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IN CONVERSATION WITH CECILIE DE SAINT VENANT

— JASMEEN DUGAL

During the fourth edition of World Living Heritage Festival in City Palace Udaipur, I had the good fortune of meeting Cécilie de Saint Venant, Director of Communication, Brand and Sponsorship, Domaine national de Chambord, France at an intimate dinner in Shiv Niwas Palace, hosted by Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar in honor of H.E. Alexandre Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India. In conversation.

 

On a more personal note... what was your perception of the fourth edition of World Living Heritage Festival and how do you feel it can evolve further?

 

To me, the arrival in Udaipur was a real aesthetic shock. I can compare it with the first look we take at Chambord. Both have a very distinguished geographic position, in the middle of the forest, or above the lakes. It is poetry… This festival is very important. The Maharana Of Mewar Charitable Foundation manages to deal with tradition and innovation. So we could see a drone flying over our heads during the Ashwa Poojan ceremony! I also felt it was a huge success to manage to end with the prejudice of « the city within the city » by organising concerts outside the walls. We have many things to learn from our friends from the Maharana Of Mewar Charitable Foundation and I feel more than lucky to have spent these days there.

 

In 2015 a partnership agreement was signed between Domaine National de Chambord and City Palace Udaipur with a vision to preserve living heritage and promote tourism to both regions. In 2018, what do you believe you have benefitted from this agreement?

 

April 9, 2015: signature of the partnership agreement.

Objectives of the project were to make the two sites, Chambord and City Palace Udaipur, better known to the French and Indian public, to share knowledge and skills in the conservation and presentation of cultural and natural heritage, to communicate jointly to promote the two sites — with media relays — in order to develop and intensify tourism, to hold joint projects like cultural activities, residencies and activities related to tourism. It is very important for Chambord to be involved in International partnerships, especially when it makes sense. And it makes sense to work with Udaipur; our sites share common ground, almost same age, same number of visitors i.e. 1 million a year, same integration in a royal valley… we still have many things to discover and to learn from each other.  The attendance of Indian audiences in Chambord has increased, we count some 1,774 visitors who have come since the signing of our memorandum in 2015. The objective, thanks to this partnership, is to become an exemplary place to welcome Indian visitors in France. The benefits could be more and more important in the coming years because we would like to deepen our partnership.

 

Do share details about the knowledge you have imbibed in the field of conservation from City Palace Udaipur? How do you plan to implement it to conserve the intangible and physical heritage at Château de Chambord?

 

We are particularly satisfied with this exchange and would like to renew it for the same period of three years, during which time we will be happy to organise joint events again to further develop the reputation of our two sites. We should work with the curators. Last week, we have been talking about an exchange on the architectural thematics. For instance, they have a rich team of architects constantly present in the palace. Château de Chambord is one of the most iconic castles in the Loire valley where guests can explore history, French Renaissance architecture and the work done by Leonardo da Vinci. It has a heritage of hunting, wine-making and architectural heritage.Within this context is the plan of joint communication to promote tourism to both regions.

 

What have you implemented from City Palace Udaipur to boost Château de Chambord as a tourist attraction?

 

Three years ago, we received interesting advice from City Palace Udaipur, regarding economic development. What’s fascinating in this organisation is that it faces a mission to preserve a heritage site, to develop a sustainable project with hotels and to run educational and cultural programs. This balance between the preservation of the cultural heritage and the development of innovative projects is very inspiring for us in Chambord. Here, I would like to share two examples::

1. Opening of a magnificent hotel in front of the château, six months ago: https://relaisdechambord.com/en/

2. Hosting of weddings, seminars… in Chambord: for close to five centuries, Chambord and its fabulous architecture have enthralled visitors from across the world. Once upon a time, François I welcomed International prestigious guests for a variety of performances and magnificent royal feasts. Chambord is a site that was originally thought out to awe the most prominent of honoured guests.

 

What are the development of joint projects on cultural festivals and tourism-related activities?

 

For example, we could host a photography exhibition at the Palais Cité d'Udaipur in Chambord or bring in an Indian artist who was staying in Chambord as part of an artist residency. And we are actually working on the organisation of a UNESCO symposium in Chambord on the theme of "beauty will save the world". This symposium will take place as the first event of our half millennium birthday next year and will include an inaugural intervention on the role of heritage in shaping our common future. Udaipur could of course be a special guest and should come to present specific contents about the importance of preservation of heritage sites.

 

Do you feel heritage tourism could be positioned to allure younger travellers who look for ‘experience'?

 

To me, it is obvious, the answer is yes! We have things to show to young people, especially because coming to Udaipur or to Chambord, is a kind of experience, and what incredible experiences! In 2019 will be celebrated the half-millenary of the beginning of the construction, in 1519, of one of the most emblematic monuments in France, Chambord — the first stone was laid on 6 September 1519. 500 years later, Chambord still arouses admiration and fascination. For less than ten years, Chambord has been in constant reconstruction. Almost everything has changed, renovated, modified, improved. Major investments, rehabilitation of the surroundings and the village square, new services, digital tablet, free wifi in the castle, new restaurants, new accommodation including hotels, new shops, construction of a reception hall, restoration of English gardens, French gardens and opening of a large promenade. In a context of strong growth in both attendance [+26% in 2017] and self-financing of the Chambord national estate [90.4% to date], major projects will be launched in order to offer visitors a radically transformed and magnified Chambord. So, the Chambord experience has been renewed. The challenge is to make future visitors, especially the young ones, understand that Chambord is a unique place in the world, in which people come to live extraordinary experiences.
 

Château de Chambord
Cécilie de Saint Venant, Director of Communication, Brand and Sponsorship, Domaine national de Chambord
 
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
 
Château de Chambord
Château de Chambord
 
29-OCTOBER-2018
 
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