Every cloud has a silver lining. Brexit may well have been postponed and the forecast is still looking gloomy as uncertainty prevails.
However, people tend to come together and reach out to one another when times are tough and this is exactly what is happening at the moment on either side of the Channel.
For years, Dieppe and Brighton have been looking at each other with friendly eyes but co-operation hasn’t exactly been a paragon of achievement.
Brightonians love Dieppe and Dieppois love Brighton but the truth is that most inhabitants of both cities have never crossed the Channel to pay their neighbours a visit.
Although Brighton and Hove is one of the UK’s most successful cities and Dieppe is the closest beach to Paris, cultural and business exchanges haven’t been rife.
Until now that is. The times they are-a changin’ indeed and, with Brexit on the horizon, both the French and the British now believe that the time has come to show their affection to their neighbours and to start working on projects together.
Take Graham Precey, for instance. When he discovered that it was often cheaper to hop on the ferry to Dieppe than to catch the train from Newhaven to London, he saw the potential straight away.
He now spends as much time in Dieppe as he does in Sussex and with his social enterprise, Newhaven Regeneration Group (NRG), is working on building strong cross-Channel links.
After inviting Newhaven artists to showcase their work in Dieppe last September and screening the French premiere of web series Seaside Town here back in December, he is now taking things to another level by inviting businesses in Sussex and Normandy to meet in international waters to discuss future business ties and investment opportunities.
Jointly hosted by NRG and Normandy Ecospace, based just outside Dieppe, the very first start-up cruise is taking place on Thursday 4 April on board the Transmanche ferry and will bring together a total of 60 entrepreneurs from both sides of the Channel to boost the trade links between the two regions.
As Valery Jimonet, the CEO of Normandy Ecospace, rightly points out: “We have a lot in common and are looking forward to seeing a thriving cross-Channel partnership as a result of our voyage of discovery.”
Just before this unique initiative takes place, Dieppe is hosting the sixth edition of its Canadian Film Festival, which is unique in France. It opened on Thursday (28 March) and runs until tomorrow (Sunday 31 March).
During this major event, festival director Nicolas Bellenchombre was due to unveil his very first modern circus and cabaret show called Kanada.
And for the first time, Brighton Fringe CEO Julian Caddy was travelling to Dieppe to watch the show live and meet local cultural actors.
Brightonians will then have the opportunity to discover Kanada at the Fringe on Tuesday 14 May.
Right after the festival, a new exhibition will be unveiled at the lovely Entrepôt café, under the Arcades, in Dieppe.
Named Côte à Côte (From Coast to Coast), it will showcase works by talented young photographer Brice Menou.
Born to a British mother, he lives in Dieppe and has spent most of his free time over the past few years taking pictures of his hometown and the English coast.
His first exhibition is a love letter to the friendship between his two countries, our two countries, and will be on display from Tuesday 2 April to Thursday 25 April.
Ben Collier is a marketing executive for the Normandy Tourism Board.
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