French festivals, a great export

Festival of music, Festival of lights, les Siestes Électroniques, Nuits Sonores... Our “festive” know-how is now in demand all around the world.


The French like to get together to have a good time, around musicians, in front of a stage, or watching a thousand lights dance over a monument. The Music Festival (Fête de la musique), held on 21June, the Summer Solstice, every year since 1982, began to attract interest in other countries from 1985. More than 125 countries now participate in this great popular, free event. From Angola to Andorran, through Armenia, Barbados, Botswana, Cyprus, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Madagascar, Peru, the Seychelles and Timor Leste, millions of people get together every year on the same day to listen to street music. At first, the music festival developed beyond France’s borders through the dynamism of the French cultural network, before involving local stakeholders such as music schools, associations and municipalities during a second phase.

From 1994, the French Ministry of Culture entrusted responsibility for the national and international coordination of the event to the Association for the development of creation, studies and projects (Association pour le Développement de la Création, Études et Projets, ADCEP). The role of ADCEP is to raise public awareness of the event, offer artistic and technical advice, and produce programmes. It works closely with professional players and France’s relays abroad, such as embassies, French cultural establishments and Alliances françaises, those of which in Argentina and Peru have the most subscribers anywhere in the world.

But “French music” is not exported only one day per year. Far from it. During the hot summer months, many festivals are held all around France. Some of those events have such a reputation that the greatest international stars no longer think twice before travelling over to perform during the concerts, which are generally free.

In the last few years, not only singers and musicians, but even whole festivals travel abroad to entrance an audience that is ever wider and more diverse. Lyon’s Nuits Sonores festival was thus “exported” to Tangiers, Morocco. The Siestes Électroniques festival was created in Toulouse in 2001. It has organized concerts in Montreal, Kyoto and Berlin, as well as in Brazzaville, Cairo, Ho Chi Minh City and Buenos Aires. Siestes Électroniques likes to call itself a “free festival of adventurous music”. JPEG

It has joined the ICAS (International Cities of Advanced Sound) network of events dedicated to digital cultures. But France’s music is not the only thing to experience such success abroad.

Lyon’s Festival of lights (Fête des lumières) takes place over four days every December and receives an annual 3-4million visitors. So great is its renown that it has spawned a subsidiary in the Persian Gulf, with Dubai’s city centre being illuminated in March last year for ten days. 32 works including Mirage Metropolis by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Serenade by Chantal Thomass lit up the heart of the United Arab Emirates’ largest city.

Lastly, the city of Lyon has organized the International Light Festivals Meeting since 2012, which has enabled French creators to present light shows abroad and to participate in events such as Rome’s Carnival. French festivals are clearly in great demand!

Marco Rangi

publie le 01/04/2015

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