Podcast: pregnant in parliament, opera in Paris' streets, Wallace fountains

As the French National Assembly gets younger and more female, some lawmakers say it's time MPs on maternity leave were replaced. Opera singers bring love, tragedy and dialogue to French city streets with free concerts in unexpected places. And the man behind Paris' Wallace fountains, which turn 150 this year.

France has a reputation for supporting new parents, with fully-paid maternity leave and a month of paternal leave, but it does not apply to everyone. Because they are appointed, and not employed, members of the National Assembly can stop and start work when they want, but they are not replaced. So when they are absent  – whether it is for giving birth or long-term illness – they lose their vote. MP Mathilde Hignet (@mathildehignet), who is pregnant with her first child, has introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow lawmakers to be replaced by their deputies when they are on maternity leave. Will anyone oppose such a proposal? (Listen @2'40'')

Opera singers and musicians from the Calms collective are shaking up opera's image – taking it back to its roots in popular culture by performing in the streets. Conceived in Marseille in the wake of the Covid lockdown of 2020, the Opéra Déconfiné project has now spread to other cities. For eight weeks each summer, professional singers give free weekly mini-concerts in working class areas in a number of French towns, drawing in new audiences.  (Listen @14'40'')

For 150 years 'Wallace' fountains have provided Parisians with clean, free drinking water. Laura Angela Bagnetto talks about Sir Richard Wallace, who generously supported Parisians during the Franco-Prussian war and donated the first 50 fountains to the city in 1872. (Listen @8'45'')

Episode mixed by Vincent Pora.

Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, iTunes (link here), Spotify (link here), Google podcasts (link here), or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).
6 Oct 2022 English France News

Other recent episodes

Podcast: French union paradox, Tintin today, first Miss France

Why French unions are so prominent despite record low membership. How Tintin defied critiques of racism, sexism and anti-Semitism to remain one of France's favourite comic strip characters. And the 1920 beauty pageant that evolved into Miss France, watched by millions each year.  France's leading trade unions have seen a…
4 May 27 min

Podcast: France and China, menstrual leave, the 'Picasso Papers'

France's evolving relationship with China; allowing women time off for period pain; and why artist Pablo Picasso never became French. France has historically had good relations with China, but as Europe has been looking to distance itself from the People's Republic, France has had to follow suit. RFI's Jan van der…
6 Apr 27 min

Podcast: testing French democracy, surviving eco-anxiety, naming children

Is the French government denying people their democratic rights by passing its controversial pension reform without a vote in parliament? No, says a constitutional expert, but it has led to a political crisis. Fighting eco-anxiety by searching out France's eco-optimists. And a Napoleonic law that limited how you could name…
23 Mar 28 min