The CLUAS Archive: 1998 - 2011

It’s strange for us non-natives to find that the Communist party in France is not only active but thriving, with several French towns run by Communist mayors – including Gennevilliers, the Paris satellite town next to ours where the BBC usually go when they want to depict France’s immigrant community and urban tension. We have an image of Communism inextricably linked to totalitarian repression and walls tumbling in 1989 – or else with improbably-romanticised iconography; Dubliners who eat at Mao and drink at Pravda would be outraged at the thought of a restaurant called Adolf or a club called Mein Kampf.
But in France the Nazi occupation is still (just about) within living memory; many streets around where your blogger lives are called after fallen Resistance fighters with names like Gabriel Péri, Guy Môquet and Pierre Brossolette, and the Communists stood up and fought against the occupying forces, at least in the public perception.
And the original communes were in Revolution-era Paris (manned and womanned by the communards who inspired both Karl Marx and Jimmy Sommerville) and the word still denotes an area of urban government in France. That’s part of the heritage of today’s French Communists, and the far-left bloc still reaps 5-10% of the national vote – more than the French Greens but less than the far-right.
Anyway, the French Communist party and extreme-left community have a daily newspaper called L’Humanité, and each September the paper organises a large outdoor music and arts festival in the Paris area. Fête de l’Humanité is traditionally the last big bash of the Paris summer season.
This year’s Fête de l’Huma, as it’s commonly called, takes place over the weekend of 14-16 September at La Corneuve (just north of Paris, between the Stade de France and Charles de Gaulle Airport), and features a mix of French and international stars. Top of the visiting delegation must be Iggy and the Stooges on the Saturday, with Razorlight going on just before them that evening, while Friday features Aussie rockers the John Butler Trio and South African folk singer Johnny Clegg. Of those, only Clegg strikes us as being any way political in even the loosest sense of the word (although that noted trans-Atlantic commentator Johnny Borrell says there’s trouble and panic in America; hope our US friends are okay).
Of the home-grown heroes, the stand-out names on the Friday are Clarika and Olivia Ruiz, two female singers who infuse the skiffly sounds of chanson française with a more robust pop swagger. Ruiz, a former TV talent show finalist with a childlike squeaky singing style, is now a big star in France thanks to the success of her most recent album, ‘La Femme Chocolat’. Local indie heroes Luke are on Saturday’s main-stage bill, while Sunday’s headliner is ageing protest-rocker Renaud.
There will be other cultural happenings at the festival – including a rugby event to coincide with the World Cup, taking over France in September.
As the festival is organised by socialists and intended to be within the means of the modestly-paid proletariat (unlike the Rugby World Cup, sadly for us), weekend tickets cost only €15 and are available online from FNAC. On-site camping costs €7. Caution - due to the World Cup, cheap flights may be hard to come by.
More info (in English or French) is available on the festival’s website. Here’s headliner Olivia Ruiz in the video for her charming single ‘La Femme Chocolat’:

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Nuggets from our archive

2003 - Witnness 2003, a comprehensive review by Brian Kelly of the 2 days of what transpired to be the last ever Witnness festival (in 2004 it was rebranded as Oxegen when Heineken stepped into the sponsor shoes).