, or efficient, or achieve their goals,” he explains in a phone interview from New York, where he lives. “I very much doubt that most of these books are going to contain the answer to that, but there’s a tiny little part of you that thinks: it would be fantastic if they did.”

“That was the idea, to sort the wheat from the chaff, knowing that there would be a very large amount of chaff,” he says. Continue reading “Oliver Burkeman and the Happiness Industry”

The Gaîté Lyrique Swaps The 19th For The 21st Century

Vingt Paris Magazine, 16/02/2011

The Théâtre de la Gaîté Lyrique first opened in it’s current location on the rue Papin in 1862. That incarnation was itself a reconstruction of the original Théâtre de la Gaîté, which had opened on the boulevard du Temple in 1808, but was destroyed in the construction of the boulevard Voltaire. That itself had been what would nowadays be termed a “rebranding” of the first theatre to be erected on that spot, the Théâtre des Grands-Danseurs du Roi, which first opened in 1792. Which, we can all agree, is a very long time ago.

Over the years the Gaîté played host to numerous premieres, from the first operettas of cellist Jacques Offenbach to the ballets russes of Serge Diaghilev, as well as productions by Willy Thunis, Patrice Chéreau and concerts by the tenor Luis Mariano. In 1974 the actress Silvia Monfort turned the Gaîté into Paris’ first centre for street theatre. In 1989 it briefly became an ill-fated, science-themed amusement park, following which, bankrupt and in near-fatal disrepair, it lay dormant for 20 years. Continue reading “The Gaîté Lyrique Swaps The 19th For The 21st Century”

What Next for Jeudi Noir?

Image: Flickr CC Neno°

Vingt Paris Magazine, 13/04/2011

In January of this year riot police entered 22 avenue Matignon, a 4000 square metre office building in Paris’ prosperous 1st arrondissement. They had been tasked with evicting a group reportedly made up of students, political activists, parliamentary assistants, office managers and journalists who had been occupying the building, which had lain unused since 2006. The occupation had made news headlines around the world, as the top floors of the building, owned by the insurance group AXA, looked down onto the neighbouring Elysée Palace, home of President Sarkozy.

The group was Jeudi Noir, so called after the day of the week where many students can be found desperately scanning the small ads in newspapers and magazines in search of a place to live. Their stated aim, according to their website, is to “denounce the government’s indifference to a housing crisis that is becoming critical as the property bubble swells.” Continue reading “What Next for Jeudi Noir?”

Louxor – Palais Du Cinema to re-open in Barbès

Image: Bogdan Konopka

Vingt Paris Magazine, 16/05/2010

On the corner of Boulevard de la Chapelle and Boulevard de Magenta, at the heart of noisy, relentless Barbès, stands a building. Amidst the clatter of the overground metro and the chatter of the traders lining the market below, and the unnatural din that emanates from the bazaars, cafes, stalls and kebab shops, and endless crowds of passers-by, the quiet of this battered monument is remarkable. No trace of its former glory remains, seemingly, until the sun breaks through the April storm clouds and lights up the golden tiles of a faded Egyptian facade. Floral scarabs and cobras lead the eye past a giant winged disc above the entrance to the relief on its far side, which reads, in magnificent art-deco lettering ‘LOUXOR – PALAIS DU CINEMA‘.    

Designed by the architect Henry Zipcy, the Louxor first opened its doors on October 6, 1921, more than a decade before Le Grand Rex in the 2nd or La Cigale in the 18th. Inspired by the archaeological discoveries making headlines in the French press at the time, the flagship cinema of the Pathé chain was built in an Egyptian art-deco style. The facade outside was mirrored inside by murals depicting Egyptian scenes, hieroglyphics, plants and papyrus leaves. Two balconies overlooked the seats, orchestra pit and stage below. Its curious appeal made the cinema popular in early years. Continue reading “Louxor – Palais Du Cinema to re-open in Barbès”