L'histoire curieuse de l'architecte, le rugbyman troglodytique, le journaliste anglais et la corrida

Here is a very peculiar, yet unequivocally true story. Its effect on Anglo-French relations is yet to be determined, but it features the follow protagonists:

Jean Nouvel, one of France's most distinguished architects;
Sébastien Chabal, un rugbyman* legendaire (49 caps for France, as of July 29th 2009) et l'Homme des Cavernes (to his fans);
Béziers, a town in the Languedoc region of France, famed for wine, bullfighting and parabolic curves**;
Raymond Couderc, French senator, and mayor of le aforementioned ville Francaise;
Alliance Anticorrida, an animal rights organization opposed to the staging of bullfights;
George P. Herringshaw, 'le journaliste anglais', sports photographer and proprietor of www.rugby-heroes.net. Also my dear father.

It all relates to this poster:


The montage was produced by the office of M. Nouvel to advertize the 2009 Béziers feria. As you can probably deduce, the feria is a bullfighting festival. The rugby player whose head has been replaced with that of a bull is M. Chabal, who is from Valence, about 260 km north-east of Béziers. I don't know if he has any strong links to the town, but he is undoubtedly a very bullish sportsman.

However (and this is quite a large however, so should perhaps be HOWEVER), the Alliance Anticorrida has another legend of French rugby, Walter Spanghero, as one of its supporters, and M. Spanghero observed quite accurately that, whilst rugby is a sport that prides itself on respect, bullfights were "unequal confrontations between a person and a bull who is trapped in a cowardly way". Hence, in conjunction with the Alliance, he asked M. Chabal and the French Rugby Football Federation to request the removal of M. Chabal's likeness and the association of him with a cruel bloodsport.

This happened, and M. Chabal distanced himself from the Béziers feria and any link between him and bullfighting. Furthermore, the mayor of Béziers, M. Couderc, disgusted with the negative publicity generated by M. Nouvel's work, demanded that the posters and every other promotional item featuring the offending image be withdrawn. Apparently, M. Couderc was particularly angry that none of the merchandise could now be sold, the proceeds of which would have gone to charity.

However (and this second however is even more important, especially if you're a Herringshaw, and I am, so should be a HOWEVER), top architect and controversial poster designer M. Nouvel not only improperly associated M. Chabal with bullfighting, but also used a photograph of M. Chabal illegally. The photo is the property and copyright of Mr G. P. Herringshaw, who took the picture on February 13th 2005, and it cannot be reproduced without permission. It certainly cannot be used to publicize bullfighting, even if the proceeds generated go to charity!

So now M. Coudrec might sue M. Nouvel, or he might not, and M. Chabal might sue M. Nouvel, or he might not. And Mr Herringshaw might have to be interviewed by the French press, which is potentially hilarious, as his French is considerably worse than mine.

For reference, this is the original photo of M. Chabal:


I don't have permission to reproduce it here, so will hopefully get sued by my own dad.

*rugbyman being a perfectly valid word in French, but not in English, bizarrely.

**(C) Dottoressa Helen Goodchild, and also factually incorrect.
0