Aux armes in culture wars - but in a very British way

The French aren't only very good at losing battles and wars against the British, but they've also lost the centuries old Culture War between the two countries.

So now they've decided to copy the British (we do everything better than the French, these days) by setting up their equivalent of the British Council, which promotes British culture and the English language abroad.

The Times May 16, 2006

Aux armes in culture wars - but in a very British way
From Charles Bremner in Paris

TIRED of losing the culture wars to the Anglo-Saxons, the French are fighting back with an idea stolen from the ill-fed and badly dressed British.

France announced a plan yesterday for rebranding Gallic culture and language abroad and a campaign to give the world’s elite a French education with a new agency modelled on the British Council.

CulturesFrance, the agency, was described by Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Foreign Minister, as an attempt to give French arts “a label, a signature, a trademark” in the eyes of the world. Olivier Poivre d’Arvor, director of the agency, said that the country had been resting on its laurels for too long and needed to market its arts more effectively.

“Our tools until now have been rather out of date,” he told The Times. “I am a huge admirer of the way that the British Council has managed to impose a brand, an image. In France we have had a problem of people not knowing what the various agencies do.”

CulturesFrance seeks to do for the arts what the Government is trying to do for the wine industry by making it comprehensible to outsiders, M Poivre d’Arvor acknowledged.

Unlike the language, which has retreated in recent decades under the American-led onslaught of English, the French arts have not been performing badly abroad, especially dance, music, cinema and fashion, M Poivre d’Arvor said.

The weak point of France is contemporary art, he said. “The British and Americans have been much more patriotic promoting their artists. There is no French Saatchi collection, for instance.” To remedy that, the Government has opened a grand exhibition of French contemporary art at the Grand Palais, off the Champs Elysées.

Paul de Quincey, Director of the British Council in Paris, said: “We are delighted that the French Government has seen fit to reorganise and reposition its overseas cultural services along the lines of a British Council à la française. I hope that our own Government sees it as a positive indication of how we are viewed in France.”

The agency, which is to promote French literature, cinema, fashion and other arts abroad, is a response to an order to the Government from President Chirac to restore le rayonnement — the radiating influence — of the French language and culture. M Chirac did his own bit when he walked out of an EU summit last March when a Frenchman addressed the meeting in English. He has also announced plans for a Frenchlanguage internet search engine and library and is setting up a French 24-hour satellite news network.

M Douste-Blazy, a former Culture Minister and a non-English speaker, said recently that he often noticed “a desire for France” when he travelled abroad.

Along with the arts agency, the Government announced a big push to help the French language to fight back against the global tide of English. A dozen new lycées français are to be built with Public Private Partnerships in London and other world cities, adding to the 430 state-run establishments already in existence.

M Douste-Blazy said that it was vital to encourage future elites to train in French. A new agency called Campus France will channel students to France by cutting through bureaucracy and offering a “one stop” application. This had already been tried out successfully in China. France has been especially worried by the accelerating decline of French in its former African colonies, such as Algeria and Senegal. In two years EU schools have registered a 25 per cent drop in pupils studying French.


Founded in 1934 as the British Committee for Relations with Other Countries

Aims to build mutually beneficial relationships and to increase appreciation of Britain’s creative output

Governed by a board of trustees which appoints its own members, with the exception of two who are nominated by the Foreign Secretary. All members serve for three years, which can be renewed

Patron is the Queen; vice-patron is the Prince of Wales

Funded by a Foreign and Commonwealth Office grant – £186.2 million last year

Earns income also from teaching English; conducting British exams overseas and managing development and training contracts

Overall turnover this year is about £497 million

Gave £8.4 million in grants last year

Has offices in 110 countries
British culture is sooooo greatit has been invaded and destoryed by Ameican culture... hmmm look they are building yet another Star Bucks and McDonalds just around the corner. Ha... Hmm I guess you still have your Benny Hill, Mr Dean and your Red Dwarfs....

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