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Les Arbalétriers create social -and acoustic- ties

Île-de-France - Saint-Denis
Social ties in priority neighbourhoods

"Sur les dalles, on dévale, on déballe, on dédalle..." [on the pavement, we hurry, we unpack, we un-pave...] To this chant, the inhabitants marched, or rather, paraded through the Basilique concerted development zone (pop. 4,000) in Saint-Denis (93), in the northern Ile-de-France region. It was Saturday 2 July 2011. Since then, this project—dubbed "Dédaldilo" (for "dédale d'îlots", which means "maze of islands" in French and refers to the housing blocks)—has consisted of building musical floats by inhabitants and has brought calm back to the neighbourhood.



Tension had been rising in crescendo, between adults and children and in public spaces: verbal violence, pauperization, delinquency, noise nuisance, systematic opposition, etc. A solution needed to be found to change the situation. "These actions, these creations were a pretext to dialogue and come together differently," explains Martine Bodineau, president of the neighbourhood association Les Arbalétriers (a neighbourhood social club that has been in existence since 1987 and helps manage the social housing stock), at the source of Dédaldilo. "And it worked! Our relationships changed. Our viewpoints too. We learned to get along with each other. Trust and respect have taken root in most of the children." Hostility and conflicts are no longer the rule today.

Walk together to live better

The preparatory workshops were held on Saturday or Sunday for two months. Open to all ages, in the end 4-12 year olds from the zone were the most faithful, with 80 volunteers in total. No registration, no reservations. The young people could come and go freely. Once the work was done (floats, signs, costumes, etc.), all that was left to do was celebrate. "A dancing carnival. Making as much noise as it could!" said Martine Bodineau. The sound equipment (tambourines, bells, percussion instruments, etc.) crossed all the public spaces in these social housing parks from the 1970s/80s, located in the Arbalétriers neighbourhood in the city centre: small squares, staircases, passageways, paved terraces, etc. Then, they went down the other streets in the city, followed by many passersby. "With Dédaldilo, we wanted to break out of a downward spiral. This parade was the culmination of weeks spent talking, getting to know each other, and building the things that make us happy." Dédaldilo has invented a new way to build better communities.

Together on the pavement

The VINCI Foundation wanted to encourage this project by giving it a grant in the amount of €16,000 (to cover the cost of the coordinator, float building, and artists' services) as part of its Cité Solidaire programme devoted to supporting very small associations located in at-risk neighbourhoods. Karim Simmenide, works engineer with Bateg (VINCI Construction) and project sponsor, works on the project to renovate 211 housing units in the neighbourhood (plumbing, electricity, paint, etc.). "I lived there, block 4, every day of the week. We were working in the private sections of the buildings, and talking with people. I knew the inhabitants' worries, desires, and then I met the Les Arbalétriers association." Together, they evaluated the project's needs (decorations, sound, lights, etc.), ordered and brought in the material (plywood, scantlings, screws, bolts, etc.). "I wouldn't say proud, but almost..." says Karim Simmenide modestly. Small gestures for some, but ones that changed everything for others.

October 2012 © Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

Reporters d'Espoirs news agency

VINCI Foundation works with Reporters d'Espoirs, a French news agency, to highlight and share the innovative social initiatives that it supports. The arrangement includes the writing of articles and exchange on topics that lead to solutions. Thus presented, the initiatives, validated using the criteria of the editorial charter of Reporters d'Espoirs, are intended to demonstrate their development and results.