The health crisis has highly paralyzed the French economy, badly hitting some sectors such as tourism, events, hotel trade-restaurant, without forgetting culture. This past April 30, Le Monde daily released an opinion column gathering signatures from several artists from the movie, show and even music universes. They were all requesting the extension of the rights of the temporary show business workers. Following this call, French President Emmanuel Macron made several announcements on May 6 to support the cultural world.
Prime Minister Edouard Philippe addressed on May 28 to present phase 2 of its containment exit scheme. In addition to the reopening of parks and gardens, museums, theaters and even restaurants, cafés, and bars, he said that show and concert venues may reopen from June 2 in green areas. The Prime Minister said facemasks will be mandatory, and that “physical distancing rules must be kept with a specific organization of seats, managing of flows in compliance with the health protocol”. For Paris and Ile-de-France, venues will reopen from June 15 as the entire country – excluding Mayotte and French Guiana – is green starting from that day. Yet, in his latest address, the President let the people know that gatherings will remain highly supervised, because “they are the main occasion for the virus to spread” he said.
Concerts canceled one after the other since February 29
Since the health crisis broke out, shows and concerts have been stopped the government first banned gathering over 5,000 people, before reducing the ban to 1,000 and then to 100 people.
All major concerts have been canceled. If some have been postponed already (Nick Cave, Dua Lipa, Harry Styles, Queen + Adam Lambert, Maluma, Celine Dion…), others are waiting for new official dates (Paul McCartney, Iron Maiden…). Without a surprise, all these adjournments left spectators very confused, as they often struggle to be repaid.
And the financial loss of the musical sector is huge. According to a study ordered to the EY office by Prodiss, the National Musical and Variety Show Union Trade (Syndicat National du Spectacle Musical et de Variété), the total loss of the income (ticketing benefits, show disposal agreements, venue leasing, extra incomes from bar, restaurant, sponsoring…) is assessed to about 600 million euros (from March 1st to May 31st). Because of the extension of the ban and as main summer festivals have been cancelled, the total cost may increase even more. Prodiss reminds that “the economy of the sector represents about 5 billion euros income, and 135,000 jobs”.
As for the small show venues, they are even more in danger than big ones. Paris 10th arrondissement Point Ephémère director Frédérique Magal says “It’s hard not to play on words, but the Point Ephémère is now deadlocked. Counting how many events have been cancelled and/or postponed is no longer really useful excluding hurting ourselves. I think about a hundred events, concerts, and shows, exhibitions, charity sales, and conferences have been cancelled… and behind these events, there are women and men whose is temporarily erased with lockdown”.
No big festivals and events over 5,000 people before September
Hellfest, Vieilles Charrues, Solidays, Lolla Paris, Garorock, Beauregard, Eurockéennes, Main Square, Fancofolies, We Love Green… The list of summer festivals cancelled in France is very, very long. When presenting his containment exit scheme, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that “all events over 5,000 people are banned until September”. A hard blow for all players of the sector who were working on the program for many months.
But this ban also applies to main show venues which capacity exceeds 5,000 people. We can of course think about Paris La Défense Arena, the Accor Arena, the Zénith de La Villette and the Seine Musicale..
What about small concert venues and small festivals?
On April 16, 2020 Minister for Culture Franck Riester said that “small festivals” may be held after May 11, 2020. “If festivals are adapted to small gauges, and there are no safety problems, we will help them” he said. An announcement that sparked reactions in the show sector, causing confusion. The same day, Prodiss called out Minister for Culture to explain the situation. In a release, the Union trade said: “this statement takes the entire show sector into confusion: festivals, concert producers, artists and spectators do not understand”.
In a hearing at the Senate, the Minister for Culture gave details on the matter: “It’s certain that a big gathering, a pit with 3,000 people, on top of each other, is not thinkable. Yet, a small street festival, with a stage, a musician and 50 people one meter from each other, seated, and wearing a facemask, coming to the site, the possibility to wash their hands with specific products: we can keep these festivals”.
May small musical and festive events take place this summer? So far, nobodies know, but Frédérique from Point Ephémère hopes to consider “these ‘small’ events outside this summer, when the minister for culture will give more details as for what ‘small’ means” she said.
So, with all these questions remaining without an answer, is the government supporting the cultural world and the musical sector enough? “We are currently helped and it’s great thanks to part-time work. Yet, the support from the Minister for Culture is totally inexistent for facilities like ours. We expect measures said to be announced by Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday” Frédérique told us.
On May 4, in Télérama, Christophe Girard – deputy mayor for culture in Paris – said he was preparing cultural events for August, Mois d’août de la culture, where will be presented “shows, dance, movies, installations, concerts, mostly outdoors, in parks, gardens, and small squares”.
Conclusions and recommendations from Professor Bricaire’s report
In order to make the cultural sector exit containment the best way possible, the government called in Professor François Bricaire. This infectious disease specialist gave the executive his report made under the supervision of social protection group Audiens.
After surveying several institutions from the cultural worlds, such as the Moulin Rouge or Paris opera house, Professor François Bricaire disclosed recommendations as for the upcoming reopening of show venues. First, it will be about keeping barrier gestures and make facemasks mandatory or not, depending on the confinement exit level. Note this report makes a difference between closed and open spaces, such as festivals, and places without crowds, such as rehearsals and shootings.
Other recommendations: hand sanitizer available at the entrance of the room, airing rules, such as airing the room between two sessions. If there is an AC system, please change filters regularly.
As for distancing rules, the report recommends keeping one meter to a meter 50 between people and organizing the event with rows or “by any other method guaranteeing social distancing”.
Last but not least, to avoid gatherings, it is recommended to close bars and drinking stands, as well as intermissions, “excluded if set up in such way social distancing is kept at all time”. Marks on the floor in bathrooms and access is recommended as well.
Professor Bricaire does not leave opera musicians out either, he gives special precautions to take for wind instruments for instance, likely to spread water droplets and spread the virus then. In this specific case, instruments will have to be thoroughly cleaned up before and after each use. Moreover, it is recommended to keep wind musicians apart, “in comparison with string musicians who can wear facemasks”. To protect wind musicians, the report recommends isolating them behind sound and light transparent windows.