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”

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”

Website Connects Parisian Cooks and Diners

Image: Super Marmite

The New York Times: Globespotters, 29/04/2011

In a city famous for its cuisine, it can sometimes be difficult to find a decent meal in Paris with a price that’s easy to stomach. Olivier Desmoulin, a co-creator of Super Marmite, is trying to make it a little easier, via the magic of crowd-sourcing and GPS.

Super Marmite is a Web site that invites budding chefs to share the contents of their marmites (French for cooking pot) with their hungry neighbors. Users list the culinary treat they’re preparing that night, set a price (usually 3 to 8 euros, about $5 to $11) and arrange where to pick it up, or invite guests to eat with them.

In a few months the site has grown rapidly in popularity among locals, as well as visitors keen to meet and eat with some real Parisians. Continue reading “Website Connects Parisian Cooks and Diners”

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?”

Might Be Giants – Total Warr

Image: Total Warr, 09/02/2011

It’s probably safe to say that not many great landmarks in cultural history have come as a result of visits to EuroDisney. But it was after a trip to the anthropomorphic mouse-endorsed theme-park that Kiki and Guigui, the two young Parisians who make up Total Warr, finally sat down in an apartment and recorded their debut EP.

The duo’s first attempt at recording together, Cascades was hammered out in two frantic, noisy weeks before Kiki left Paris for pastures new in the US. Literally hammered out, in fact, the lads both being drummers. They made percussive sounds from everything they had to hand: tables, a banjo, a pack of cough-drops, even a toy laser gun (a memento from Disneyland), and added vocals, melodies, guitars, harmonies, mixing as they went.

“We recorded everything straight without thinking too long, and I started mixing it at the same time,” explains Kiki via email from New York. Their frenetic approach lends the record an endearing, bustling energy. Cascades has earned them quiet but effusive praise, and comparisons to zeitgeisty acts like Yeasayer and Panda Bear. Their single ‘Gangsta Rap’ was included on the mighty Kitsune label’s Parisien compilation. Continue reading “Might Be Giants – Total Warr”

Royal: ‘Had I been elected, France would not be in the state it is today’

Image: Pierre Andrieu AFP

Le Figaro in English, 29/10/2010 (TRANSLATION)

[DIGEST] – A small delegation of trade union CGT protestors awaits ex-presidential socialist candidate Ségolène Royal in Décines, a suburb of Lyon. In a few minutes, she will take part in a youth meeting organised jointly by the socialist party (PS) and ‘Désirs d’avenir’, her association. “Had I been elected, France would not be in the state it is today and welfare would be protected,” she begins. “In 2012, if we are elected, we will restore full retirement at 65, and the freedom to quit at 60,” she promised a little earlier at a press conference.

After the final vote on pension reform in the assembly on Wednesday, Ségolène Royal projected herself into the future, while simultaneously renewing her support for planned strikes and demonstrations on Thursday and November 6th. “We have to set a date,” she declared. “The right-wing {governing UMP} party cannot say that discussions about pensions will be reopened in 2013 and at the same time tell us to ‘Move along, nothing to see here.’ It’s totally contradictory.”

Meanwhile, Mme Royal has called for a “national pact of trust for youth employment” which she outlined in five new proposals. The first asks that companies who receive government assistance open their doors to young people under threat of financial penalties. Second, she proposes a national apprenticeship plan, and to ensure that all the apprentices find a job in their trade. Continue reading “Royal: ‘Had I been elected, France would not be in the state it is today’”

French Website Makes Euro-Carpooling a Snap

Image: Flickr CC jmayzurk, 12/10/2010

PARIS — Carpooling websites are experiencing a boom in popularity in Europe as commuters, fed up with rail strikes and as concerned about their pocketbooks as their carbon footprints, seek alternative methods of getting from Point A to Point B.

In France, the popular site has emerged as the dominant market force, seeing its membership more than double in the last two years. The site was founded in 2004 by Frederic Mazzella, a Stanford University graduate who had been impressed by both the carpool lanes and the pioneering startup spirit of the San Francisco Bay Area. His site, initially popular primarily among students and old-school hitchhikers, has 750,000 registered members and receives 12 million page views a month, accounting for 85 percent of the French carpooling market.

“For the first four years nothing happened,” he says from the office 15 employees share with other tech startups in the quiet, residential north-west of Paris. “People characterized us as hitchhiking on the web, which is seen as dangerous, because its free and anonymous.” Continue reading “French Website Makes Euro-Carpooling a Snap”

Two Kentridge Shows Come to Paris

Image: John Hodgkiss; courtesy of William Kentridge

The New York Times: Globespotters, 10/08/2010

“The past is never dead,” wrote William Faulkner, “it is not even past.” At “William Kentridge — Five Themes,” which runs until Sept. 5 at the Jeu de Paume in Paris, the past is a constant and ambiguous presence. Arriving in Paris after a well-received run at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the exhibition is a brief overview of the South African artist’s career, featuring 40 works completed in a variety of mediums — animated films, drawings, prints and models.

At the museum (1, place de la Concorde; 33-1-47-03-12-50;, the exhibition unfolds chronologically, an ironic if welcome hint of structure amid the temporal uncertainty of the work. Early pieces feature fictional characters and are marked by a political tone, while in recent work, like Mr. Kentridge’s production of the Shostakovich opera “The Nose,” there’s a lighter approach, with the focus switching to the artist and the creative process itself. Continue reading “Two Kentridge Shows Come to Paris”

Biking the Nostalgic Way in Paris

Image: Aidan Mac Guill

The New York Times: Globespotters, 29/07/2010

The French love to cycle, and something in the Parisian psyche in particular is drawn to the elegant design and liberating spirit of the bicycle. Two college friends, Hugo Badia and Eddy Delgado, have turned this love into a thriving business.

Mr. Badia and Mr. Delgado travel the French countryside in search of unwanted, unusual bicycles. Back in their shop, Vélo Vintage (58 rue du Ruisseau; 33-6-13-13-42-27; in the 18th Arrondissement, they fully recondition them. Painted in striking colors and given names like “Arcade,” “Cambridge” and “La Perle,” the bikes are available for between 80 and 250 euros (about $100 to $315, at $1.25 to the euro). It’s cheap compared with  prices for new bikes in Paris — a top-of-the-line set of wheels might set you back upwards of 1,000 euros — but the two still turn a healthy profit each month.

The pair first started the project as a hobby in college. Working out of their apartment their initial clients were friends, but demand quickly began to outstrip supply. “It started with two bikes, then 10, then 20,” Mr. Badia recalled. “We decided we needed to find a shop.” Continue reading “Biking the Nostalgic Way in Paris”

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”