Macron promises extra aid for French art, culture, hit hard by pandemic

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday he was looking into more financial aid for the country's arts and culture sectors that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. After a video conference call with their representatives and his finance and culture ministers he pledged 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 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.

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. 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 for people working in the sector, FRANCE24 reported. They signed an open letter, a sort of op-ed in Le Monde newspaper saying culture had been forgotten or abandoned.

Even as France looks to emerge slowly from the lockdown from 11 May, 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.


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