Only Lyon - Madeleine Schmoll

I recently spent two and a half days in Lyon, France exploring the Nuits Sonores Festival where my film, Cinema City was showing as part of a Glasgow based film programme. Below, are some of my observations.

Since the 1990s, the Confluence quarter of Lyon has undergone a massive redevelopment from its heavily industrial past. Located on a peninsula where the Rhône and Saône meet, what was once a base for the wholesale markets of the city is now an area full of architecturally unique offices, flats and an upscale mall. However quick the change, there are still traces of the old Confluence. It is here that Nuits Sonores began.

Confluence Quarter - Madeleine Schmoll
Confluence Quarter

Hôtel de Région - Madeleine Schmoll
Hôtel de Région

For the past ten years, the Confluence quarter has played host to this festival, billing itself as dedicated to “electronic, independent music and digital culture where music, design, graphic arts and architecture are closely related”. Within the last four years, the festival has also added a daytime programme of conferences, workshops, meetings, screenings and showcases geared towards industry professionals called the European Lab.

The European Lab finds itself in the highly-modern Hôtel de Région, a gargantuan building of wood and glass with a stunningly beautiful atrium. Suspended above is an installation created for the festival by Vincent Leroy entitled Auréole Boréale which oscillates gently.

Auréole Boréale by Vincent Leroy - Madeleine Schmoll
Auréole Boréale by Vincent Leroy

Ultra-modern conference rooms play host to four days of events focusing on cultural policies, social change, culture and the city of tomorrow, media entrepreneurship and new cultural practice, music practice and innovation. It’s a whirlwind of highly-organised and exceedingly well-structured events in different formats featuring speakers from around Europe. Helpfully, there’s simultaneous interpretation for non-French speakers.

European Lab Forum - Madeleine Schmoll

I spent day three of the conference learning about cultural incubators, new media and cultural change. The highlight was the talk about cultural European incubators which featured a panel of speakers from France, Serbia, Sweden, Slovakia, and the UK. Learning about how to create opportunities for cultural entrepreneurs and what challenges needed to be faced was exciting. For me, it really reinforced the idea behind the European Lab, “connecting cultural change-makers.”

With guest of the day speakers such as Agnès B., Bruce Sterling, Alain Damasio and Michel Gondry, placed next to industry heavyweights like Nicolas Demorand of Libération and television journalist, John-Paul Lepers, it really felt like these cultural discussions could be a catalyst for something larger.

European Lab Forum - Madeleine Schmoll
Conference: Culture within a changing media landscape

I found myself in Lyon as part of another strand that’s become a part of the festival over the past years, the Carte Blanche programme. Nuits Sonores selects a city and creates a programme of music, urban history and art which feature prominently in the festival. Having featured London in 2009 and Manchester in 2005, this year it was Glasgow’s turn.

Halle aux Fleurs - Madeleine Schmoll
Halle aux Fleurs

The festival created a cinema in the Halle aux Fleurs, an old flower market which still bears the electric signage required for bidding on lots of flowers in francs. It’s a Brutalist structure from the 1960s brightened up with colourful pops of wallpaper and the sort of furniture that can only be described as granny chic. With a promotional lighting display from Philips, it was a strange mishmash of new and old with a hipster coffee cart thrown in the mix.

Ciné Glasgow - Madeleine Schmoll
Ciné Glasgow in the Halle aux Fleurs

In the slightly more spartan cinema, wireless headsets allowed for free movement throughout the space, giving viewers the chance to clamber up into the former bidding seats, or to remain below and gaze up at the suspended screen.

Ciné Glasgow - Madeleine Schmoll
Ciné Glasgow

The cinema, Ciné Glasgow, featured a continuous screening of different programmes of films about Glasgow including: Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Louise Ann and William Thomson,1965), a Vox Pop from Arte about cultural regeneration, a selection of work from the Glasgow Short Film Festival (curated by Matt Lloyd) and many more (including my own film).

Apéros Glasgow - Madeleine Schmoll
Maison de la Confluence

Across the way from the cinema in La Halle, is the Maison de la Confluence, an outdoor space with a laid-back vibe that played host to many of the music events in the Glasgow programme. In addition to live sets from Optimo, Golden Teacher, Kode9, and Martyn Flyn, there were food trucks, drinks, and loads of pallets for a relaxing lounge in the sun before the evening programmes got underway.

La Halle - Madeleine Schmoll

There’s a reason Lyon’s symbol is that of a lion. As I climbed aboard a packed tram full of raucous festival goers heading to the Confluence quarter on the first night of the festival, it became clear that Lyon is a city of lions who roar loudly. It’s not unlike throbbing bass of the main events of Nuits Sonores, which start after ten and stop just before five in the morning.

These events take place at the Ancien Marché de Gros, an old wholesale market and the original base of the festival. The venue is home to three stages and some of the biggest events of Nuits Sonores. Featuring music by Jackmaster, Four Tet, Kraftwerk and more, these night performances are highly in demand with massive crowds of discerning music lovers turning out in full force for several evenings of all-night partying.

Just a few hours from Paris by high-speed train, both Lyon and Nuits Sonores have a lot to offer. With glorious summer weather in May, and a diverse range of events, this festival is certainly one to watch. For more information about Nuits Sonores, check out the festival website.

For more from Madeleine, check out her My Creative Scene about Paris.

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