In Perpignan, the fear of a cultural boycott after the Déferlantes controversy

From our special correspondent in Perpignan,

The heart of the people of Perpignan trembles more for Barcelona than for Paris. In the summer, we complain about the slowness of tourists from the capital on the roads and the rest of the year about their arrogant air. We know here, when the national press looks at the city, it is rarely praised. Latest subject, the flip-flop of Les Déferlantes, one of the most important music festivals in the department. The event wanted to put its suitcases and its concerts in Perpignan (Pyrénées-Orientales, 66), before two of the main groups scheduled – Indochine and Louise Attaque – refused to sing in a city initiated by the National Rally.

In 2020, the Catalan city became the largest city in France controlled by this party, with the election of Louis Aliot. “We suspect that it will make a fuss,” sighs Mickaël, in his thirties and living here since high school. Between the town hall and the two groups, Les Déferlantes quickly decided: “There is no celebration without artists” and bye-bye Perpignan.

The difficult relationship between the RN and culture

A decision that does not surprise the political scientist who specializes in the far right, Jean-Yves Camus. Culture remains an area where opposition to the RN is most pronounced, the expert says: “The artistic world still resists, not only because of ideological conviction, but also because of fear. “In the mid-1990s, the cities governed by the National Front stood out for their great cultural interventionism: “Reduction of subsidies, selection in programming, censorship…, lists the political scientist. It left a mark, and the culture always responded accordingly. »

Les Déferlantes during Argeles-sur-Mer, in 2018. – Photo by RAYMOND ROIG / AFP

The ancestral conflict has survived to this day in Perpignan. But with breakers-gate, Mickaël fears the start of the problem with the snowball effect: “The hardest part is the first artist who opposes. When one says ‘no’, it’s easier for others to boycott too. When a left-wing artist performs in Perpi, the press will call him: ”Why do you accept when Indochine and Louise Attaque refuse?””

“Leave us even the concerts”

The same fear for Thomas, 32 years old, is determined to stay in his heart Catalonia. The last time he left her? To go to Montpellier in December, see Orelsan in concert there. “Our little town is struggling to attract the big fish, if we start snubbing us politically… I’m not going to take the train every time I want to go to a concert. Or go to the artists who play it with a ”good conscience” behind the public’s back” He almost regretted answering us: “I hope it’s not too many emulators. The more media talk about the concert cancellation about this story, the more likely it will spread.

And remember that the painter Salvador Dali once declared that Perpignan station was the center of the world. The fear remains today that there is nothing going around here: “We don’t have a football club, USAP – the city’s rugby club – is going to the second division, please, at least leave us with the concerts,” he pleaded.

The previous Visa pour l’image

The posters of the next events in Perpignan – Marc Lavoine on January 19, the Jamel Comedy Club on the 21st, Bigflo and Oli on February 2 and even Medina on April 7, which is almost indescribably close to the RN – are proves that life is not far from culture.

Visa pour l’image, the pride of the city and the celebration of photojournalism recognized worldwide, best describes this welcome. But clearly focused on the entire left, the event did not move from the Catalan city after 2020, despite offers from other cities to host it. Louis Aliot has from the beginning of his mandate shown his support for the event, despite some values ​​in the antipodes. The president of the festival, Jean-François Leroy, indicated in 2020 in Le Monde: “The mayor said that he will continue to support Visa and its editorial freedom. For me, there is a red line that should not be crossed, and I will denounce any attempt at censorship.” A non-question swears to André Bonet, deputy for culture in the city’s town hall: ” It has never been thought of to use the smallest action against culture. We have not moved the Visa pour l’image. The same is true for Les Déferlantes. Even if we knew their position against the National Rally, it would never have occurred to us to ban Indochina”

Round the back of the artistic world

And indeed, in Perpignan, the artistic world plays a low profile. La Casa Musicale, one of the main associations in the city, graciously responded that it was very happy to show us its events “in a context other than controversy”. Also requested, the convention center and the Archipelago theater, the two event halls, did not want to respond. On the other hand, a director of the association whispered: “Romanticism is beautiful, but we will not consider the risk of denying ourselves the subsidies that are essential to our survival just because of ideology. The RN is there, might as well turn around and hope it goes away in a few years. »

You have to live with the times, pleads the director of the association: “We could easily boycott the far right twenty years ago, when it was an ultra-minority. This is a positioning that costs nothing. It will be more difficult in 2023, when they will have 41% in the second round of the presidential election. »

Generational relationship

This is also what Marlène, 28, who sips her coffee in a bar, to protect herself from the raging tramontana, believes. “Boycotting is a delirium of the older generation. Current artists don’t care. Look at the programming of Les Déferlantes, none of the young people raised a finger when the city of Perpignan was announced as the host city. They are very nice Indochine and Louise Attaque, but it is not them that we will see in concert”, indicated the young brunette.

Jean-Yves Camus shared the observation: “The new generations of artists are less in direct confrontation with the extreme right. Many did not experience the interventionism of the FN in cultural matters. »

Boycott, for what?

The economic situation leaves less space for ideology, says Jean-Yves Camus: “Culture struggles to recover from the Covid years. Boycotting can be costly to a career or a festival, ” a luxury that many can no longer afford. Marlène adds black coffee and skepticism to this “boycott” in which she certainly does not believe: “Many people think that skipping Perpignan is appropriate to all for the Déferlantes. The place chosen was rotten, the parking lot of the Parc des Expositions. RN is just an excuse”.

In the town hall, if we say we regret the decision of Indochina and Louise Attaque, we are not afraid of a wave: “Other artists know how to make allowances”, assured André Bonet. And the question remains: not to go to Perpignan, but where to go? In the department, count four seats out of four in the legislative elections for the National Rally in 2022, an entry into the council of the department in the same year and a party that claims to be the first political force in the Pyrénées-Orientales. The assistant is confident: “Either there will be no more festivals or concerts in all 66, but I doubt it, or the artists will come”. Proof of this is that the Déferlantes have not yet announced a new location for their festival.

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