Ouest Park Festival: What makes Le Havre a city and what makes Le Havre a home.
As the fall break passes, second year student Shivani Ekkanath takes a minute to contemplate a popular LH festival, and her time in our beloved city.
Think obscure artists, all manner of techno, pop, and indie, paired with seizure-inducing lights, deafening cheers, cheap beer and an overall, great weekend? C’est l’Ouest!
We always believe that Le Havre is quaint and small, yet there has always been more to this maritime port city that so many of us SciencesPistes call home. Owing to the thriving youth population, Le Havre has steadily transformed over the years. Ouest Park Festival is an excellent representation of these dynamic changes as well as the vibrant cultural wave that is overtaking the city as it transitions from its old roots to form a new cultural identity. One of the venues, Le Tetris, a gentrified establishment as well as an important cultural project, is proving to be the melting pot of Le Havre’s growing hipster and artistic culture with its melange of live performances and acts. The festival is also a great way to support and give local artists from Normandy a platform and an opportunity to share their music with a large mass audience, especially because prices for tickets are nominal and the last day is free of cost and people often come in big groups with their family and friends.
The weekend of Ouest Park witnessed dozens of artists, both established and up and coming, across France and beyond, making their way to Le Havre to share their latest music with avid and eager Havraises, among them many of us Sciences Pistes! The sixteenth edition of Ouest Park proved to be yet another breath of fresh air as we finally bid farewell to the summer and welcomed the colder but colourful and crisp months of fall. This year featured artists such as Daysy, Cadillac, Hocus Pocus, Taxi Kebab, Hellios Collective and others, each bringing with them a distinct and unique sense of style. Many of the Ouest artists this year explored and experimented with different types of music within genres like electro and groove. For example, the band Helios Collective riled up audiences with their haunting yet powerful tribute to the city. Born and bred in Le Havre, they conveyed the feral and wild nature of Le Havre’s cliffs, rough seas and beaches through their experimentations with different kinds of techno music, while also drawing inspiration from Le Havre’s industrial roots and evolving modernity in some of their pieces. Similarly, acts like The Jungle and Sentimental Race also featured a lot of music incorporating techno, percussion and other elements like rave and gabber.
Moreover, one of my first experiences in Le Havre was in fact, my visit to Ouest as I climbed the steps to Fort de Tourneville breathless but excited to see Therapie Taxi in concert and engage with my strange but fascinating new environment. My second time at Ouest not only took me back to this first few weeks of the first semester last year but also made me reflect on how fleeting time is indeed as we come to the second half of the semester. A large part of my love for Ouest over the past two years has also been other aspects of the festival, from the hype and the introduction of the acts on the Facebook page to its atmosphere, not to mention the free crepes. Apart from that, this is obviously the best opportunity to discover and explore new music as well. One of my personal favourites was a band called Daysy, I have even added a lot of their music to my playlist. They incorporate a lot of pop, soul and urban touches with their powerful vocals and deep lyrics, both in English and French. I now realise that the festival is also one of the only occasions where we truly see Le Havre in its truest form and essence. It is a great lens into the local culture, as we temporarily leave the everyday hustle and bustle of the Sciences Po bubble and engage and experience the liveliness and life of the city.
Perhaps, when I look back at my time in Le Havre during my 3A next year, I will remember my time at Ouest, which marked the beginnings of the two years of my university experience as well as the beginning of my concluding year. It remains one of those transitory phases, where I am finally at peace with my environment and bask in the comfort of what I can call home in my own way before I await the next phase of what is to come.