France’s summer festivals will continue, but with strict Covid-19 restrictions

Summer festivals will be able to continue in France this year despite the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, but attendance will be limited to 5,000 people and the public will have to sit, the country’s culture ministry said on Thursday.

From jazz festivals to outdoor theater, cities and towns in France are hosting summer festivals, but existing Covid-19 restrictions and lack of security when the pandemic will end left organizers demanding clarity from the government.

“It is important that we give visibility to our festival organizers who must decide early in the year whether to proceed and in what format, even if the pandemic will continue to create uncertainty,” the Ministry of Culture said in a statement.

The rules apply to indoor and outdoor events.

Reactions to the government’s announcement from festival organizers were mixed.

“We are in shock,” said Jean-Paul Roland, director of the Eurockéennes Festival and representative of Prodiss (the national union for producers, broadcasters, festivals and theaters in the private sector).

“The We Love Green Festival (in the Paris area in June) surveyed its festival-goers and the answers were clear. 85% of respondents said they would not come if the public had to sit down,” Roland said.

Eurockéennes, a festival planned for early July, gathered 128,000 people in 2019 (it was discontinued in 2020, like most music festivals). The festival had already announced its lineup for 2021 with international stars such as Muse, DJ Snake and Massive Attack. “With 5,000 people, that would be impossible. Which artist agrees to participate?” he said.

But another festival, the Vieilles Charrues Festival, which was attended by 270,000 spectators in 2019, will continue despite the restrictions. “We will adapt. It will not be a quiet summer in Carhaix (the city of Brittany where the event takes place), it will be the summer to come back again,” festival director Jérôme Tréhorel told AFP.

“I was very worried that the government would not announce anything at all or that the summer festivals would be banned,” he said.

There is currently a curfew every night in France from 18:00 to 06:00. Restaurants, bars, museums, theaters and concert halls are all closed. Gatherings are limited to 1,000 people.

If the health crisis worsens, the ceiling on participants and other safety protocols must be changed, the ministry said.

A € 30 million fund will be made available to compensate festivals that have to make changes or cancel their plans, it added.

( Jowharwith REUTERS and AFP)