An association of multi-cultural musicians

Anyone who’s spent a significant chunk of their lives in England and later moved abroad will, at some point, find themselves trying to explain Marmite to their new neighbours. Whether you wake up at 3 in the morning with an insatiable craving for a thick slice of hot buttered toast and Marmite or gag at the very thought, whether it’s the first thing you write on the “things to bring” list for your English visitors or the reason why you left Slough in the first place, it’s inevitable – one day, you’ll be hunting through the forgotten recesses of your food cupboard in search of that unmistakeable shiny round black-and-yellow jar so that you can give your neighbours – with a soupcon of malice aforethought – a taste of something really, truly, quintessentially English.

Which is actually quite odd, if you’re in France. After all, that black jar, the shape of it – and the picture on the label – is none other than what the French call a “marmite” – a stew pot. And what’s in it is, in theory, what you’d get if you left a load of vegetables to simmer very very gently on the hob for a very long time in a “marmite”.

There’s another thing about Marmite that your neighbours might not know – it’s a highly recommended diet supplement for musicians. Why that should be I don’t know – something to do with the range of B2 vitamins that stimulate relevant bits of the musical brain, perhaps. What I do know is that when you get back home from a late-night gig with a bunch of musicians, of whatever nationality, they will get through an entire loaf of hot buttered toast and Marmite before going to bed (apart from the one exception who rushes outside gagging.)

And that’s the original reason for the naming of a music and arts association that’s now in its tenth year, in Prayssas in the Lot-et-Garonne – La Marmite.

La Marmite is subtitled “un bouillon de cultures” – I won’t elaborate on the play on words in French, but its main purpose in life is to promote high-quality music events in out-of-the-way places that good music usually can’t reach. The emphasis is on festive get-togethers with music from all over the world, good food and creative activities that everyone can not only enjoy but also relate to and get involved in – including young children and grandparents – and even teenagers, believe it or not !

The association’s main events are a two-yearly festival in Prayssas (the next one is in September 2010) and a series of smaller festive concerts that La Marmite organises in partnership with interested municipalities, associations or local businesses, on a resource-sharing basis. And by resource-sharing, we don’t necessarily mean money – it can just as well mean willing hands, know-how, transport, networks, premises…anything that goes towards putting on memorable events in places where you least expect them !

La Marmite also puts out a twice-monthly “What’s On” email newsletter listing concerts and other events we know about in the area (Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne, but further afield as well), as well the association’s own events.

But that’s not all … The association’s overall aim is to get people together from all walks of life in congenial ways, so it also runs language lessons – English and French for foreigners – that emphasise day-to-day practical skills, including mixed-language sessions over an aperitif in the bar next door.

Phone: 05 53 47 93 12

© Ilona Bossanyi-Johnson 2009

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