In Festive Mood
Artistic Director of the
Festival de Radio France et
Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon 2006,
talks to RODERIC DUNNETT
This week sees the opening of one of Europe's most exciting and desirable festivals, close by the Mediterranean Sea in the south of France, which visitors from outside France might well consider adding to their visiting list.
One very good reason is that the event has the formidable forces of Radio France at its disposal. Le Festival de Radio France et de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussillon, which runs from 12 to 29 July 2006, is based in the major seaside (or virtually seaside) French city of Montpellier, close to the idyllic, bird-filled national park of the Camargue. Montpellier can be approached by air from the UK and other European entres directly via Montpellier's modern airport, to which (among others) British Airways and Ryanair both fly, or via Nîmes (for UK visitors there are regular Easyjet flights from London Luton to Nîmes, from which the regular train service takes only half an hour). Conveniently, French Railways' TGV now runs direct to Montpellier Station, making a journey from Germany or Belgium by fast express or London by Eurostar and TGV, if not necessarily cheaper, nonetheless comfortable and quick.
Having arrived, what may one expect to find? A city of a quarter of a million inhabitants (double that including Montpellier's seaside environs), capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region and site of the administrative préfecture of the Hérault départment, and with a fine history reaching back not only to 1000 BC (the start of the modern city fortified by the Counts of Toulouse) but indirectly, or proximately, to Roman times (a major settlement on the ancient Via Domitia from Turin to Barcelona was situated in what are now the city's suburbs); and which in the centuries following the first millennium played a considerable role in French politics, not least as a free city of the Middle Ages, striving to preserve control of its affairs, if not total independence, and a major player in the dangerous years of the French revolution and of Napoleon's rise.
Copyright © 12 July 2006
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry UK