Monday, 28 April 2014

The Fort du Bruissin - Part 2

In my previous entry I related my recent visit to the Fort du Bruissin and posted lots of photos of the fort itself, but I also took photos of a wonderful exhibition that the fort is hosting until July 12. Here they are, enjoy.

Called '75 Blue Note Sound & Graphics', this 75th anniversary exhibition tells the visual story of Blue Note Records in four exhibition rooms to a background of jazz music by many of the illustrious musicians who recorded jazz albums in Blue Note's studios.

Blue Note was founded in 1939 by Alfred Lion and Max Margulis, two German Jews who fled to America to escape the Nazis, and little did they know at the time that their company would become one of the most famous jazz labels in the world, that it would record almost all the world's greatest jazz musicians at one time or another, and that it would still be up and running today. Blue Note issued albums of many jazz styles and genres, including trad jazz, bebop, swing, modern jazz and hard bop, which is a style that includes musical elements from other musical styles, such as rhythm and blues, gospel, blues and soul.

Entry is free and the exhibition rooms are to be found along elegant and airy corridors such as this one.The natural light is extremely pleasing on the eye.

I came across this very inviting corridor too, although there are no rooms along it. What's on the other side of the gate? The inner courtyard of the fort.

The first room I entered contained a lot of Blue Note album sleeves and the walls were lined with photographs of jazz musicians. Blue Note sleeves were unique in their design, and the man resposible for that was also the man who took the photos.

That man was Blue Note record company executive, photographer and record producer Francis Wolff, who joined the label in 1939, the year of its creation. The stars of the show for me are the many top quality outsized prints of sumptuous black and white photos taken by Wolff, who took thousands of photos of a galaxy of jazz greats over thirty years, many of them during pre-recording rehearsal sessions.

His work was used on album sleeves and publicity documents and it is still used today in Blue Note's reissue CD booklets. Here is a selection, and let's see how many of the musicians you can identify. (Sorry about the flash light in some of them but it was the only way of getting a photo.)

Other rooms contained lots of memorabilia, including photos of jazz masters by others, posters, album covers, and some amusing spoof Blue Note covers featuring photographs of Barak Obama and other American politicians and diplomats. You can visit Blue Note's website, there's a reading and reference area and there's also a record deck with a selection of Blue Note albums to pick from and play. The one playing while I was there was the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Like Someone in Love.

Finally, there is also a selection of modern graphic arts interpretations of jazz musicians.

So there you have it, the 75 Blue Note Sound & Graphics exhibition at the Fort du Bruissin in Franchville, near Lyon. It was a delightful experience and I'll bet that those who built this fort back in the 1830s never imagined that its barracks would one day house an exhibition about 20th century jazz!

I wish an excellent day/evening to one and all and thanks for dropping by.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

The Fort du Bruissin - Part 1

Hi! The C20E bus here in Lyon begins its journey downtown, which is why I've often seen them in the streets although I'd never set foot on one until this afternoon. 

This bus goes to somewhere called the Fort du Bruissin and it gets there after snaking up one of the hills that surround downtown Lyon before heading through the suburbs and out into the countryside.

I didn't read up on the fort before leaving so that everything would be completely new to me, but I suppose you, dear reader, would like to know a few things about it before I post the photos I took there.

So, the Fort de Bruissin was one of a couple of dozen forts that were built around Lyon as fortifications to defend the city. It was built in the late 1870s, although the first forts were built in the 1830s, and it was a training camp for officers in World War One. In World War Two it served as a German Army ammunition depot. But the soldiers have long since left and today it is a cultural centre and home to one of Lyon's better known jazz festivals, the Fort en Jazz.

I got on the bus down by the River Saône, and once on it I would be taken up this steepish hill on the other side of the river.

The road twists and turns and soon we can see the city stretching out below us. I zoomed a lot to get this photo so we're higher up than it appears. The train station is at Perrache, one of Lyon's two major transport hubs.

Ah, lots of trees at last!

And there are a lot less people too....

Here's my bus, at the end of the line. It looks like there are two buses there but there's only one in fact. It's an articulated, or 'stretch' model and the articulated section is hidden behind the trees.

I asked the driver where the fort was and he said I could either go along a road that he pointed out to me or take a short cut through the woods. I chose the latter and here's where I entered the woods, just yards from where the bus was parked.

 It was a delightful walk, up a slight incline.

 Then, the first sight of part of the fort. This used to be an exterior moat and this vantage point shows one of six corners along the outer wall of the fort, which is a six-sided hexagon.

Here's the main entrance to the fort. That bridge you see used to be a drawbridge a long time ago, but the days of battle are long since gone.

The water in the moat has been replaced by lush spring grass and small wild flowers. It would be nice to walk around the fort in the moat but I'm not sure it's open to the public.

Behind the moat lies the inner complex consisting of what used to be barracks and the fort's cultural exhibition areas.

Here are a couple of shots of arrow slits and observation windows. I wonder whether anyone ever fired an arrow in anger out of one of the many slits that are dotted about on the walls.

There is a pathway that rings the fort and all along it are cannon emplacements and ammunition storage areas. This was the fort's first major defence perimiter and men, guns and ammunition would cross one of the sturdy bridges that connected the interior complex to the outer defences.

Here we are, back at the main entrance on the inside of the fort.

 There was lots to see and read at the Fort du Bruissin, and there are also a couple of absolutely charming young ladies at reception who were very helpful indeed. They're students who are studying various aspects of the world of culture. It was a pleasure to meet them and I'm only sorry that this photo of them is blurred. Toutes mes excuses ! :)

And with that I headed back to catch the bus home, very pleased that I had taken the C20E to the end of the line and discovered a new place in the country, just a few miles from the hustle and bustle of life in the city. The bus swayed from side to side as it descended back down to Lyon, which became visible one again from high up and a few minutes from town.


(There is a very interesting exhibition currently running at the fort about the celebrated American jazz record label Blue Note Records. Blue Note recorded some of the world's best jazz musicians. I visited the exhibition and will be posting about that in Part Two in a couple of days.)


Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Sadness at the end of the line...

Main entrance to the Croix-Rousse cemetery in Lyon
Lyon has an excellent underground metro system that criss-crosses the whole city to its outer edges, and I took three different lines today in order to get to my destination, the Croix-Rousse cemetery. It's Lyon's equivalent to the celebrated Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, except that it doesn't contain the grave of Jim Morrison.

The cemetery was born (if one can aptly say that about a cemetery) in 1823 and is the last resting place for about 50,000 people. Many local dignitaries and members of famous or affluent families are buried here, including Tony Garnier, a world-famous architect, urban planner and native of Lyon who died in 1948. Given this august guest list it's not surprising that there are many fine and grandiose crypts and family mausoleums with massive monuments of various sorts to be seen, and they offer interesting opportunities to take photographs, so I began to explore and take photos.

The cemetery is very well-kept. The grass is cut short, there are few weeds to be seen, many of the graves are well-attended to and the pathways are spotless. There are no walls or hedges, so one can always see most of the cemetery at once.

I walked around for a good hour, snapping away as I went, and eventually reached the far end outer limit pathway that would lead me to the back exit, a small gate in a corner. As I walked, I noticed a small area that had been surrounded by high hedges. That immediately struck me as being odd, given that the rest of the cemetery was in plain view. What was in there? I spotted a break in it, an entry point, although almost nothing could be seen from it except a pathway. Curious, I walked in.

I was stunned by what I saw. This small, hidden-from-view section, contained the even smaller graves of about twenty children. Only children. Most of these tiny graves and their surroundings had obviously been badly neglected for a long time, and the simple little wooden crosses and occasional small headstones were dotted about in an irregular and apparently random fashion. It was an extremely sad sight. Some of these memorials bore nothing but the name of the child, and even where there was a date to be seen it consisted of no more than a year number. The age of the child was never to be seen. The oldest plot I saw was dated 1998. Even more sadly, some bore no mention at all.

Here are the photos I took in that place, and I'll let them speak for themselves.....

I walked out of there feeling awful. Who were these children? Why don't their families look after them? After all, there are lots of other childrens' graves in this well-groomed cemetery with full name, date of birth and death etcetera on them, so why have these depressingly neglected and quasi-anonymous graves been situated here, hidden as they are behind a high hedge? And what do these deceased children have in common?

The cemetery's offices are at the entrance so I suppose I could have gone and asked for more details about these graves, but I was feeling so bad and, truth be told, not a little angry that these children's last resting place could be so terribly neglected, that I decided that it would be more prudent to leave discreetly.

I left this place, at the end of a metro line, after having gone there in order to discover things. Oh and I did. But I never imagined that I would discover scenes like these....

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Feyzin les Razes on the number 60 bus

Feyzin les Razes (an old postcard)
It was 3:30 in the afternoon and it was very sunny outside, albeit a little cold, so I decided to take the number 60 bus from my stop near the city centre this afternoon and continue on out to the end of the line, which is Feyzin les Razes, a small community on the outer limits of the city. It is 25 kilometres from my apartment and the trip takes 45 minutes.

Feyzin les Razes is a small neighbourhood on the outskirts of Feyzin, a community that has existed since its 11th century beginnings as a hamlet. The hamlet developed into a village, and the village began to expand in the early 1800's when industries were set up there. Modern-day Feyzin is synonymous with the chemical production factories that employ many of its inhabitants as well as the enormous Feyzin petrol refinery.

So, off we go to the end of the 60 line. The first site of note I see on my way out is a football stadium, that of l'Olympique Lyonnaise, one of the biggest clubs in France. Am I a fan? No. I come from Liverpool and as such would be hung from the nearest lampost if I ever went home and said I supported anyone else but Liverpool or Everton. I'm a Liverpool fan as it happens. But I digress....

After that the bus heads out into what were previously uncharted waters for me, the vast industrial estate on the South-West of the city that is a major employer in Lyon and the surrounding region. Here's the entry to a construction materials factory. It belongs to Lafarge, the biggest conglomerate in the world in its sector.

Lord knows what happens here. Is it a factory? Is it art? Is it place where cranes can have fun painting symmetrical patterns in the sky and building new buildings?

Wow!! I'm in an urban transport bus rolling through the countryside for a few kilometres!

Here we are in Feyzin les Razes. End of the line. And what's the first thing I see? This. It's an ominous-looking tower of steel and tubes and pipes that does god-knows-what at the petrol refinery that is a major symbol here. One of the biggest industrial accidents in France's history occurred at this refinery in the Sixties, when the reservoirs exploded, killing and injuring dozens of people.

The bus stop at the end of the line is next to a car park, in the middle of which is a bandstand. Constructed many years ago, it sits there patiently, waiting for those warmer days when the car park will be closed to cars and turned over to the local people for their local brass band concerts, flea markets and other activities.

Ah. A bar. I like bars, although this one looks rather uninviting. And is it even open? It turns out that it is so I go in and order a beer and talk to the barmaid, who says "You came here to take pictures of this place? But there's nothing here to see!"

Incidentally - and I may be wrong - but it seems to me that the old photo below may well have been taken from more or less the same spot as I was standing at when I took the photo above.

Here's the central square. Lots of greenery, kids playing in the playpark, few people around. It's quiet and peaceful, like in a village. That makes a change from where I live that's for sure!

Here's a familair site in small French communities, a memorial to those resistants who fell during the Second World War.....

But life goes on, new generations are born, and they need to be able to expend their youthful energy. Just yards from the memorial, and perhaps fittingly, is a basketball court. Those two young men in there are a part of this community, and they are also its future.

So there you have it. That's Feyzin les Razes, a place that nobody would normally go to unless they had a very pressing reason to or unless they lived there. Nondescript? Banal? Ugly? Uninspiring?

Call it what you like, but it exists, I was there, and I am pleased that I went to the end of the line.


(The old postcard photos here came from this French blog on Feyzin, which contains a lot more of them.)