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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’appel d’Arnaud-Bernard : À table citoyens !

by Alain Raynal

Citizens, Dinner is Served! – an Invitation to the People of Toulouse

Translated Thursday 31 May 2007, by Carol Gullidge

Promoting conviviality amongst neighbours: the idea of neighbourhood dinners, started in Toulouse, is beginning to catch on in other French cities.

Let us take advantage of the 16th anniversary of the launching of neighbourhood dinners in Toulouse to promote them throughout France.

From 7 pm on 1 June, the inhabitants of the symbolic Toulouse neighbourhood of Arnaud-Bernard have once again been invited to dine (1). Not each person in his own home, alone, in a restaurant, or glued in front of a particularly riveting programme of 20 heures. But everybody together in the public square. Young and old, those who remain poor and those who have moved up in the world, neighbours who hang around together and neighbours who all to often avoid each other, the shy and the boisterous, those who speak with a northern French accent and those who talk Arabic, Occitan or Portuguese, those who play a musical instrument and those who have never once plucked a guitar string. The only requirement: everybody must bring a dish to share around.

Launched sixteen years ago in this very neighbourhood with its rich community and cultural life, this practice has since spread to other cities. The promoters hope to use the sixteenth anniversary to extend the organization of neighbourhood meals to anywhere that those concerned consider it desirable and feasible. “Our aim in launching this national appeal,” explained the organizers of the Carrefour culturel, “is to draw the attention of the general public, institutions, and the media to the existence of often underrated associations around the country who put a lot of effort into activities of general interest, and who, on a daily basis, think up solutions that can be applied more or less generally to all sorts of social, cultural, or moral problems.”

Since 1991, and the launch, by Claude Sicre, the mainspring of the Carrefour culturel Arnaud-Bernard and founder of the Fabulous Trobadors , these regularly organized neighbourhood meals have been highly educational. In contrast to the meals of a group, a corporation, or of a specific, compulsory community (family, commemorative...), observed the organizers, the neighbourhood meal – “a challenge to the logic of anonymity” – is much more that of a chosen community gathering together people who have nothing in common apart from living in the vicinity, for no other reason than simply gathering them together. “It’s perpetually creating and re-creating a transient community, a fragile one, but one that’s always open.” Faced with all the social and cultural diversities, it is both a place and an occasion for civic learning.

A few days ago now, Johanna, one of the organizers of Carrefour Arnaud-Bernard, counted up around thirty neighbourhood meals planned for the "Pink City" over the coming weeks of summer. But also in Lyon, Lavour, or in the 18th arrondissement of Paris.

(1) For further information on the procedures and organization: www.arnaud-bernard.net Read also le Guide des repas de quartier, edited by Syllepse, and obtainable on order at

Carrefour culturel Arnaud-Bernard,

5, rue Arnaud-Bernard

31000 Toulouse.

tel: (0033) (0) 5 61 12 11 16

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