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Strikes threaten French summer arts festivals


France’s busy summer arts calendar has been thrown into disarray by a strike protesting proposed reforms to the country’s unique system of subsidies for unemployed artists and technicians.


In cities like New York or Los Angeles, artists struggling to make ends meet often tend bar or wait tables to scrap by.

In France, however, many arts and entertainment workers on both creative and technical ends of the spectrum are spared the necessity of a “day job”: as long as they fulfill certain requirements (notably the ability to prove they have been paid for 507 hours of work for their craft over the last 10 months), the government offers compensation and social protections during periods of unemployment.

But a new cost-cutting deal reached between unions, employers and the French government last March has riled the country’s actors, dancers, technicians and others, who say the “intermittents du spectacle” system is an essential part of French culture.

Many artists and craftspeople are now on strike, and France’s busy annual summer arts festival calendar has been thrown into disarray.

Avignon festival in question

On Wednesday, the first day of the Latin American Rio Loco festival in the southwestern city of Toulouse was cancelled. Meanwhile, a month-long theatre festival in the southern city of Montpellier has been disrupted, and the famed theatre festival in Avignon, scheduled for July 4-27, may be affected, as well.

The striking workers are threatening to extend their movement if the deal is signed at the end of June, as planned.

Under French law, some 250,000 artists and technicians receive payments and benefits between contracts.

The last reform of the “intermittents du spectacle” system in 2003 caused major disruptions to France’s summer arts events, resulting in the first-ever cancellation of the Avignon festival.

Click here for the perspective of a foreign artist residing in Toulouse.

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