The generous servings of dance, music, theatre, film and visual arts at indoor and outdoor venues all over town boosted spectator numbers at the 2008 edition of La Fete to a very respectable half a million. So if you stopped to look at the amazing photography exhibition outside Central World last year, you could rest assured that your contribution counted.
Remarkably, the 2008 cultural extravaganza kicked off just four months into the posting of the new cultural attache to French Embassy, yet Stephane Negrin and his efficient team still managed to beat earlier attendance records while learning some valuable lessons for this year's event.
"Living here is different from visiting as a tourist, and I found that I needed to find new ways to communicate with the audience," says Negrin.
"Thais are very open-minded. Last year's closing event was very interesting for them, but of course I cannot present that kind of show every year. I understand that they like modernity and appreciate discovering new talent. I've also discovered that it's not true that they only like classical music; nor is it correct to say that they only listen to Thai music."
Despite the current economic and political situation, all 21 events planned for La Fete 2009 are going ahead as scheduled. With a full year to work on the festival, Negrin has found new sponsors and partners, among them a local paper company happy to support the printing of festival publications, and a local music academy who may help take June's Fete de la Musique nationwide in the future.
"From October through February, I worked on fundraising while simultaneously organising the programme. That was a deliberate move and it paid off, bringing us many new partners in this difficult period."
As a result, we're seeing La Fete ads and programme brochures all over town and a broad-based festival in spite of the financial gloom and doom. Even last month's political pandemonium does not appear to have been a turn-off. Negrin confirms, "All the French artists want to come to Thailand."
Noticeably, for the first time, the event is being described as a "French Thai cultural festival", rather than a purely French fete. Negrin says this is more than mere diplomacy, "It better reflects the true nature of the festival. If I count the number of participating artists from both countries, then the Thais far exceed their French counterparts.
"Of course, France organises and invites, but it's not just about the image of France. We've been working with many local organisations and companies, like Zen, the Pullman Hotel and TK Park, from the very beginning, and not just towards the end when we look for venues. We also make sure that all information is in three languages [French, Thai and English]. Carrefour, one of our sponsors, even has the information in its monthly catalogue, all in the Thai language. The target audience is Thai after all."
In the end, Negrin says, "La Fete is for all and I think everybody can find something interesting."