12-meter-high gondola, fireworks, legendary creature 18 meters long… Montbéliard becomes “French Capital of Culture” on Saturday 2024 with a “Merry Bazaar” in the opening ceremony, in the presence of the Prime Minister Gabriel Attal. The Doubs agglomeration, 140,000 inhabitants, is better known for its sausage and its industrial past, with the large Peugeot factories based in Sochaux, but it will increase the number of cultural events in the coming months.

“I hope it will be a great popular festival, it promises a great show,” says Charles Demouge, president of Pays de Montbéliard Agglomération, to AFP, who will welcome Gabriel Attal for the launch of the event. Residents of the city’s 73 municipalities are invited to take part in the festivities from 7 p.m.

Hervée de Lafond, one of the three artistic curators of the event, promises a “modest but crazy” ceremony, the aim being “to embody a postcard of the country of Montbéliard”. “It will be a happy mess.” Local elected officials have planned to come there by bike, each identified with the name of their municipality, a happy group which Gabriel Attal must join. “He will spend some time during the day with us and has positioned himself on several sequences,” confirms the Renaissance deputy for Doubs Nicolas Pacquot.

After Villeurbanne (Rhône), which opened the ball of French Capitals of Culture in 2022, the label awarded every two years by the Ministry of Culture was seduced by the project of the country of Montbéliard, named “A side step » and which focuses on sobriety.

The stated ambition is to mobilize all the municipalities of the conurbation and to highlight the rural side of the territory. By composing a photograph of its particularities: the Montbéliard sausage, the Montbéliarde cow and the Peugeot factories in Sochaux, a city which hosts one of the historic teams of French football.

However, the project had difficulty getting off the ground with the resignation of its artistic commissioner. Rachida Dati, Minister of Culture withdrew from the opening ceremony, as did Jamel Debbouze, who was to open the festivities.

The event has finally expanded and offers nearly 300 events over the year, 150 of which are the result of a call for projects, closed three months before its launch. The program had to be validated quickly by a new artistic curator composed of three local personalities. The 150 other projects, from the usual cultural programming of the city, were labeled for the occasion.

All with a budget of 6 million euros, compared to 15 million for Villeurbanne. On the program: theater, music, street arts, discovery of heritage, gastronomy, exhibitions…

A completely free pop-up festival of current music will be held on June 27 in Audincourt. Olivier Grossetête, visual artist, will also create a monumental work based on recovered objects at the ancient Gallo-Roman theater of Mandeure, with the help of around a hundred residents.

Montbéliard was in the race against two other finalists, the towns of Alès (Gard) and Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain). The Franche-Comté city will benefit from funding of one million euros for 2024, provided equally by the Ministry of Culture and the Banque des Territoires (Caisse des Dépôts group). The “French Capital of Culture” label distinguishes the cultural project of a municipality or a group of municipalities of 20,000 to 200,000 inhabitants, in line with the European Capitals of Culture.