Culture

Sad summer of cancelled French festivals looms amid Covid rules

Solidays, 2019
Solidays, 2019 E.Sadaka/RFI

More and more organizers are making the tough decision to cancel summer music festivals in France amid a spike in Covid infections, a slow vaccine rollout and tough restrictions that make them unviable.

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The latest cancellation announcement came on Friday from the organizers of Angoulême's world-famous comic books festival, scheduled for the end of June.

It joins a list of casualties accounting for more than one million ticket sales and including some of Europe's biggest summer music festivals such as Solidays, Hellfest, Garorock, Eurocks, and Lollapalooza in Paris.

With French anti-Covid rules allowing a maximum of 5,000 people, all seated and socially distanced at such events, organisers say they have no choice but to cancel. 228,000 people went to Solidays the last time it was held in 2019.

'Straitjacket'

The organisers of Eurocks, which hosted 128,000 people two years ago, said the rules were a "straitjacket" and "completely incompatible with the spirit of a lively event".

Some event organisers are still holding out in the hope of being able to adapt to Covid security rules.

There’s been no cancellation yet of France's biggest music festival, Les Vielles Charrues, which had a 270,000-strong crowd in 2019, while the Cannes Film Festival and Avignon Theatre Festival are set to go ahead in adapted circumstances.

Summer Festival organisers have also been unimpressed with the 30 million-euro support package offered by the government, which must be shared across the sector between everything from rock and classical festivals to art and street theatre.

"We asked for a parachute to take the leap, and instead they gave us a mattress to land on, and we're still arguing about how thick it should be," said Eurocks director Jean-Paul Roland.

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