Culture is future » Territorial attractiveness and social cohesion

07.06.2015

Op-ed: "Summer festivals 2015 : open-air cultural ecosystems" by Olivier Le Guay

Avignon, Aix, Reims, Vieilles charrues, Hellfest…More than ever summer festivals serve as ecosystems – often open-air – for reinventing cultural experience mixing the formats, places and genres, including screens, to seduce a new public and encourage better living together.

Op-ed previously published in french in the Huffingtonpost.fr

Despite a context darkened by the appearance of cultural ‘crisis map’ (counting the number of cancelled events and closed down institutions) worrisome enough to justify the ‘diagnostic’ commissioned by the ministry of culture to Pierre Cohen, the artistic creativity, social and technological from festivals call for new reasons to hope.

Answers to the world’s disorders. A true melting-pot for content innovation, festival programming sometimes assumes extreme tensions of their times (freedom of expression, radicalisation, globalization…) and the stakes in cultural diversity (emergence of a new generation of audience and creators). Marked by a sense of responsibility, these ambitions are at the center of the many artistic directions that are engaging both on aesthetic and social levels like those of Olivier Py at the Festival d’Avignon, of Bernard Foccroule à Aix-en-Provence, Bruno Messina (Festival Berlioz on the Côte Saint André, Isère) or of Olivier Delsalle in Ile-de-France. Their polymorphous, plastic and tactical offer multiplies the creative propositions – often in hybrid genres, disciplines and formats –to answer or nourish the occasionally chaotic desires of a more and more diverse audience. The initiatives –involving the entire local tissue – shine well beyond the international events they manage. Such as, the ‘Monster of the Labyrinthe’ project, an opera and an educational approach taken up by Simon Rattle, by gathering more than 300 amateur chorus singers from the PACA region, the Mediteranean Youth Orchestra, the London Syumphony Orchestra at the Festival of Aix en Provence, the 8th or 9th of July, or Berlioz’s Te Deum conducted by Nicolas Simon and Eric Villevière with around 1.000 participants made up of 600 local singers of the Isère and the region, at the Grand Theatre of Vienna, August 21st… Also the infinite forms of the many federating popular movements in infinite forms: ranging from the indispensable and traditional form of mobilizing thousands of volunteers… to integrating a hundred social insertion program workers at the Festival of Saint-Riquier or staging illegal immigrants  workers during the « in » of the Festival of Avignon

Festival offer attractiveness can also devised on an economic level. «All the more so today, the competition between festivals is European. There are 4,000 in Europe this summer! Reminds Jo Bernard, director of the Fête du bruit (‘Party of noise’) à Landerneau (Finistère) as quoted by Ouest France. This can be seen through; first, the creative pricing: free entries are commonplace or a maximum of 20€ for a concert at the Festival des Flâneries of Reims, or subscription systems like the card «Musique Ouvre-toi!» for the Festival 1001 Notes, a p ‘Child discount’ (one free entry for one adult ticket) or ‘Under 30’ (15€ per opera) for all shows during the Festival of Aix-en-Provence or even free participation in the case of the Festival Vie Sauvage (that is also innovating with its ‘Siestes électroniques’). Creative pricing is also taking place for young and family audiences. For example, the concerts « Petits Flâneurs » at the Flâneries Musicales of Reims, concerts ‘drawn on sand’ at the Festival of the Vézère, the theatralized visits of the Festival of Saintes, daily ‘à la carte’ animations at Vezelay and not to mention the craze for ‘Ciné-concerts’ almost everywhere in France.

This reinvention is based on digital and connected services. Which can allow easier access: the Vieilles Charrues uses contactless payment technology or for housing, like in the case of Hellfest that offered an application to allow festival-goers to locate available rooms from local residents. And also for security purposes the UK’s Downloading Festival used facial scanning. Lastly, the online show business is a growth outlet one can no longer ignore. While the audience numbers for live stream concerts have increased 40% worldwide between 2012 and 2013: «not only economical but cultural and social benefits can be brought by a rich and diversified offer of online shows » insists the report 'Spectacles en ligne : une nouvelle scène ? Décryptage et leviers de croissance' of Idate consultancy commissioned by le Prodiss. Remains now for producers to adapt themselves to the screen: capturing and managing the rights and realizing the potential (as well as the copyright-related risks). The study emphasizes on how we are still far, with a measure: 95% of the videos posted on Youtube are from unofficial accounts and only 1% from official accounts.

Festivals are still a unique and powerful cultural ecosystem to forge citizenship, renew or show ways to understand culture, to tame it and to draw out its new contours, both cohesive and festive, making up a melting-pot of thoughts and viewpoints. They must remain a local and national case that nourishes ‘living and becoming’ together for all our territories.