Macron pledges to help France's paralysed arts sector

Paris (AFP) –


France will begin opening some art galleries and museums next week, President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday as he pledged to support the country's cultural sector which has been devastated by the coronavirus lockdown.

The French leader, who talked to a dozen artists, writers and film directors by video link, pledged to extend aid for out-of-work actors and performers until next year, and to set up a fund to help the paralysed film industry.

Although there was no question of cinemas, theatres or concert halls reopening when France starts a gradual loosening of restrictions after nearly two months of confinement next Monday, Macron said rehearsals could soon restart.

And he promised a "large programme of public commissions" to help kick-start the sector, which employs more than 1.3 million people, particularly aimed at young artists.

Culture Minister Franck Riester said some public libraries and national monuments could also start reopening from next week if social distancing requirements were met, although local authorities have cautioned against talk of a rapid return to normal.

With France's crowded calendar of summer art and music festivals all but wiped out by the virus, Macron said he would try to cushion entertainment workers from the fallout.

Many performing artists and cultural workers in France benefit from a generous unemployment system to compensate for their erratic incomes.

Some, Macron suggested, might be able to offer their services to schools, where class sizes are being drastically reduced in a bid to reduce the risk of a second wave of infections.

Arts and entertainment figures welcomed the measures.

Rapper and writer Abd al Malik, who took part in the videoconference, told AFP he expected great things from the president.

"When you talk the talk you have to follow that up with big gestures and actions," he said.

Paris theatre impresario Jean-Marc Dumontet said he was encouraged by Macron's stance on supporting the workers and his "proactive" approach to the sector's woes.

"It's a first step," he said.