Q&A with Luc Didon: the new Director of the Alliance Française de Brisbane
Luc Didon has over 30 years of experience in the French diplomatic network. Luc has worked with the Alliance Française in India, the West Indies and Bahrain. A student of education, linguistics, didactics and cultural event management – Luc is a beneficial addition to the Alliance Française de Brisbane and the Australian Francophone community.
It’s been one month since commencing your new role as Director at the Alliance Française de Brisbane. How do you find Brisbane so far compared to your hometown of Metz?
It is almost impossible to compare. Brisbane seems to be a very pleasant place to live, it has a kind of douceur de vivre that we find in some cities. What is common is the friendly atmosphere. Brisbane is so much bigger and much more cosmopolitan than my smaller city of Metz. I particularly like the diversity of Brisbane: it is wonderful to be able to eat Thai one night, Italian the next, Lebanese on the other, the choice is endless. I have moved from a small historical city to a big sprawling modern one.
You have lived and worked in numerous countries- including Jerusalem, India, Trinidad and Tobago, and Bahrain. Despite the vast cultural differences between nations, have you noticed any uniting ties in the global Francophile community?
Francophile communities around the world are generally very cultured. Their tastes are refined and they are always in search of arts, new emotions and experiences. When Australians talk about France, they know what they are talking about as they travel regularly. I am always surprised to see in faraway lands the Book Clubs, for example ours at the AF Brisbane reading Zola. People will tell me all about the latest French language novels, what’s in vogue in French cinema… I once heard an Indian scholar giving a lecture on Albert Camus. Maybe the Alliance Française network around the world is this tie.
With over 30 years experience in the French Diplomatic network, you have undoubtedly gained an abundance of knowledge and skills. Could you impart one life-lesson that has stuck with you?
I think an individual’s culture as well as a society’s culture is built by various events and interactions. There is always room for an additional dimension of your culture. Someone’s culture is not a limited area; it is a space that expanses thanks to exposure to different cultures. I find it exciting to be considered ‘exotic’ somewhere: identify as Indian in Europe or as European in India. I am also very happy to feel European in Europe, Indian in India and Trinidadian in Trinidad. I feel home wherever the shopkeepers of my street call me by my name. I wish it were the same for many.
Your new job role is exciting considering the large and ever-growing French speaking community in Queensland. Were you surprised by the amount of Australians passionate about French language and culture?
Yes, I am surprised by the enthusiasm of all things French here. What is new to me in Brisbane is the size of the French speaking community- people from France and French speaking countries, Australians and others who learned French as a foreign language.
I am also surprised to already see excitement for the upcoming Beaujolais Nouveau event that we have organised at Newstead House, and the 600 spectators who attended the last play (in French!) by the Brisbane French Theatre.
In our diplomatic network, we all envied our Australian colleagues for the success of the Alliance Française French Film Festival. 175,000 spectators in Australia for its 28th edition, 25,000 in Brisbane! Amazing!
Australians and Queenslanders in particular, have a reputation of being easy-going and laid-back. Having worked in high-pressure roles in often challenging locations, does this seemingly relaxed environment appeal to you or will it take some getting used to?
Of course, it will be a big difference compared to my last posting in India. Relaxed sure, but laid-back no. I worked for four years in Trinidad & Tobago, the people were relaxed there also. But they were as demanding as anywhere else and the projects we put in place there are of very high standard. The AF Brisbane was one of the first of our worldwide network to engage in a Quality Management System. Our members and spectators expect the best of French culture, our students are used to the best of language classes.
What do you hope to bring to the Francophile community as the Director of the Alliance Française de Brisbane?
More opportunities for Brisbane to experience what is happening in France today in various artistic fields. I hope I will find the means to do this. I would also like to help strengthen ties with New Caledonia, which is so close to us, and bring the idea that French language goes much beyond French borders.
Lastly, is there any Australian must-do experience you plan to cross off your bucket list during your time here?
I lived in several places where people travel from far away to dive. For example, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, the Caribbean… for various reasons, I never learned to dive. I would like my first dive to be on the Great Barrier Reef.
Thank you and bienvenue à Brisbane, Monsieur Didon!
For further details on the Alliance Française de Brisbane, including French classes and events, click here.
To read this interview in French, click here.