Macron offers financial assurances to France’s struggling culture industry

By Marta Garde

Paris, May 6 (efe-epa).- President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday tried to quell concerns France’s arts and culture sector by announcing financial aid to help workers stay afloat. 

Artists like Catherine Deneuve and Jean Dujardin recently penned an open letter in the press calling for more to be done to protect those in the culture industry, which has been battered by the lockdown imposed to stem the spread of Covid-19.

Macron met with some sector’s representatives via videolink Wednesday to discuss the situation once the country starts the process of lifting the nationwide restrictions on May 11.

“I would like us to launch a program of public commissions, whether it be for artistic trades, literature, visual arts, and I think in particular for young creators under 30, because if you have a solid base, a successful festival or artist can make it through this period,” he said in the meeting.

The figures of a financial aid package had yet to be fleshed out but according to the culture ministry the arts and culture sector generates more than 47 billion euros ($50.7bn) a year and represents 2.3 percent of the French economy.

Although libraries, record shops, book shops, art galleries and small museums can open from next week in France, cinemas and theaters will remain closed until the healthcare situation is re-evaluated at the end of May. Gatherings of more than 5,000 will remain prohibited until at least September, according to the government plan.

Macron pledged a compensation fund for series and films that were postponed or cut short due to the pandemic and said he would extend state benefits for actors and performers who are struggling to find work until 2021.

The precarious situation gig workers in this sector find themselves in — unable to rack up the 507 hours necessary each to gain access to benefits — was another principal topic of conversation with the president.

Authors will also receive a four-month tax break, the national music center will receive 50 million euros and the government said it wanted to further promote cultural education in schools.

Macron’s plans were not limited by the French borders.

“We must relaunch a Europe of culture, of co-productions. The axis of our response will be European. We must strengthen our creative capacity.”

The president said the situation could force the culture sector to adapt to a new reality.

“Will we be able to return to normal times? I don’t know.”

Around 1.3 million people work in the culture sector in France.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due to give further detail on the government’s actions on Thursday.

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