Avignon festival ‘to be moved’ if far right win

The organizers of France's famous Avignon Arts Festival have threatened to pull the plug on the event after the National Front topped the polls in the historic town in the first round of the local elections.

Avignon festival 'to be moved' if far right win
Artists parade on July 7th, 2013 in front of the Palais des Papes in Avignon during the opening parade of the 67th Avignon International Theatre Festival. Photo: Boris Horvat/AFP

The Avignon Arts Festival will quit the southern French city if the National Front (FN) wins the mayor's office, organizers warned on Monday, a day after the far-right party topped the polls in the first round of local elections.

"I cannot work with a National Front mayor's office. That is for me something unimaginable," the festival's director Olivier Py told France Info radio.

Py said the founding principles of France's best-known arts festival were at odds with the anti-immigration, nationalist agenda of the FN.

"I cannot see how the festival could survive and defend its ideals which are those of openness and of welcoming others. I don't see how the festival could remain in Avignon," he said.

"Therefore I think we would leave. There is no other solution."

Iconoclastic subjects and an international cast of performers have long been a feature of the celebrated and long-running summer festival.

It was founded in 1947 by the actor and director Jean Vilar when he was invited to present his hugely successful version of T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" in Avignon's Papal Palace.

An FN list headed by mayoral candidate Philippe Lottiaux claimed 29.54 percent of votes cast in the city on Sunday, edging the Socialist Party's Cecile Helle by just 27 votes.

The two leaders will be joined in a four-way run-off this coming Sunday which will also feature candidates from the centre-right UMP party and the far-left Left Front which claimed just under 21 percent and 12.5 percent of the first round votes respectively.

The FN's showing reflected a strong performance nationwide and the anti-immigration party is expected to emerge from the second round in control of up to 15 towns — although Avignon is not considered amongst those most likely to fall to the party led by Marine le Pen.

The Avignon festival is held in July in the courtyard of the Pope's Palace and other historical venues in the city and attracts performers and audiences from around the world.

Alongside the official festival, there are a number of fringe events and spectacles that draw huge crowds.

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France’s Fête de la musique ‘will go ahead, with masks and a curfew’

France's famous summer music festival the Fête de la musique will go ahead, but with health restrictions in place, says the culture minister.

France's Fête de la musique 'will go ahead, with masks and a curfew'

Culture minister Roselyn Bachelot, taking part in a Q&A session with readers of French newspaper le Parisien, confirmed that the annual summer festival will go ahead this year on its usual date of June 21st.

The festival date is normally marked with thousands of events across France, from concerts in tiny villages to huge open-air events in big cities and street-corner gigs in local neighbourhoods.

Last year the festival did go ahead, in a scaled-down way, and Bachelot confirmed that the 2021 event will also happen, but with restrictions.

She said: “It will be held on 21st June and will not be subject to the health passport.

“People will be able to dance, but it will be a masked party with an 11pm curfew.”

Under France’s phased reopening plan, larger events will be allowed again from June 9th, but some of them will require a health passport (with either a vaccination certificate or a recent negative test) to enter.

The Fête de la musique, however, is generally focused around lots of smaller neighbourhood concerts.

The curfew is being gradually moved back throughout the summer before – if the health situation permits – being scrapped entirely on June 30th.

Bachelot added: “I appeal to everyone’s responsibility.

“The rate of 50 percent of people vaccinated should have been reached by then, so we will reach an important level of immunity.”

The Fête de la musique is normally France’s biggest street party, with up to 18,000 events taking place across the country on the same day.

It’s hugely popular, despite being (whisper it) the idea of an American – the concept is the brainchild of American Joel Cohen, when he was working as a music producer for French National Radio (France Musique) in the 1970s.

By 1982 the French government put its weight behind the idea and made it an official event and it’s been a fixture in the calendar ever since.