If Jules Verne was born in Nantes in 1828, it was much further north that he spent a large part of his life. Arrived in 1871 in Amiens (Somme), he invested himself there to the point of becoming a municipal councillor. He rests since 1905 in the cemetery of La Madeleine, in the north of the city.
Since March 24, travelers getting off at Amiens station can follow a new route to discover the city. “Arronax” stops in front of the circus, the Town Hall, several private houses, etc. Each time, a totem with digital applications allows you to discover them in more detail. Their common point? These places were frequented by Jules Verne.
Jules Verne “essential in the whole world”
In a France where each municipality likes to glorify its children to develop its tourist appeal and its notoriety, it is therefore not surprising that Amiens has taken up the subject. Open since the 1980s, the house where the writer lived was already a must. It welcomed 48,000 visitors in 2019. But the agglomeration has decided to insist on this relationship: “Jules Verne is a must all over the world, says Paul-Éric Dècle, vice-president in charge of tourism. Walt Disney was inspired by it, Elon Musk too. It’s an asset for Amiens, but we want it to take on another dimension, to show it outside. »
Hence this route, which will soon be completed with works of street art, but also, from 2023, a monumental squid sculpture on the forecourt of the station (a reference to Twenty thousand leagues under sea). The Jules Verne house must also take a new turn with a renewed interior scenography “to bring it into the twenty-first century”. And compete with Nantes, the other city that claims Jules Verne? Paul-Éric Décle smiles: “We don’t exploit the figure of Jules Verne in the same way, we complement each other. It is normal for everyone to say that it is the city of Jules Verne. »
“Permanent fight” to exist in the shadow of Lille
This Jules Verne prism is a good illustration of Amiens’ new ambition: betting on culture and tourism. Of the 257 million multi-annual investment program for 2022-2026, 65 million are devoted to the cultural issue. Transformation of the old postal sorting into a platform for images and creation, construction of a new contemporary music room… Local elected officials want to place Amiens on the cultural map to counterbalance the loss of the status of regional capital to the benefit of Lille in 2016.
“It was a real trauma, and it’s still a permanent fight with concrete consequences, continues the elected official, accompanied by Pierre Savreux, vice-president for Culture and Heritage. From the moment there is no longer a decision-making center in Amiens, the natural attitude of players in associations, sports or economic headquarters is to follow in Lille. Culture and tourism are two of the pillars that allow Amiens to exist other than as a regional headquarters. »
A first nice shot was made a few weeks ago. Among 76 candidates, the former capital of Picardy was designated to host the national conservatory of the press and the conservation center for the collections of the National Library of France (BNF). From now on, the graft must take with the territory. “It has to be accessible, with educational activities, mediation, continues Pierre Savreux. The BNF must be present in town, that was the meaning of our application file. Like the proposal to build a press interpretation centre. » A hundred jobs should result from it.
European Capital of Culture in 2028?
Amiens has also lined up to host the collections of the Pompidou Center in Paris, which is embarking on major works from 2024. But the dream of the Picards goes beyond the relocation of Parisian institutions. Like Clermont-Ferrand, Saint-Denis or Nice, the city wishes to obtain the label of European capital of culture in 2028. With the memory of Lille which, in 2004, had succeeded in transforming itself into the spirit of the French. The application file must be submitted by December. Already, the two elected officials see a sign: 2028 will be the year of the opening of the BNF antenna like that of the bicentenary of the birth of… Jules Verne.