France’s summer festivals face another wave of Covid-19 cancellations

French festivals feel a terrible sense of déjà vu as they are forced to interrupt this year’s events by nailing Covid-19 infections and a slow vaccine development.

The latest cancellation came on Friday from the organizers of Angouleme’s world-famous comic book festival, which was to begin at the end of June.

It joins a number of offerings that already include some of Europe’s largest summer music festivals: Solidays, Hellfest, Garorock, Eurocks and Lollapalooza in Paris, among others – together they account for more than one million ticket sales.

The French government has set a limit of 5,000 people at this summer’s event, and they must sit and be socially distanced – not exactly contributing to getting wild in a moshpit. Solidays had 228,000 participants in 2019.

And that was before President Emmanuel Macron announced a third suspension from this Saturday, as hospitals are flooded with Covid-19 cases and the country is struggling to procure and deliver vaccines.

The organizers of Eurocks, which hosted 128,000 people in 2019, said the rules were a “straitjacket” and “completely incompatible with the spirit of a lively event”.

“We do not deny the pandemic, but what makes us sick to our stomachs is that we interrupt even earlier in 2021 than we did in 2020,” says director Jean-Paul Roland.

Festival organizers have also been impressed by the € 30 million ($ 35 million) support package offered by the government, which must be shared between everything from rock and classical festivals to art and street theater.

“We asked for a parachute to take the leap, and instead they gave us a mattress to land on, and we are still discussing how thick it should be,” says Roland, adding that even if health conditions improved rapidly, it would be impossible for large festivals to organize in time.

A handful of events are still going on in the hope of adapting to the situation.

France’s largest music collection, Les Vielles Charrues, which had a 270,000-person audience in 2019 and easily adaptable events such as the Avignon Theater Festival and the Cannes Film Festival, still hope to continue in July.