Marseille to host James Joyce event as part of two-year European Ulysses celebration

Marseille is set to host one of the earliest performances in a two-year Europe-wide art project celebrating James Joyce’s modernist novel Ulysses - which was first published in France 100 years ago.

Marseille to host James Joyce event as part of two-year European Ulysses celebration
Bailey's Pub in Dublin, which features in Joyce's novel. (Photo by Barry Cronin / AFP)

Inspired by Joyce’s epic masterpiece, which in turn was inspired by Homer’s Odyssey, the €3m ULYSSES European Odyssey project is, organisers say, the largest and longest-ever artistic project to celebrate the remarkable novel. 

Although the events in the novel take place on a single day in Dublin, events in this multi-national celebration will take place in 18 cities in 16 countries across Europe right up to June 2024, with Paris also holding events later in the year.

The project has brought together museums, theatre groups, a civic environmental project, festivals, cultural and tourism government authorities, and independent artists and curators in the visual and performing arts and film.

On October 1st, Marseille will host a special performance of We all fall / Récit on a theme of immigration and integration at Ateliers Jeanne Barret, near the gateway to the Quartiers du Nord.

Members of the public are invited to participate in the performance, which will feature powerful stories from asylum seekers collected by the artists during a year-long research period, as it takes place. Images from the event will become the heart of an exhibition in the venue.

Guest speakers at a meal and symposium following the event include writer Valerie Manteau, a former contributor to satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, and 2018 winner of the Prix Renaudot and immigration lawyer, Chloé Fraisse-Bonnaud.

Two of the ambitious two-year event’s organisers, Sean Doran and Liam Browne, said: “We hope that ULYSSES European Odyssey’s creative journey over the next two years will zigzag – as did Homer’s Odysseus and Joyce’s Leopold Bloom – into a wider Europe of shared debate and performances that will shine a light on human complexity, develop new international partnerships, offer cross-border solutions and stimulate new active citizenship between the arts and society.”  For more information about the event log on to the website here.

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What you need to know about the French bear festival recognised by Unesco

The Fête de l'Ours, celebrated in parts of southern France, has been added to UNESCO's world heritage list - here is what you need to know about this quirky festival involving Frenchmen in bear skins chasing young women.

What you need to know about the French bear festival recognised by Unesco

Baguettes are not the only French cultural phenomenon to have been added to the UNESCO “intangible world heritage” list this week.

The Fête de l’Ours – or the Bear Festival – which takes place in the Pyrenees, along the border with Spain, also made the cut. Stretching all the way back to the Middle Ages, the festival has some surprising components.

The tradition involves a man dressing up as a bear and chasing humans. At the end of the festival, the humans catch the man in the bear costume, and ‘skin’ him (take off his bear costume) so he can “become human again,” Patrick Luis, the organiser of the festival in Prats-de-Mollo-la-Preste, told Franceinfo.  

READ MORE: The decades-old battle between French farmers and conservationists over bears

It is a celebration of the end of winter, and while it was celebrated in all villages in the region up to the 19th century, it still occurs in three villages in the Haut Vallespir, located in the Pyrenees-Orientales département.

The application for UNESCO heritage status was made alongside Andorra, where two other Bear Festivals still happen each year. There is a slight difference though – the Andorran festivals celebrate female bears specifically.

Over the years, people living in this part of France have continued the tradition, even during times of war. The festival always takes place in February, and each year about 10,000 people participate.

Meant to symbolise the rebirth of spring, the festival has some interesting facets.

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Robert Bosch, a specialist in the Bear Festivals, told Ouest France that the “bear man comes out of the wilderness to replenish the village.” In order to do this, the idea was that the man in bear costume would impregnate the young women of the village, and once that function has been accomplished, he is “stripped of his wild attributes and allowed to become human again.”

Requesting UNESCO status

Over ten years ago, several local elected officials in the Pyrenees came up with the idea of trying to get the festival recognised status. First, they managed to register the festivals in the Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage in France, in 2014.

Eight years later, they finally achieved the crowning moment for their region – being listed in the UNESCO “intangible world heritage list.”

For the inhabitants of the three French villages, UNESCO recognising their festival has given “a boost of life” and “a boost of importance,” one village resident told Franceinfo