Aerial acrobatics of the French Air Force’s elite formation flyer team will light up the winter skies of Provence on January 12 for the launch of a full year of cultural and culinary activities under the banner of MP 2013—Marseilles-Provence European Capital of Culture 2013.
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A Moveable Feast

December 12th, 2012

Marseille, France—Aerial acrobatics of the French Air Force’s elite formation flyer team will light up the winter skies of Provence on January 12 for the launch of a full year of cultural and culinary activities under the banner of MP 2013—Marseilles-Provence European Capital of Culture 2013. Four years in the planning, the €90 million euro ($114 million) project has funded 10 new permanent venues dedicated to culture in this, France’s second city. Over two million tourists are expected to participate in more than 400 events, including 60 expositions, 100 concerts, circuses, and theatre, the recurring themes of which will link cuisine and art. The concept of European Capitals of Culture, created in 1985 by two ministers of culture, France’s Jack Lang and his Greek counterpart, Melina Mercouri, designates a different capital yearly, with the goal of creating ties between European people and stimulating the cultural infrastructure of the chosen city.

Since culture rhymes with cuisine in France, food and wine will figure high on the list of attractions, featuring colorful food carts, giant alfresco picnics on a newly created hiking trail, a series of seven Mediterranean feasts from May to August, a circus dubbed Le Repas (the meal) and the opening of a restaurant by Marseille’s Michelin three-star chef Gérald Passedat (Le Petit Nice) in the new MuCEM, Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilizations. These multiple projects mobilizing the talent of the region’s most creative chefs and artists will turn Marseille into a moveable feast, stretching from the city’s old port, founded by the Greeks 2,600 years ago, to as far as the city Arles.

The most visible manifestation of the art and cuisine leitmotif are the Grandes Carrioles—seven funky food buggies, each designed by a cook and an artist (sculptor, designer, scenographer), each with a different look, theme, and cooking style—steamed, fried, plancha-grilled, or street-style bouillabaisse. The carrioles will crisscross the region throughout the year offering street eats for between €5 ($6) and €8 ($10), in line with the organizers’ goal to keep activities accessible to all budgets.

Artists and chefs will also share the spotlight at the Cuisine en Friche (“Kitchen Wasteland”) festival in mid-September held at La Friche, an abandoned cigarette factory transformed into a giant multidisciplinary art center. The five day festival will include demonstrations, concert-tastings, readings, workshops and debates—all organized around a vast market with hundreds of stalls of fresh local products, with the carrioles standing ready to cook the fresh products purchased by participants.

Marseille, known for its sun, bouillabaisse, and pastis, but also for its anarchistic urbanization and notorious crime rate, hopes to take on a more contemporary, creative, and conscientious image, thanks to this year as the spearhead of European culture.

For info: www.mp2013.fr.