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Thu 21 Feb 2013 11:30 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 21 February 2013

Philip Sweeney on music, crime and culture in Marseille, 2013 European City of Culture.

In the year that Marseille and the surrounding region of Provence are enjoying European City of Culture status, Philip Sweeney explores what this means for a city more often in the news for its crime than its culture.

Marseille's spectacular cast of corrupt politicians, smugglers, bank robbers, slot machine overlords and underworld godfathers earned the city the title 'Chicago-sur-Rhone' in the 1930's heyday of organised crime. The city's reputation continues, and recent violence in the housing projects, combined with corruption cases involving police and politicians, have done nothing to dispel the perception of a city mired in crime and corruption. And yet many of the attributes that have for decades contributed to Marseille's status as capital of France's Cote de Crime - its great port, its patchwork of nationalities, its rich musical mix - are the very elements that have contributed to the emergence of its distinctive cultural identity. Philip Sweeney meets musicians, writers and journalists at work in the city today to explore its ambivalent reputation.

Producer: Sara Davies.

  • Gari Greu and Flavia Coelho sing Export-import at the launch of Marseille 2013

    Gari Greu and Flavia Coelho


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