Nantes reinvents Squash Events (once again)

I’m sure you’ve seen all over the social media, on SquashTV, on SquashSite, a lot of buzz around Nantes. As you are comfortably sitting in front of your computer/phone at home, you might wonder what it’s all about.

Well, it’s about the story of an association of Squash Passionates who decided one day to organise a big Squash Event. They happened to have in their midst François Lejort, who played a very important role in “The Voyage to Nantes” with visionary Jean Blaise  a very special event that happens every year in Nantes, following “The Green Line”.

So with his input, dreams and vision, the Association decided to do something completely different. Going to place you wouldn’t normally imagine a court to be installed and every time they struck gold.

HUGE successes have been rewarded in Nantes, in France and on the PSA tour named as “cultural and sport” event of the year. Deservingly.

But where to go from there? When you’ve done stunning backgrounds, where to go? Well, François and his teams dreamed of a parallel universe when betting, tattooing, music, 50’s Bronx feel, gangs and hip hop would cohabit famously with a Squash Competition.

A Vegetable Warehouse

When I was told that the venue was an old banana warehouse with NOTHING in it but graffiti in the middle of NOWHERE, I was “you are kidding me right”?

And then, I stepped in… In all my years of squash events, that’s 36 years people, have I ever had that feeling I had when stepping on a cinema set, or when you walk to the middle of the stage in a huge theatre. It’s like… a parallel universe.

François dreamed to make the squash part of a dream that would take you back to the 50s or/and to a Steven Spielberg “Encounters of the …” style.  And you know what? It worked, and brilliantly so.

Originality all around

The food trucks to start with, as you leave the parking. Very close to the venue, you have oysters, French Burgers with “canard rissolé”, indian food, Reunion food (the Island Thierry Lincou comes from), a stand for French Fries – very popular with the English crew bless them – and lots of different beers.

A special dedication to “le Lieu Jaune”,in the Quartier Prairie au Duc, a magic place with oysters, “produits de la mer” delicatessen, catering service and much, much more…

Then you step in the “First room”. Planet Bronx 50s: You can bet on your favourite players, with virtual money that will offer you free seats for next sessions, or items from the Boutique, or even free squash minutes in all the French Federation clubs!

You can get tattooed, aero ones of course, I had two, loved it, and most of the crew did as well, it was just FUN!

A lovely boutique with Nantes specific clothing “Squash à la Française”, “Squash à a Nantaise”, and of course, the “GANG OF SQUASH” branding, the theme of the event.

Different places where you can chat, drink, and among all of that, the musicians that created the specific songs from the beginning of the event (DJ & guitarist), and three tough looking dancers that walk all around the room…

And of COURSE, you have the “Pimp MC”, with muscles and outfits that impressed SuiSui, our main MC.

An MC out of this World

Talking of which…. I have no shame by declaring Suisui aka Romain Suire the best MC IN THE WORLD. Ok, I do speak French, it helps understanding his funny rants and jokes. But he is constantly trying to reinvent himself, accepting to dress up – or down for that matter – according to the venue or theme.

He is one of the main elements of Nantes success. Truly and utterly. His passion for our sport, his love for the players but also for us, the Media, make our life a joy and our hard work worth while.

Photographers Folder

I always said, and I’ll keep saying it. Why did Nantes get noticed? Because François Lejort and his team’s dreams were captured on photos during the first editions. They invited the photographers, and offered the photos to all who need them. And that makes some stunning results that allowed people to share the incredible events atmosphere.

Media valued

The minute you get in the event, you feel that you are wanted there, needed, and appreciated. Little gestures – free amazing food including my weakness oysters, free drinks, éclairs au chocolat for Laurent form PSA, great coffee machine and several styles of tea – seat booked for me which allows me to work in perfect conditions and quickly, easy access to the press corridor and toilet.

So a HUGE thanks and gratitude to Natacha Godel, press relation, who went beyond duty to make sure we had all the tools required.

And more.

Volunteers: 150 of them!

I kid you not. This is why it’s a magic place. Only squash/sport passionates, all smiling, having a great time helping the event while helping the event to run smoothly. But seriously, 150???

That includes my special and remarkable Baptiste Bouin, who was also Gregory Gaultier’s partner in crime in his Jubilee. Always smiling, he helped everybody, never tired, never grumpy, and he was even coaching Fayrouz for her semi!

And how not to talk about Lucas Vauzelle Boys and Girls, young players from the fantastic Maison du Squash where we played the first two rounds, who cleaned the court for the whole week! A huge thank you to Mathieu Fort for his team at the Maison du Squash, there again, respect, kindness and professionalism all around. And great food!

And THE SHUTTLES!!!! Antoine Garnier, former Nantes Association President, who was running all the cars/vans/volunteers with a calm and organisation I salute!!!

Shuttles make or break an event for the players/media/officials, trust me.

Incredible.

 

And so much more!

Although the music is loud, it’s not deafening, it’s just placed in a way you are warmed up by the sounds, but you can still hear yourself think and chat around or listen to SuiSui. The lightening is surreal and never tiring.

The graffiti all around the two rooms, pre room and venue, incredible fun. Little details, they made sure to leave the spider nets on the ceiling God love them.

So, see you next year?

A TOUR OF THE VENUE WITH JOEY