Blues-sur-Seine, a different blues festival

Jean Guillermo

Mr. Jean Guillermo, Blues-Sur-Seina external relations manager

Blues-sur-Seine, a different blues festival

Conference by Jean Guillermo, external relations manager of Blues-Sur-Seine Festival in France.

A few days ago we have had in Barcelona (spain) an interesting lecture by Mr. Jean Guillermo, winner of 2008 Blues Foundation “Keeping The Blues Alive” Award which every year honours a lifetime dedicated to promote the blues. He is also responsible of external relations of Blues-Sur-Seine Festival that for twelve years, is being held simultaneously along 17 days in November in 22 different cities on the outskirts of Paris. An special festival of what we are accustomed to, which combines various aspects, such as artistic, social or educational ones. In an interesting conference, Mr. Jean Guillermo explained us the highlights of this interesting festival.

To get into the spirit of this special event, Mr. Jean Guillermo begins to tell us the problems in the area where the festival takes place: a depressed region marginalization, economic underdevelopment… In this background and thanks to the initiative of a sociocultural centre in Nantes which main aim was to socialize young people through music, and the promotion of popular culture, came up the idea of doing a blues festival.

Since its first edition, the festival is divided into three areas of the same importance: Artistic, Social and Educational.

Artistic Area.

With the subtitle “Spirit and Colours of the Blues”, the Festival produces a wide program based on blues, rock blues, rhythm & blues, gospel, folk or blues, including French artists who have got the spirit and feeling of the blues, with more than fifty venues of musicians coming from all over the world (USA, Europe, Africa, South America, Russia….) The program also includes International Blues Challlenge “solo-duo” contest winners, awarded by the Blues Foundation in Memphis, as well as the winners of French national blues competition in “solo-duo” and “bands” categories.

There is also a section entitled “Trampolin Blues-Sur-Seine” that gives an opportunity to new groups without cds distributed in the market, to participate in a contest where a Jury of 15 people select six finalists who participate in the festival program. The winner plays in seven prestigious festivals. There is also a 1,000 euros prize to the a French singing blues artist and the festival produces a CD with two tracks of the six finalist groups.

Other activities include a “Blues and Classical Music Meeting”, a Broadway inspired show entitled “Blind Lemon Blues”, theatre plays made by workers in different factories, such as “501 Blues” done by Lewis factory workers who are in process of relocation, “slam blues” workshops for teenagers and illiterate mothers, exhibitions, a blues short story contest, creation and development of theatre shows by teenagers, such as a history of blues performed in slam or hip-hop, blues dj sessions…

Social Area.

Under the title of “Meetings for everybody” concerts and other activities related to the blues are done in homeless shelters, for ex-alcoholics, illiterate women, children with mental illness, nursing homes, physical rehabilitation centres, children in care of local administration due to unstructured families environment, prisons … etc.

Educational and School Area.

Under the title of “Importance of music practice, performing arts and musical genres discovery”, various activities take place in primary and secondary school before and during the Festival. Primary school activities include an introduction harmonica playing and singing for about 600 children six weeks before the festival that end with a school concert to the parents, included as one of the festival acts. They also take in concerts, theatre plays, different instruments presentations, puppet shows or a travelling blues bus for more than 2,500 primary pupils. In secondary schools there are scheduled conferences-auditions that combine singing with the speech, performances by various artists scheduled at the festival, workshops by experts coming from U.S. other specialized workshops aimed to teachers conferences working on mainstreaming, etc, All these activities gather more than 1500 students and are also displayed in universities.

Other cultural initiatives.

Blues-Sur-Seine has also encouraged other initiatives such as producing a blues guide for teachers, a work and exercise book of different course subjects (Math, English, History, Geography….), all them related with blues music, a collaboration with National Rail network to develop a program to fight against illiteracy, a blues literary competition for primary schools, which provides for a collective or individual students to write a poem or a blues song where the wining ones are included in the blues workbook, a teachers workshop, where they are taught about techniques to implement new resources for teaching music, English, etc

Future projects.

Finally mention some upcoming projects Blues.Sur-Seine plans to do in the nest future. They include a twinning with Montreal Blues Festival, to promote exchanges of artists and groups, both new and professional ones, to give advice to musicians in order to find performances outside France, to support blues bands competitions, an active participation in Blues Foundation International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Blues Foundation of Memphis, to develop the new European Blues Union association… etc.

All these activities confirm Blues-Sur-Seine is a unique and very special festival, that brings new and interesting ideas to put in practise.

Roser Infiesta Valls, Mrs. Zúmel