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Macron announces extra aid for French arts sector battered by Covid-19 crisis

French President Emmanuel Macron at a video conference May 6, 2020 with representatives of the culture and finance ministries.
French President Emmanuel Macron at a video conference May 6, 2020 with representatives of the culture and finance ministries. © AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron said he was looking into more financial aid for the country's arts and culture sectors that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Macron said he also wanted to "defend European creativity" in the face of competition from areas such as the US and China.

As part of the support measures, the French president called for a 12-month extension to France's special unemployment benefits for actors, performers, musicians and technicians, a scheme designed to protect them in the downtime between jobs.

The generous scheme helps sustain an industry that employs 1.3 million people across France — many of whom have been put out of work by the pandemic, which has forced the closure of museums and the postponement of major events.

Macron said small companies and independent workers that are most vulnerable to the crisis are eligible for a special 7-billion-euro support fund set up by the government for the months of March, April and May.

The president also announced that the "particularly hard-hit" National Centre for Music (CNM), founded earlier this year, would benefit from a supplementary 50-million-euro investment.

“Cultural venues must be brought back to life, artists must be able to create again and to work together to reach audiences, even if, during this intermediary period, we're going to have to rethink a new sort of relationship with audiences,” said Macron.

'Cultural venues must be brough back to life,' says Macron

An open letter to the goverment

Macron’s government had been under pressure to help those known collectively in France as “intermittents du spectacle,” or temporary performing arts workers, who include dancers, comedians, set designers, filmmakers and festival creators, explained FRANCE 24’s culture correspondent Olivia Salazar-Winspear.

“Last week, a number of high-profile French artists especially from the performing arts sector demanded that the government come up with a clear plan, they want news, they want indications for people working in the sector,” said Salazar-Winspear. “They signed an open letter, a sort of op-ed in Le Monde newspaper saying culture had been forgotten or abandoned. They did remind readers that while we all have been at home in confinement reading books, listening to music, watching films, the people creating that content had no real idea about the future of their industry.”

France's “intermittents du spectacle” workers benefit from a special unemployment insurance scheme which sees them receive a monthly stipend paid by the state providing they work 507 hours over a 12-month period.

Cinemas, theatres to remain shut after May 11

But the intermittents say their year has been wiped out by the coronavirus lockdown, which in France has forced the closure of theatres, concert halls and cinemas, as well as the cancellation of festivals.

"Many intermittents cannot make up their hours," Macron said after a video conference call with their representatives and his finance and culture ministers.

Macron said he wanted the government to commit to a 12-month extension to the current payments from the end of August.

Even as France looks to emerge slowly from the lockdown from Monday, May, 11, cinemas, theatres and concert halls will remain closed for longer.

Cultural events that bring more than 5,000 people together will not take place until at least September.

Covid-19 has killed more than 25,500 people in France, the world’s fifth highest toll behind the United States, Britain, Italy and Spain.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

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