In its plan to obtain the European Capital of Culture label in 2028, Clermont-Ferrand wishes to associate Aveyron. Its mayor, Olivier Bianchi explains why.
At the end of last week, the mayor of Clermont-Ferrand and president of the Auvergne metropolis, Olivier Bianchi, was in Rodez. He came to visit the Fenaille and Soulages museums, and had an appointment with several elected officials to present them with a project that concerns them: his city is a candidate for the European Capital of Culture label for 2028. And he intends to extend the file to all the Massif Central, and therefore in Aveyron.
Why do you want to involve Aveyron in your project?
I made the tour of the Massif Central to give flesh and blood to the European capital project of this scale. I met with the elected officials to tell them that Europe will see if the fact that the Massif is a playing field for Clermont’s candidacy is a reality. It has to be truly embodied. Therefore, they must adhere and be convinced that it will be a reality. The people are quite attentive and I receive a welcome, from Corrèze to Creuse, from Lozère to Aveyron, via Allier and Cantal, quite warm and interested. Even if we have territorial specificities, between Montpellier, Orleans, Bordeaux and Saint-Etienne, finally, Clermont remains the great city that polarizes the Massif Central and organizes it.
If Aveyron is in the Massif Central, the territory is more oriented towards Toulouse and Montpellier than towards Clermont-Ferrand…
I think we can build policies on various scales. There may be cooperation with Montpellier on certain issues. With Toulouse above others, but basically, the Massif Central, is the island in the center of France: 3.8 million inhabitants, who have always been somewhat underestimated by State policies. It may be because for a long time we have tried to cling to other cities and we have not made an act of identity to promote public policies that are attentive to our needs. We find ourselves with the questions of the place of young people in a rural area, the problems of rurality, health, culture in these areas of more difficult access… As we have the same subjects, perhaps we will have an answer common.
Isn’t this approach just an opportunity for Clermont to seek financing in neighboring territories?
No, because Clermont will have to provide most of the financing. Clermont has to take a geographic leadership role, but it must do so in a benevolent way. Clermont is a particular metropolis, it is not the largest. It maintains a very strong link with the rural world. It must be shown that another mode of development can exist.
What can Aveyron bring to the bid?
There are very beautiful cultural and artistic objects here. When you are in a territory where the question of archeology and Gallic cultures is fundamental, associating the Fenaille museum is consistent. And then, obviously, there is the Soulages museum. In order for the artistic position to be as close as possible to the inhabitants and not just centered on Clermont, it is necessary to create anchor points. The Soulages museum is very dynamic and has worked with us since the beginning. It is a good anchor point for Aveyron to fully play its card in 2028.
The European capital of culture is also about crafts and know-how. Impossible, on the Clermont side, not to think of Thiers’s knives. In Aveyron, there are Laguiole knives. It’s a bit complicated between the two now. How to reconcile this?
I know there is a war, but we are going to position ourselves at the top. We can be a solution not to reconcile people, that would be pretentious of us, but to show that by wasting energy on conflict, we all end up going backwards. Our interest is to show that there are two beautiful skills that are complementary.
Montpellier is also a candidate. Aveyron also faces Hérault…
It is necessary that each territory go with the candidacy that seems most relevant in its speech. It seems to me that Montpellier and Sète are working on the issue of the coast and it is legitimate for the Occitanie Region to support them. But as we ask the Massif Central question, there is certainly a chance that Aveyron and Lozère could also be with us. And then the best will win.
Does the territory like the Massif Central need it more than others?
At a time of European populism, of populations that feel discredited, I think it would be wise from Europe’s point of view to tell the Europeans of the Massif Central that it is not because they are in this that geography qualifies as the Diagonal of nulls, that let us not consider them. They also have active culture, art and artists. If I were in the commission that decides, I think I would be very attentive to our candidacy.