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  • Podcast: Bullfighting, civil disobedience, Vikings lay siege to Paris
    A north-south divide over bullfighting, which holds an important cultural spot in many parts of southern France, but which opponents say is animal cruelty. A French climate activist on why blocking roads and interrupting opera performances is the only way to get attention. And the 9th-century Viking attack on Paris. The bullfighting tradition is long and strong in many parts of southern and south-western France, but a lawmaker from the north of the country says it's immoral and wants to get it banned outright. A corrida in Vauvert, near Montpellier, where toreros were performing along with students from the Arles bullfighting school, suggest the issue might be more nuanced. Aficionados object to a Parisian vision of how they should or should not celebrate their culture. The violence inherent to bullfighting is also, they say, what makes it so powerful. (Listen @2'07'') Climate activists have taken to throwing things at famous paintings in European museums, to capture the public's attention over what they see as an existential threat. While French paintings have not been hit (so far), homegrown French activists Dernière Rénovation (Last renovation) have been using direct action or acts of civil disobedience to highlight the very specific issue of housing renovation. The housing sector is the second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions in France, after transportation, and the group wants the government to pass more ambitious legislation to push homeowners to better insulate their buildings. To increase pressure on the government, they started in the summer by interrupting the Tour de France. Since then, they have regularly blocked highways around the country. Victor talks about interrupting an opera performance, and why such acts of civil disobedience are necessary. (Listen @20'00'') The Viking siege of Paris that started on 24 November 885 was the beginning of the end of the unified Carolingian Empire, setting in place the future shape of the France we know today. (Listen @16'12'') Episode mixed by Nicolas Doreau. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: NFTs in Paris, Simone Veil on screen, fingerprint technology
    A Paris art gallery embraces NFTs as a new form of expression, that can also make collectors very rich. A biopic of Simone Veil disappoints critics but brings the life of an inspirational woman to a new generation. And the story of the "father of forensic science" whose landmark fingerprint technology caught a murderer for the first time in 1902. The NFT market is rife with speculation, though the technology is winning over some digital artists and collectors. A Parisian art gallery has started putting on hybrid shows, with NFTs displayed on a screen alongside oil paintings and prints. Alla Goldshteyn, of the Goldshteyn-Saatort gallery, which shows and sells urban art, talks about the thrill of experimenting with NFTs. While some collectors are out to make money, software engineer and NFT collector Gaspard Tertrais (@gaspard_ter) talks about the added appeal of owning something no one else has in the virtual world. (Listen @2'30'') The French biopic 'Simone, le voyage du siècle' (Simone, a woman of the century) traces the life of Holocaust survivor and politician Simone Veil. Director Olivier Dahan talks about depicting the Holocaust on screen and the need to introduce younger people to an extraordinary woman in French history. The film has been panned by many cinema critics, including Eric Schwald (@eric_schwald). But viewing it with his teenage son delivers a different perspective and shows the importance of passing on her life and its lessons to the younger generation. (Listen @23') On 24 October, 1902, a murderer was arrested and convicted on the basis of fingerprints, thanks to a method devised by Frenchman Alphonse Bertillon. His long-term reputation as the father of anthropometry was somewhat sullied, however, following his involvement in the Dreyfus affair. (Listen @17'35'') Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: pregnant in parliament, opera in Paris' streets, Wallace fountains
    As the French National Assembly gets younger and more female, some lawmakers say it's time MPs on maternity leave were replaced. Opera singers bring love, tragedy and dialogue to French city streets with free concerts in unexpected places. And the man behind Paris' Wallace fountains, which turn 150 this year. France has a reputation for supporting new parents, with fully-paid maternity leave and a month of paternal leave, but it does not apply to everyone. Because they are appointed, and not employed, members of the National Assembly can stop and start work when they want, but they are not replaced. So when they are absent  – whether it is for giving birth or long-term illness – they lose their vote. MP Mathilde Hignet (@mathildehignet), who is pregnant with her first child, has introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers to be replaced by their deputies when they are on maternity leave. Will anyone oppose such a proposal? (Listen @2'40'') Opera singers and musicians from the Calms collective are shaking up opera's image – taking it back to its roots in popular culture by performing in the streets. Conceived in Marseille in the wake of the Covid lockdown of 2020, the Opéra Déconfiné project has now spread to other cities. For eight weeks each summer, professional singers give free weekly mini-concerts in working class areas in a number of French towns, drawing in new audiences.  (Listen @14'40'') For 150 years 'Wallace' fountains have provided Parisians with clean, free drinking water. Laura Angela Bagnetto talks about Sir Richard Wallace, who generously supported Parisians during the Franco-Prussian war and donated the first 50 fountains to the city in 1872. (Listen @8'45'') Episode mixed by Vincent Pora. Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: The royal spell, cancelling Russian culture, protecting journalists
    France's fascination with Queen Elizabeth II and the British monarchy; being a Russian artist in France in the wake of the Ukraine war; a Parisien house marks two decades of helping journalists in exile. Some seven million French people watched coverage of the funeral of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II on Monday, that ended nearly two weeks of mourning and accolades for the British royal family. France's interest in the Queen and the British monarchy seems incongruous, given that France is the land of the Revolution and overthrew its own monarchy in 1789. Catherine Marshall, professor of British history and politics, talks about what draws French people to the Queen, and why the French might be wistful for their own monarch. (Listen @0') France’s large Russian diaspora includes many artists and intellectuals who’ve built on cultural ties laid down in the late 18th century by enlightenment philosopher Diderot and Empress Catherine the Great. But the war in Ukraine has put a strain on relations – inciting calls for cultural boycotts. Russian-born painter Masha Schmidt talks about setting up the ArtetPaix (Art and Peace) project to encourage aid to Ukraine, and why the closeness of Franco-Russian cultural ties may limit the cancelling of Russian artists. (Listen @13'30'') The Maison des journalistes (Journalists' house) is celebrating 20 years of helping persecuted journalists settle into exile in France. (Listen @9'10'') Episode mixed by Cecile Pompeani Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (
  • Podcast: France's energy woes, cheese in the shadow of Roquefort, left vs. right
    As France faces an energy crisis, opposition to wind turbines is slowing a shift to renewables. Making sheep cheese in the land of Roquefort. The Revolutionary origins of the left-right political divide. France has warned about power cuts this winter after Russia cut off gas supplies to most of Europe in response to sanctions following its invasion of Ukraine. While France's nuclear-heavy energy mix should help it weather the storm, half of the country's reactors are offline, raising the spectre of blackouts. This could be an opportunity to further develop renewable energies, such as wind power, says Yves Marignac (@YvesMarignac), a nuclear expert with the Negawatt think tank. The nuclear lobby and political right are fuelling opposition to windfarms but Marignac says the time is right for a shift and that the French are ready to heed calls for energy sufficiency providing they apply to everyone.  (Listen @40'') France's famous Roquefort blue cheese has been made in the Aveyron region for centuries, but production has dropped in recent years as French cheese eating habits change. People are turning their noses up to stronger, raw milk cheeses, while still looking for local products. Some farmers in Aveyron, long encouraged to produce milk exclusively for Roquefort, are starting to make their own cheese. Remi Seguin has been making cheese on the sheep farm he inherited from his parents, using techniques they taught him, and is enjoying success. (Listen @15'55'') The left-right political divide dates back to the time of the French Revolution, on 11 September 1789, when members of the constituent assembly chose to sit on different sides of the chamber during a vote on whether or not to give Louis XVI the power of veto. (Listen @11'50'') Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (

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