Towards a European Network of Riverside Cities
Since the 19th century, rivers have played a crucial role in several social activities, sports and cultural but also working class leisure activities. These activities such as swimming, canoeing, fishing and more recreational activities like listening to music, dancing and having fun in the "guinguettes" have spread all along the rivers. It is a place where people from different age groups and backgrounds come together. With more and more spare time, these areas were visited a lot on Sundays and during the summer.
These activities are a European feature which was strengthened through transport development during the Industrial Revolution.
Close to Paris, London or Berlin, some areas were devoted to leisure, recreation but also to festive events. They became vacation spots for townsfolks who wanted to escape from the city.
Middle-classes were the first ones to go to the banks of urban rivers. This can be ascribed to their support for the social hygiene movement, their interest for Romanticism, their renewed relation with nature and the new trend for travel and sports. When working classes also got more spare time, they began to frequent the banks of urban rivers too. A new form of leisure was thus born.
Through a sometimes complicated urban History, this European cultural phenomenon passed on a cultural and natural heritage to us. This heritage is linked to the past but carries on in the present with new activities practised along urban rivers.
In order to understand, protect and enhance this heritage, we think that it is essential to work together on the realisation of a network of European regions involving leisure and recreation along urban rivers.
This network could be certified as a "European cultural route" by the Council of Europe thereafter.
The Cultural Route of the Council of Europe certification
The Cultural Routes programme was launched by the Council of Europe in 1987. Its objective was to demonstrate how the heritage of the different countries and cultures of Europe contributes to a shared cultural heritage. It highlights the different facets of European culture that arose from the past and that appears nowadays in the way people live.
A European Cultural Route is a network of partners developing co-operation programmes in the fields of heritage enhancement, culture, arts, educational youth exchanges and cultural tourism. The term "cultural route" did not only designate tangible paths, but may be a network of locations linked by a common theme.
This theme must be representative of European values and shared by at least three countries of Europe.
On the edges of the Marne, a rich and diverse heritage ...
The Marne is one of the longest rivers in France (512 kilometres). Before the river flows into the Seine at Paris doors, the Marne runs through townscapes along the last thirty kilometres. However it still remains a green corridor.
This area became a vacation spot for the Paris middle-class during the 19th century and for the urban poor during the 20th century. People used to come to practice cultural activities, sports, or just to have some fun in the guinguettes. This relaxed atmosphere gave inspiration to some great filmmakers (Renoir, Carné...) and photographers (Doisneau, Ronis...).
Whereas new activities have been developed, this image of « the Sunday El Dorado » is still linked to the banks of the Marne.
Call for partners
In order to develop this network of European waterside cities, we are looking for locations of which story is similar to the one of the banks of the Marne near Paris.
Our aim is:
- To enhance not only the history, memory, cultural and natural heritage, but also the new activities of our site ;
- To go into partnership to promote a different image of European cities that will be focused on our similarities and the spread of a cultural phenomenon of transnational importance ;
- To work together to develop shared actions in the fields of culture, education and tourism.
A project coordinated by the Val-de-Marne Tourism Board
Since 2013, the Val-de-Marne Tourism Board has been working with its local partners to enhance the banks of the Marne at on a European scale.
A Governing Board and a Scientific Committee have been set up. They have met on several occasions to define the project theme and its objectives.
Contact : Camille CHOWAH