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17
NOV

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 corrida 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 teachers and students from the Arles bullfighting school were performing, suggest the issue might be more nuanced. Afficionados object to a Parisian vision of how they should or should not celebrate their culture. The violence inherent to bullfighting is also 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 rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
20
OCT

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 rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
06
OCT

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 rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
22
SEP

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 rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
08
SEP

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 rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
11
AUG

Podcast: Revisiting green hydrogen, gay conversion therapy

Another summer special, where we look back on what has been called the world's first green hydrogen production plant. And a first-hand account of gay conversion therapy, which has since become a crime in France.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
21
JUL

Podcast: Revisiting dying with dignity, baking Christmas in August

A special summer episode, in which we update last October's conversation with Jacqueline Jencquel, a member of the French Association for the right to die with dignity (ADMD). She talks about planning her own death and what needs to change in French law. Also, from the archives, a look at pastry chefs preparing Christmas cakes... in August.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
30
JUN

Podcast: Paris attacks verdict, quidditch in France, Haiti's 'independence debt'

Reflecting on the end of the trial of those involved in the 2015 Paris attacks; developing quidditch in France, where some are wary of a sport involving a broom between the legs. And the day that Haiti was forced to pay its former slave masters for its independence.

The trial of the 20 men involved in the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, which left 130 people dead, ended this week after nearly ten months. 19 of the 20 defendents were found guilty of all terrorism-related charges. Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the commando that carried out the attacks, was sentenced to a whole-life term of 30 years in prison. RFI's Michael Fitzpatrick, who has been following the trial since it started in September 2021, talks about how the defendents evolved and what the trial taught him about the rule of law in France. (Listen @2'40'')

Quidditch, the fictional game featured in the Harry Potter books, has developed into a real life sport played in 40 countries. While France has only a few hundred players in a dozen or so teams, the national team won the IQA European Games title in 2019 and will be heading back to defend it in Ireland at the end of July. At a recent practice session, Team France members talk about their love of the game – the only gender-mixed contact sport – and why the broom is an essential ingredient. (Listen @17'45'')

On 11 July 1825, Haiti agreed to pay 150-million gold francs to France to avoid going to war with its former colonial ruler. The payment was deemed necessary to compensate slave owners for losing their ‘property’ after the Haitian revolution. The country is still suffering from the results of this massive independence debt. (Listen @12'15'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
16
JUN

Podcast: France's healthcare crisis, 'deserting' agro-tech, fête de la musique

France's famously good public healthcare system is in crisis, as emergency services warn of shutdowns over the summer due to lack of staff. Graduates of prestigious AgroParisTech university make waves by turning their backs on an industry they say is "waging war on the living world". The annual Fête de la musique all-day music festival turns 40. 

French hospital A&E services are threatening to shut down over the summer due to staff shortages. The French emergency services association estimated a few weeks ago that 120 emergency rooms are facing difficulties – more than half of which have closed partially, at night or at weekends. Healthcare workers warn that this crisis is just the visible manifestation of the collapse of France's renowned healthcare system. Public hospital staff talk about burnout and lack of resources, exacerbated by the Covid pandemic, as the government says it is looking to overhaul the system. (Listen @1'50)

During their graduation ceremony, eight students at AgroParisTech – an elite university that trains the country's top agro-tech engineers – announced they were "swerving" away from the industry they'd spent years preparing for. In a speech that made waves in one of France's most important economic sectors, they denounced studies that were contributing to social and ecological devastation. One of the deserters, who lives in the ZAD (Zone to defend) in Notre Dame des Landes, near Nantes, talks about investing her knowledge and energy into collective, anti-capitalist projects and why others could follow suit. (Listen @14'50'')

On 21 June 1982, the French Culture Minister Jack Lang launched Fête de la musique as a cure for morosity and a showcase for France's known, and less known, musical talent. Forty years later the all-day music festival has spread to 120 countries. (Listen @10'05'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
02
JUN

Podcast: Union of the left, SOS trees, celebrating Britain's 'francophile' Queen

A first-time candidate for parliament campaigns for the newly unified left. Why a Frenchman has set up camp in one of Gustav Eiffel's ancient plane trees. France marks the jubilee of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II.

One of the most interesting parts of the upcoming parliamentary elections in France is the way the famously splintered left has come together. For the first time since the 1970s the left is unifying, rallying behind hard left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who hopes to become prime minister. Mélenchon’s France Unbowed party has joined forces with the Greens, Socialists and Communists to form NUPES – New Popular Ecological and Social Union – with the different parties fielding just one common candidate per constituency. In Paris' 7th district, the NUPES candidate is lawyer Caroline Mecary. A newcomer to party politics, she never expected to run for a seat in parliament but is approaching the task with energy and conviction as she tries to unify disparate parts on the left in her first ever campaign. (Listen @0')

Thomas Brail, an arborist from the south of France, has set up camp in a 200-year-old plane tree at the foot of the Eiffel tower. The tree is one of three planted in 1814, before the Eiffel was built, but which were protected by Gustav Eiffel himself. Their existence is threatened, however, by a development project backed by City Hall in preparation for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Brail, founder of the National Tree Surveillance Group (GNSA), says France needs to do more to protect trees – "our allies" in the fight against climate change. (Listen @12'45'')

France is joining in Britain's celebration of Queen Elizabeth's jubilee – marking the 70-year reign of a francophile monarch who has made more visits to France than any other foreign country. (Listen @8'55'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
19
MAY

Podcast: France's female PM, protecting Marseille's Calanques, Battle of Rocroi

Does France's new female Prime Minister mark a victory for feminism? Marseille's creeks (Calanques), faced with degradation, limit visitors. The battle in 1643 that shifted influence in Europe from Spain to France.

Elisabeth Borne, the second female prime minister in France's modern history, bears the official title of "premiere ministre" the feminisation of “premier ministre”. President Emmanuel Macron was under pressure to appoint a woman, and someone with a more left-leaning profile than her predecessor, Jean Castex – a nod to the leftists and Greens who voted for him to block far-right Marine Le Pen. There's plenty of debate over Borne's left-wing credentials and whether she will usher in a more women-led government. Political journalist, Lea Chamboncel (@ChamboncelLea), host of the POPOL podcast and author of a book on women in politics, talks about why Borne's gender is, sadly, still news, and her own mission to get more women's voices heard in French politics. (Listen @0')

Every year, tens of thousands of people flock to the picturesque inlets – known as Calanques – along the Mediterranean coast, eroding the cliffs and damaging vegetation. In a first for France – and Europe – the national park managing the Calanques is limiting access to those closest to Marseille, introducing a permit during the summer months. Isabelle Martinetti visits the area to see how it will impact locals and tourists alike. (Listen @20'05'')

The French army snatched victory from its Spanish rival on 19 May 1643 in the Battle of Rocroi. Gary Girod (@girod_gary) of the French History Podcast explains the importance of the battle that marked the beginning of the end of Spanish dominance on the warfield, and the rise of France in Europe under the reign of Louis XIV. (Listen @12'53'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
21
APR

Podcast: Macron vs Le Pen, Mélenchon supporters protest, France's first elected woman

The two presidential candidates faced off in a three-hour debate Wednesday in which they tried to convince undecided voters. Did it work? Leftist Mélenchon voters on what to do in the second round. And the first woman elected to office in France in 1925.

In the last leg of France's 2022 presidential election, incumbant Emmanuel Macron and far-right leader Marine Le Pen finally faced off in a debate, aimed at getting undecided voters on side in Sunday's second round runoff. Le Pen tried to show she was in touch with the people and their problems, and the leader of a rehabilitated far right ready and able to govern. Macron, often criticised for being lofty and arrogant, aimed to highlight fundamental differences between him and his rival, notably on Europe and the Muslim veil, and show that the choice of president will have a major impact on France. Did it convince anyone? (Listen @0')

As well as the two candidates, a third important figure in this election remains the leader of the hard-left France Unbowed party, Jean-Luc Mélenchon. After winning 22 percent of the vote in the first round, the question of where those votes go in the runoff has led to him being called a kingmaker. He called for voters to block Le Pen, but stopped short of endorsing Macron, and his party voted overwhelmingly to abstain or cast blank ballots. Who are these voters, and what is driving their decisions? (Listen @11'15'')

Follow RFI's coverage of the 2022 presidential election here.

If Marine Le Pen wins, she would become France's first female president, nearly a hundred years after the first woman was elected to any office. On 3 May 1925, Joséphine Pencalet was elected to the city council in the Brittany town of Douarnenez. But because women were not yet allowed to vote, her time in office was short-lived. (Listen @8'30'')

This episode was mixed by Cecile Pompeani.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

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