The Angoulême Comic Strip Festival will not take place in January

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Certainly, this damn virus has a grudge against the Angoulême International Comics Festival. Already last year, the global 9th ​​art crossroads, which takes place every year at the end of January, and of which Le Point is a partner, had to give up its 48th edition between confinement and winter curfew. And although a postponement had been considered in the spring, the health situation had not improved to the point of seeing tens of thousands of festival-goers surge into Angoulême, in a setting where social distancing is a sweet dream. The arrival of the vaccination had obviously changed the situation, and the team at the head of the Festival calmly envisaged the holding of the 2021 edition, despite the foreseeable absence of authors and publishers from Asia due to the restrictions of drastic displacement from this corner of the globe.

But that was counting without the new wave of contaminations and the Omicron variant sweeping the world. The latest government announcements, which limit indoor gauges to 2,000 people, have swept away the fragile hopes of the protest being held and seriously stunned the organizers, who had no idea, just a few weeks ago, of such a situation.

The Festival’s deputy director, Franck Bondoux, took a blow to the head, but wants to be resolutely combative: “For several days, we have seen several negative signals accumulate. The international rights market, which is an important meeting point between the global economic players in the sector, experienced many cancellations. School groups, which constitute a considerable audience of the Festival, were no longer present. And, of course, the publishers had a lot of questions about how the event was used for them, whether it was for their private stands, relations with booksellers or the attendance of a large number of authors. The gauges announced by the government were not financially sustainable, both for us and for the publishers. And then there is another essential dimension of our event: in Festival, there is festive. Angoulême is synonymous with celebration, which it could not be under these conditions. ”

And Franck Bondoux to count on a real postponement, unlike the previous year: “This is an option that we are considering with the utmost seriousness. The data is absolutely not the same as last year: we have the vaccine, and we can see that people, who want cultural events, have adapted to health constraints. Another fundamental difference: the Festival is done! The exhibitions, meetings, selections, are ready, we are in the starting blocks. It remains to find a date that suits everyone. We are thinking of a postponement before the first round of the presidential election, which we will discuss with all our partners. ”

But to date, nothing has been won. If the Festival was able to get through the cancellation of its previous edition without too much trouble, it owes it mainly to the support of local and regional authorities. But that might not be enough, and Franck Bondoux is launching a genuine appeal for help: “The communities are once again at our side, in order of battle, and the publishers will also be with us. Everyone is united around this report. But I say it with some seriousness: we won’t be able to get by without massive state aid this time around, as it has done with museums, for example. If the Festival is to celebrate its 50th edition, the state must make a significant commitment alongside the Festival. The President of the Republic had made very strong remarks on the stage of the Angoulême theater during his exceptional visit to the Festival in 2020. We must save the Angoulême soldier! ”

Emmanuel Macron had indeed underlined the international role of the Festival which contributes to the influence of France abroad, in the same way as the Festivals of Cannes or Avignon, as well as the importance of the comic strip, “major art of our country, which we want to recognize as such ”.

During the Festival’s recent press conference, it was the Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who recalled the decisive role of comics in reading and opening up to literature within the framework of school. The award to Angoulême of the “Creative City of Unesco” label for literature had also definitively placed the capital of Charentes on the world map of cultural events, no other festival in the world embodying comics, in all its components (Franco-Belgian, American or Asian), such as Angoulême.

But if we now know, as Paul Valéry said, that “whole worlds have disappeared, that empires have sunk down with their academies, their dictionaries and their classics “, nothing can save the Festival from a potentially dire fate. A shame, while the sector displays an insolent health, carried in particular by sales of manga in the firmament. For Angoulême, the countdown has just started.