Seeking Eldorado at Lille 3000

Seeking Eldorado at Lille 3000

The legend of a lost city of gold led many an explorer on a fruitless trek, but there is much to treasure about a trip to Lille this year

The road to Eldorado leads straight to Lille, as the city teams up with Mexico for a major cultural and artistic project which promises something for everyone to enjoy.

Lille 3000 will be launched on 27 April, signalling the start of over seven months of parades, exhibitions, shows, open gardens, street art, gastronomy, debate and design. After being the European Capital of Culture in 2004 and hosting Bombaysers de Lille, Europe XXL and Fantastic and Renaissance, Eldorado is the fifth edition of Lille’s major events program, with Mexico invited as the 2019 guest of honour.

It all gets underway in fittingly spectacular style with a Mexican Day of the Dead style parade featuring colourful costumes, masks and music. The parade will feature five large chariots with different themes and about 1,500 people, including 200 dancers and 400 musicians, as it makes it way along a 1.2km route.

Martine Aubry, mayor of Lille, explains why the team chose the theme of the mythical lands of Eldorado and how it translates into our modern day lives.

“We need to dream,” she said. “And more importantly, we need to dream together. The theme of this 2019 edition invited us to do so. Eldorado; this fanciful country full of gold that the Spanish conquistadors dreamed of. In a world plagued by doubt, Eldorado invites us to look to the future, what are our contemporary Eldorados? What world do we seek? Art, because it makes us look at the world differently and can provide answers to these questions. It promises to be a most colourful year.”

Lille enjoyed great success as the European Capital of Culture and the mayor asked the team behind it to come up with new ways of carrying that momentum through with new projects such as Lille 3000. The city has also been named as the World Design Capital 2020 meaning that Northern France remains well and truly on the global map.

The event follows France’s national motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité, with organisers making clear that culture should be for everybody, regardless of class or social standing. There is also a deeper meaning to many aspects of the project, with it seeking to promote discussion about many of the issues facing society such as immigration and nationalism. There is a focus on the inequality of life for people in different parts of the world, walls and hard borders seeking to keep people out and the way refugees are treated – Lille having taken in many displaced Syrian families in recent years. It is also about making people think about the environment, their own carbon footprint and what we can do to safeguard the planet for the future, now society is generally more educated about climate change.

Bristol-based Luke Jerram is one of the artists involved. His Museum of the Moon touring exhibition has been all over the world and will now be part of Lille 3000. It is a 10 metre in diameter sphere, covered in an exact print of the moon’s surface, featuring all of its craters and valleys. It is an arresting sight and earlier this year it was placed above a swimming pool in Rennes, allowing swimmers to glide underneath and see the dark side of the moon while they exercised.

He said: “The moon has always acted as a cultural mirror and inspired movies, songs and mythology. It is always seen as being very romantic. It means different things to people in different countries and we have enjoyed collecting those stories as it has moved around the world. It has been placed in all sorts of buildings and in Lille it will be in the train station, as that is a place where people are on their travels. It can be the starting point of a dream; a journey.”

The extensive programme includes a French and international cast, featuring Chinese visual artist Chen Zhen, graffiti artist Spaik, Julien Slaud, Teresa Margolles, Adel Abdessemed and Cynthia Gutierrez. Lille’s cultural institutions such as Le Tripostal and Le Gare Saint-Sauveur will also transform themselves to fit in with the Eldorado theme.

But it’s not just in Lille that you can see the action, with 90 communes in northern France supporting the event, including Lambersart, Marcq-en-Baroeul and Tourcoing. Eldorado parties, concerts and balls will be held from April to November in many of the participating communes.

More than 900 events have been planned as part of Lille 3000, with numerous exhibitions on Mexican history and heritage, the environment, mythology and ancient artefacts. The Golden Room is like a treasure chamber, while the Green Goddess looks at nature’s Eldorado. Meet mythical creatures Les Alebrijes and everyday superheroes, discover children’s art and urban farms, or visit the Travelling Planetarium, it’s all here.

The Secret Gardens of Eldorado are also not to be missed and ensure you make time to discover the street art collaborations of Mexican and French graffiti artists.

In a positively bulging line-up, there is also room for some opera, theatre, cinema, debate and literature.

Lille 3000 continues until December 1 to allow as many people as possible to travel to northern France in search of their own Eldorado.

For full event listings and further details visit or follow the event on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

If you liked this article, try these as well:

Top reasons to visit Toulouse in 2019

What to see and do in France in March 2019

Just do it! Why we bought a French chateau in our 30s

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