With his cuts in subsidies, Laurent Wauquiez shakes Lyon culture

The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional council is shaking up Lyon’s major cultural institutions by suddenly cutting their subsidies. The affected places denounce a lack of knowledge of their work.

We will come across the latest Goncourt prize winner, Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, the pampered writer of the moment, Nicolas Mathieu, but also Philippe Sands, Maylis de Kerangal, the Irishman Jan Carson, the Englishman Robert Macfarlane, the Australian Richard Flanagan or the Czech Lenka Hornakova -Civade. A cast chosen by Littérature Live (ex-Assises internationales du roman) in Lyon from May 16 to 22.

This year, the festival reconnects with reality, the public’s pleasure in meeting some of the fifty French and foreign authors, all present in the flesh and not just on the screen, as happened in part during the two previous editions due to to the pandemic. . The readers will appreciate this reunion, the animators of the Villa Gillet, organizer of the festival, will have more difficulties to taste all the flavor.

And rightly so, on April 11, the day after the first round of the presidential elections and the first day of the box office opening, an email from the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region warned the director, Lucie Campos , that the subsidy of 350,000 euros from which the Villa benefited is abolished. For the woman who has left her mark at the head of this high place for meeting and disseminating contemporary literature, she is a world in turmoil. There was no indication of this decision. The Region is one of the founders of the Village created twenty-five years ago, it had confirmed its financial commitment for 2022 last fall and remains its first financier together with the city of Lyon and the Metropolis.

Clippings learned in the press

Despite this brutal announcement with immediate effect, the festival remains. Out of respect for the invited authors. For the work of the 1,200 high school students in the region who study the texts of some of these writers whom they will meet during the many organized debates. Because it is simply too late to stop a festival that has been mobilizing so much energy for months. Beyond that, nothing else is written. “ The Villa Gillet was intended to be a place that counts for contemporary writers and on the scale of the region. It is the death of this project as it was conceived and designed”bitterly regrets Lucie Campos.

Little consolation, the director of the Villa Gillet was officially informed of these clear cuts, when other heads of emblematic cultural institutions of the second region of France have found out by reading the press. It was April 22 in the newspaper Progress. The vice president (LR) of the regional council in charge of Culture, Sophie Rotkopf, detailed the list of places or events that would see their subsidies cut or eliminated. And it’s long. In addition to the Villa Gillet, there is the Lyon Opera scored with 500,000 euros, the Biennale of Contemporary Art with 253,000 euros, the Lumière Festival with 100,000 euros, or even the Comédie de Saint-Étienne and the TNP de Villeurbanne.

To justify its decision, the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region stresses the need for a double ” rebalancing » for the benefit of small structures weakened by the health crisis and at regional level. Sophie Rotkopf advocates a ” crop irrigation even in the most remote territories » and affirms : “ohn helped some structures a lot, it was not necessarily the role of the region to help them so much. » In his sights, the Villa Gillet, “a very Lyonnaise structure” or the Biennale “a very metropolitan event”.

At the Villa Gillet as at the Biennale, this argument was received with the same incomprehension. As if the Region deliberately denied the role and place of these cultural institutions on a regional scale. ” For the festival, we work with forty schools distributed in many departments, fifteen itinerant meetings are organized in different cities”, testifies Lucie Campos. “Villa Gillet intends to irrigate the entire region by bringing the culture of the world. We are a reader factory, do we really want to break it? the manager asks.

“The region not only measures by weakening us, it is all the peripheral structures with which we work that will be impacted.” Isabelle Bertolotti, co-director of the Biennale

Same tone in the Biennial whose co-director, Isabelle Bertolotti, was rained by the reduction of a third of its budget despite the fact that the Region had reaffirmed its support for 2022 during the last board of directors. And here too, the same astonishment at the arguments put forward that dismiss the work carried out for years by the Biennale in one hundred and fifty places throughout the region or by the Veduta platform that associates the inhabitants of fifteen different territories with processes of shared creation. ” The Region goes against what it preaches. Not only does it measure by weakening us, it is all the peripheral structures with which we work that will be impacted. »

This drop in subsidies from the regional council chaired by Laurent Wauquiez provoked a protest. “The brutal budget cuts announced by the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region in its cultural spending, without consulting partners, seriously endanger several Lyon institutions already heavily affected by the health crisis”This is how Grégory Doucet got upset on Twitter. The ecologist mayor of Lyon virulently questions the argument of the “geographic rebalancing” : “The regional executive is unaware of the numerous mediation and dissemination actions carried out by these different structures throughout the Auralpine territory, far beyond the city of Lyon. Scandalous! »

“Puy du Fou Culture”

From the regional council we deny any desire to reduce the culture budget (62 million euros) and affirm that the solidarity work requested from certain events such as the Lumière Festival will be “ punctual “. On the other hand, we assume the will to reallocate part of the subsidies outside the three large regional cities: Lyon, Grenoble and Clermont-Ferrand, which would consume 60%. And all the worse if the cultural institutions located there carry out an undeniable action on a regional scale.

Therefore, it is difficult to abstract from the electoral and political context in which this new orientation is developed, with an anti-metropolitan and anti-elitist subtext, all the more so since it opposes the action of the City Council. .regional to date. Opponents of Laurent Wauquiez suspect that he wants to favor a “Puy du Fou culture” since he announced his desire to transform the current museum of the Battle of Gergovie and the Arverne sites into a vast museographic and historical center of Gallic civilization. While waiting for this costly project to see the light of day, the directors of Villa Gillet and the Biennale de Lyon try to argue with the regional council that their action deserves better than their fair share. No response to date.

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