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–Opera, a very loud techno beat and a Bono sound-a-like all at the same time? It must be Fête de la Musique

The brain child of President Mitterrand – yes even with his two families he had time to come up with this – and since adopted by many European countries, Fête de la Musique allows anyone to play music on the streets anywhere in France.

Fête de la Musique in Nice is centred around the old town and is loved and loathed by the inhabitants in equal measures (depending on whether you wish to sleep that night). Crowds, lots of noise and expensive drinks in plastic glasses is an easy experience to have. But luckily I have a guide for the night.

Fête de la musique

Everyone joins in, from the consummate professional to happy amateurs

I meet Gini Helie on a quiet street along with a few of her friends. The group we are here to see are not quite ready yet, we watch them set up, the amp doesn’t seem to be working, teething problems of the amateur musician so we head off to get something to eat and check out what is happening in the rest of the old town.

With a plastic cup of rosé in one hand and a slice of vegetarian pizza dripping in chilli oil in the other we wander through the crowded streets. The large bars are all seemingly competing in decibels this evening. Maybe the idea is the louder you are the more chance you have of encouraging the crowds into your bar with so much increased competition.

Fête de la musique

Gini takes the mic

We head back to the quiet street. The amp has now been fixed, we get a mint tea and chick pea salad and take a pew. Voices, drums and a guitar bring an arabic feel to the evening. A little girl dances and diners at the restaurant next door come over to take a look.

This is more like it.

Around the corner another group are about to start. The people who were milling around before have all disappeared but the group start anyway and soon people drift over, drawn by the feel good tunes and electric guitar. Gini joins them on backing vocals.

photo place du pin

Place du pain – a sea of people

We decide to head off to a big party at Place du Pain. Lasers light the sky, balloons line the street and paper confetti falls on everyone, the street jumps in time to the music, in the warm air everyone has big smiles and we decide to spend the rest of our evening here along with countless others. Roll on next year.

Fête de la Musique takes place annually on 21st June.




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