>Yesterday we spent the day in Lodève at the final day of the 11th Voix de la Mediterranée poetry festival (www.voixdelamediterranee.com). This has very little to do with gardening (although some of the events take place in gardens) except that the festival seems to me to embody a lot of the values of the garden bloggers I‘ve ‘met‘ since I‘ve been doing this. Every year about 100 poets and musicians visit this small town just north of here and fill its streets, squares, courtyards and even the river with poetry and music. It‘s all about cultural diversity – as important as biodiversity – and the meeting of cultures and mutual understanding across the Mediterranean and even further away. As a quotation from Josyane de Jesus-Bercey above the festival office door puts it: ‘The only frontiers are in the eyes of man.‘
All the events except for some of the evening concerts are free and we just wondered around the town from reading to reading. French and Arabic are the most common languages, and all readings have a French translation. Many of the participants speak English too. We listened to poetry in Spanish, Greek, French, Arabic, Turkish and Croatian.
Appropriately enough for our trip to this festival which crosses the Mediterranean, we drove there over garrigue-covered hills with limestone outcrops and through a rocky, sandy, almost desert-like area, both of which always remind me of my childhood in Libya.
Siham Bouhlal’s reading in the place des Chataignons
The life of the town goes on around the festival events. As we listened to Siham Bouhlal an old man rode into the place on a battered pink bicycle, left it at his house in the far corner, took out a folding chair and a watering can, watered the pavement around the chair to make it cool and settled himself down to watch, or maybe just to sit. It looked as though he did this every evening, festival or no festival.
Lodève has even more connections with North Africa than other towns in southern France. It is an important centre for the wool trade because of its closeness to the Larzac plateau. There is a workshop in the town where Berber women weave carpets. For lunch we stopped at our favourite Algerian café La Chamelle where you can eat excellent tagines and couscous.