French arts festival to quit Avignon if FN wins town hall

24th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

The Avignon Arts Festival will quit the southern French city if the National Front (FN) wins the mayor's office, organisers warned Monday, a day after the far-right party topped the polls in the first round of local elections.

"I cannot work with a National Front mayor's office. That is for me something unimaginable," the festival's director Olivier Py told France Info radio.

Py said the founding principles of France's best-known arts festival were at odds with the anti-immigration, nationalist agenda of the FN.

"I cannot see how the festival could survive and defend its ideals which are those of openness and of welcoming others. I don't see how the festival could remain in Avignon," he said.

"Therefore I think we would leave. There is no other solution."

Iconoclastic subjects and an international cast of performers have long been a feature of the celebrated and long-running summer festival.

It was founded in 1947 by the actor and director Jean Vilar when he was invited to present his hugely successful version of T.S. Eliot's "Murder in the Cathedral" in Avignon's Papal Palace.

An FN list headed by mayoral candidate Philippe Lottiaux claimed 29.54 percent of votes cast in the city on Sunday, edging the Socialist Party's Cecile Helle by just 27 votes.

The two leaders will be joined in a four-way run-off this coming Sunday which will also feature candidates from the centre-right UMP party and the far-left Left Front which claimed just under 21 percent and 12.5 percent of the first round votes respectively.

The FN's showing reflected a strong performance nationwide and the anti-immigration party is expected to emerge from the second round in control of up to 15 towns -- although Avignon is not considered amongst those most likely to fall to the party led by Marine le Pen.

The Avignon festival is held in July in the courtyard of the Pope's Palace and other historical venues in the city and attracts performers and audiences from around the world.

Alongside the official festival, there are a number of fringe events and spectacles that draw huge crowds.


© 2014 AFP

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