On March 8, the French Cultures Festival, a celebration of all things French, will kick off its sixth annual appearance in Houston with something it has never tried here before, says Program Director Charlotte Esnou.
"We are organizing a big live concert downtown at Discovery Green on March 8. This is going to kick off the whole festival in a more glamorous, young, interactive way."
The live concert is free and takes place from 6 to 10 p.m. It's going to include, direct from France, LYS. This French band will stop in Houston for the concert before heading to Austin to take part in South by Southwest. Houston's own local indie band The Tontons will also be performing, as will swamp-pop Cajun band The Revelers.
"What we want to do specifically is have those two cultures, like the French bands and the local bands from Houston, kind of interacting onstage. We kind of show that it's not only French-centered, but also the exchange of cultures, " says Esnou.
Recently there have been actions taken around the country to cut French as a language offering in public schools. The feeling is that French is not as important a language as Spanish or the sudden rush to the Chinese languages. Esnou said that the festival addresses this.
"This is true, that French is going through tough times in the USA these days mainly due to the powerful competition of other languages such as Chinese and Spanish. Spanish, for obvious reasons of immigration and proximity with Latin America, and Chinese and Japanese for receiving massive financial support from respective governments and benefiting from very organized marketing campaigns. On those levels, France, as well as other French-speaking countries, doesn't have the same strategy. They are trying to show through cultural and educational actions like the French Cultures Fest that French also matters and that it is a definite powerful tool in the modern world."
The Francophonie itself is celebrated during March worldwide. The idea celebrates not only French in France, Esnou said.
"We are trying to get involved in different countries where French is spoken, so that can be Canada, Switzerland, also Africa. Many French-speaking communities in the world, and this was the idea for the festival.
They work with different organizations, museums, universities and cultural institutions to organize their own event in different cities. The organization has been working in Houston with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The Festival itself runs for 17 days, from March 8 to March 21.
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Besides the concert, there will be a number of other events, including French films at the MFAH. There will be lectures, French cooking classes and several parties as well as French art and French-style food concessions throughout the event.
Esnou said that the festival, which started out small, has really improved over the years. Now it's opened up to Americans, to students and the Houston community to spark their interest. "Francophonie and French language, a celebration of everything French..." said Esnou.
"Austin is very well known for culture and all that. Austin is the main destination. But Houston is often too neglected and it has a huge potential. Great infrastructures and a huge audience, so we wanted to take advantage of that to try to put Houston on the map."
Tickets to the events can be purchased at www.frenchculturesfestival.com.