Canal de l’Ourcq: A Hub of Culture in Seine-Saint-Denis

In a bid to shift the cultural epicenter of Paris towards the east, Seine-Saint-Denis Tourism is spearheading a collective effort involving around thirty cultural and festive entities around the Canal de l’Ourcq. From music to painting, street art to dance, the annual event « L’été de l’Ourcq » showcases the array of activities available along the canal, from Pantin to the Bassin de La Villette in Paris. Plans are underway for a 2024 exhibition featuring photo collages created from the photographic archives of Studios Rouchon in Saint-Denis, displayed on the quays and walls by the waterside.

A Transformation Along La Villette

The transformation journey began forty years ago with the installment of Parc de La Villette, replacing former abattoirs. The industrial decline at that time led to the emergence of vacant and more affordable land compared to Paris. In 2004, the National Dance Center set up on Quai de l’Aisne in Pantin. In 2012, the Thaddaeus Ropac gallery occupied a former factory to showcase monumental works, followed by the advertising agency BETC opening Les Magasins généraux cultural center on the canal five years later.

Accelerated Momentum

Recent years have seen a rapid movement, particularly with the establishment of real estate group Fiminco, opening a cultural center for contemporary art at the former Roussel-Uclaf factories site in Romainville. This space, known as Komunuma, houses several contemporary art galleries, along with free public events, artist residencies, and the reserves of the Regional Fund for Contemporary Art.

Fostering International Connections

With La Villette set to become an area for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, opportunities to engage with international audiences and democratize culture are on the horizon. Collaborations with music and performing arts, including partnerships with the Théâtre du Châtelet, are expanding the cultural offerings. A diverse range of public rehearsals and events are in the pipeline, with choreographer Blanca Li setting up studios in the area.

A Day of Festivities on June 15

As the canal’s stakeholders gear up for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, plans are in place to leverage the international spotlight for cultural outreach and community engagement. A full day of exhibitions, performances, and free activities is scheduled for June 15, featuring thematic walks focusing on urban agriculture, contemporary art, and architectural and industrial heritage.

Promoting Sustainable Mobility

In a bid to encourage sustainable transport options, initiatives such as river shuttles, walking, cycling along the riverbank trail, and a designated cycling route are being promoted to access exhibitions, enjoy a drink, or visit a club. A map titled « L’Ourcq au fil de l’eau » has been curated by BETC, highlighting cultural, festive, and gastronomic hotspots, complementing the online platform. A new edition of the ‘Guide des Grands Parisiens’, in collaboration with « Enlarge your Paris, » is set to be released soon.