Revista - Vive la France!
In 1999 John Hitchcox, then one of the founding partners of Manhattan Loft Company, had an idea. He wanted to bring the world of great development and high design together. To form a new concept about the home and how people live. And there seemed like only one logical partners for the vision – Philippe Starck. So John crossed the Channel that divides England and France and knocked on Starck’s door, weaving a magical word-world of beautiful homes that bring people together, creating communities of common ideals in vertical villages. At first Philippe was unconvinced. But persistent, John made the trip across the channel a few more times. Each time with more vision, more words, more emotion, maybe even more Frenchness. And finally, the company that is all about you, called YOO, was conceived by two great masterminds.
The French and the English have not had the best history, I think it’s fair to say. But in recent years, these two great countries have begun to at least acknowledge that there is something, somewhere, possibly quite interesting, if not amusing about the other. I would not declare the beginning of a great romance, but the two do appear to occasionally smile or wink at each other, like an old married couple who have simply got used to each other after years of bickering. And in fact, they might actually miss the other if they were to suddenly disappear for some reason.
There has been a recent unprecedented wave of French appreciation in London, perhaps spurred on by the film release of Les Miserable. 10 million Britons visit France each year, and this appears to be on the increase. Is it the champagne, cheese, sunshine, poetry, art, culture or gorgeous salted butter? I am not sure, but whatever it is, there is definitely more camaraderie about. In fact, the Rotal Albert Hall in London has just hosted the C’est Royal celebration this week, recognizing some of the very best in French contemporary music artists. And as a lover of all things French, I just had to go along.
The evening began with a wonderful performance by Lail Arad. A prolific songwriter and wonderful vocals make this songstress quite a talent to watch. The irony that an evening to celebrate the French began with an English singer who was, “pretending to be French in this most British of establishments” was not lost on the audience, who chuckled along. The appreciative listeners, sat on the floor of the Elgar Room and watched tentatively, barely a whisper of interruption. Although an untimely mobile phone ring did leave one audience member feeling rather awkward as the entire room turned round to glare.
La Maison Tellier performed wonderfully. This Normandie group is normally 5 people, but for some “border misunderstanding” between France and England, three of the band were unable to get to London. Their folksy rock style resonated with a Mumford & Sons feeling, but emotively underpinned with French idealism, and Normandie humour. Helmut Tellier, the lead singer, is a raw beast of a man, effervescing with talent and wit. The Anglo-French banter going back and forth, winning the audiences ears and hearts. I am a dedicated follower now.
But truly the highlight of the evening, and indeed, the reason we were all in the Elgar Room, was to see the breathtaking and absolutely mesmerizing Nadeah. You may know her has the vocalist from Nouvelle Vague, but I think of her as a Valkyrie, alpha female. Her presence is magnetic, her performance is electric and her vocals are angelic. Not in that soft girly way. But in that statuesque, goddess, powerhouse, take-no-prisoners kind of way. She is an unrelenting presence of amazing.
I have grown up around musicians and it has made me a bit of a critic, but seeing such powerful female performance had me on my feet, had me singing, whooping and on occasion almost crying. I acted like a bit of a fan. I was a bit ridiculous. Nadeah is unrepentant, prolific, smart and full of dark French philosophy that she lyrically imparts in an almost Cabaret style that reminds you of another era. She is an act well worth seeing, if she is touring in your city.
And so, inspired by my French colleagues, the abounding French artists and a recent dinner conversation with French friends about the difference between English and French monuments (the English glorify the individual; the French canonize ideologies), I am moved to head to the cinema and watch Les Miserable, as an ode to the appreciation of all things French this week. If I manage to see the film to the end, through my (inevitable) tears and the re-ignition of my political fervor, I may even write a piece on my dream for the restoration of French idealism, belief in the greater good and that we are truly all a community of inter-dependent global citizens, connected to everyone and everything.
Vive la France, indeed!