Rue de Saint-Malo in Brest taken over by the association ‘Vivre la rue’.

Rue de Saint-Malo, the construction of which dates back to the 18th century, is a unique place in Brest. Its visitors feel like they have travelled back in time as it was left untouched by the firebombs. It is located on the right bank of the Penfeld, opposite the rebuilt city, in the Recouvrance district.  Nestled below the now disused Pontaniou prison, it is a miraculous escapee of urban destruction.

However, it could so easily have disappeared under the bulldozers’ shovels. At the end of the 1980s, with the tacit complicity of the then mayor Pierre Maille, the association ‘Vivre la rue’, led by Mireille Cann, decided to squat this picturesque alleyway, steeped in history, to prevent its demolition. Little by little, the walls of the dilapidated houses were reinforced, amazing gardens were planted and popular cultural and festive events were organised. All of this took place in a good-natured and friendly atmosphere.

Rue de Saint-Malo is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when locals successfully take back ownership of a neglected urban space. It shows the value human investment plays in forging a city’s identity. It is a hidden-away, unusual place much appreciated by today’s tourists, that was preserved thanks to the obstinacy of a few local people.

Sonia de Puineuf