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With such a vibrant – and healthily subsidized – cultural scene, aided by an energetic population of young people, it can seem like there’s always some celebration or other happening in Lausanne. All summer long, the Ouchy waterfront hosts informal music events – from techno to chamber music to African dance – just about every weekend, and always free. Entrée libre pour un été is a summer-long programme of free music, dance and culture at various locations around the city (see www.lausanne.ch), taking in such diversities as Friday evening organ concerts in the Cathedral and hip-hop/DJ acts staged during the late-August International Roller Contest, Europe’s premier skateboarding and inline event of the year, attracting over 100,000 skaters (www.roller-contest.ch).
Lausanne’s biggest party is the Festival de la Cité held in early July, in many ways much more spontaneous and cutting edge than the Montreux Jazz Festival happening at the same time just down the road, not least because everything is free and out in the streets: the whole of the Old Town (la cité) is given over to live performance of all kinds – music, dance, drama, mime, and more. Both the best in their field and student novices vie for the promenading audiences, with performances starting at dusk and running continuously until the small hours on more than half-a-dozen open-air stages, with stalls all around selling beer and food to the crowds.
If you’re in town at the wrong time for that, try and coincide with the Cully-Lavaux Jazz Festival, held in the wine cellars and medieval alleys of Cully village, 8km east of Lausanne, in late March; or the Fête du Soleil, Lausanne’s version of carnival held each April; or the Flon’s Atlantis Festival in May, devoted to leading electronic music and dance; or the Fête de la Musique, impromptu music in the streets and bars in mid-June; or the Fête à Lausanne, a weekend of fairground attractions in late June; or the Paleo Rock Festival (www.paleo.ch), a mammoth event held every July in a field outside Nyon, which draws top-name artists and a crowd of a quarter of a million; or the Festival of Contemporary Dance, held in late September at the Sévelin 36 arts centre; or the Bach Festival, held throughout Lausanne over two weeks in early November. Finally, chilly January hosts both an International Circus Festival on the Place de Bellerive (held for the first time in 1999), and the acclaimed Prix de Lausanne competition and workshop for young dancers, an annual fixture since 1970 inspired by world-famous choreographer Maurice Béjart and his resident company, the Béjart Ballet Lausanne.
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