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Fantastic Lille art festival

By Tim Collins

Fantastic arts Festival

The House that Fell from the Sky by Jean-Francis Fourtou,

It looks as if it was dropped from the sky

A small house balances upside down with its roof wedged into the ground. You can climb into an opening and see the furniture fastened to the floor overhead.

The piece, by Jean-Franciois Fourtou, is appropriately called La Maison Tombee du Ciel (the house fallen from the sky), and is among the stunning sights on show as part of the Lille arts festival Fantastic.

Throughout the city centre and the wider Lille area there are stunning paintings and sculptures.

Even the railway station Gare Lille Flandres has a flying saucer above its concourse (pictured below), shining a light blue beam on those who stand underneath it. This work is by the only English artist featured in the festival, Ross Lovegrove.

UFO at Lille train station

A flying saucer at Lille Flandres railway station

Exhibitions such as Phantasia at the Tri Postal gallery in the city centre have pieces ranging from the morbid to the surreal and comical.

There is a model of a skeletal horse, and a trio of human skeleton models with one smoking a cigarette.

La Solitaire is a piece showing a man supposedly made of melting spaghetti (actually string) and the Soundsuits by American artist Nick Cave (not the musician) has people in costumes that rattle as they move.

The festival began on October 6 with a spectacular parade featuring giant monster-shaped balloons, a classical concert, a fashion show and fireworks. It will continue until January 13 , 2013.

More traditional artwork featured during Fantastic ranges from Flemish art at the Palais des Beaux-Arts to photography and film at LaM, the art museum in the outlying city of Villeneuve dAscq.

LaM’s exhibit includes a continual showing of the 1947 Humphrey Bogart film Dark Passage, highlighting its ingenious use of light, photography and suspense.

Lille itself is a spectacularly beautiful city with its grand, classical architecture and the festival has had some main streets, such as Rue Faidherbe (pictured below), placed in tunnels of overhead lights.

Street lit up in Lille

A tunnel of light down Rue Faidherbe

In addition to the wealth of art on show, a visit to Lille offers the chance to enjoy a drink at one of the city centre’s cafes and bars, many open into the small hours. The simplest little restaurants and bistros provide food up to the quality and standard that makes French cuisine world class.

Lille’s nightlife, like the rest of France, does not have the toxic British binge-drinking culture. There are a few merry drunks, but the norm here is usually having one or two Jupiler lagers and walking home in a straight line.

Crowds during events at this festival can be enormous but they are not herded and nagged by police and stewards. Security keeps a low profile and people are trusted to behave themselves.

There is a risk of pickpockets in crowded events, like anywhere else, but I was told that undercover police were mingling with the mass of visitors to catch them.

Fantastic lives up to its name, and is definitely worth a visit.

Eurostar operates up to nine daily services from London St Pancras International to Lille Europe with return fares from £69. The fastest time between the two stations is 1 hour, 20 mins, with one train a day from Ashford International and up to four from Ebbsfleet International. Prices depend on seat availability rather than length of journey.
The higher grade Standard Premier tickets, which provide a reserved area and a light meal, start from £189 return.
A special offer is available for Eurostar passengers allowing them discounts to various museums and galleries, including Le Palais des Beaux-Arts and La Piscine.
Tickets are available from http://www.eurostar.com/ or 08432 186 186.

Sam's stay was courtesy of ADRT Nord Tourisme.

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