«CIt is with great sadness and after having tried several avenues that we in turn write this word which has become so brutal and banal in less than a few months: the “Paris summer” festival is canceled. […] It is after having studied all the possibilities to react without being in the denial of this pandemic, imagined all the scenarios (except that of the 50 chairs and 1 musician, which one calls in the profession a small spectacle and not a small festival) to continue to create links with Parisians and Ile-de-France residents who are suffering today, that we have made this decision. ” The announcement fell on April 20, sealing like so many others, before or after, the hopes of seeing this year the flagship cultural event of the beautiful days in Paris and in the suburbs, created in 1990 at the request of the ministry. of Culture, under the name of “Paris Quartier d’été”.

Under surveillance

But the text had to be read attentively, which, under disappointment mingled with bitterness, also revealed a fighting spirit. (“We will not resolve to watch series on Netflix, buy books on Amazon while waiting for a miracle cure”) thus worded in conclusion: “Let us know how to trust our collective intelligence and our ability to adapt.”

And the light shines in the darkness… In fact, the cenotaph did not have time to be erected when, fifteen days later, “Paris summer” resuscitates, in a fatally arranged form. Unchanged, the visual shows, emerging from the vegetation, the face of a woman with large sunglasses who is grinning. At most, a subtitle with manifesto value has been added: “Freely.” Even if it would be under surveillance …

«The initial program was based on 27 artistic proposals, including 12 from abroad, including 10 from outside the Schengen area. Suffice to say that after having hoped to pass through the cracks of the net, we had to face the facts that, all borders being closed, we were no more able than the others to maintain the 2020 edition “, replaces Laurence de Magalhaes, co-director since 2017 of the festival with her companion Stéphane Ricordel, the couple also being at the head of the very frequent Parisian hall of Monfort.

But, at the beginning of May, the health crisis eases in France and the future resigning Christophe Girard, still deputy for Culture annoyed at the idea of ​​seeing the capital vegetate, a fortiori with a lot of citizens who will not leave this summer, encourages the tandem, initially reluctant, to review its copy. The money exists because, of the initial budget of 1.23 million euros covered by the city, state and region, just lacks the cachet of the artists of the abortive edition, who were paid. It remains, for the organizers from the circus arts, to juggle with new parameters in order to offer, stricto sensu, a substitute that no one would be ashamed of.

“Normally, the festival combines free and paid shows. But, given the context, we first wanted everything to be free this time, with, in addition, a special thought for the young public ”, details Stéphane Ricordel, reassured by the way by the unanimous reaction of the artists solicited who, like the dancer of the Paris Opera François Alu or the plastic artist Pierre Ardouvin, have “Answered present in the second, without worrying about the material constraints”.

“Intimate proposals”

Major asset, for three years, the itinerant Paris summer has invested a HQ as unusual as it is providential: the Jacques-Decour high school, in the IXe borough. Apart from two concerts which, placed on a barge, will sail on the Seine from the BNF to the Pont de l’Alma (the audience being invited to stroll along the quays), it is therefore within the vast building built in the 19th century.e century that the feasts will take place. Both closed to the outside, which makes it possible to control entrances and exits, but also in the open air, with its eight courtyards (of which seven will be used), the school was initially envisaged as the suitable place for guarantee security, in a still recent era when the terrorist threat loomed more prominently. Open but no longer in the public space, it is now becoming “Covid-compatible”. “The 12 protocol pages intended for the technical part alone do not make our life easier, but we have no choice but to comply”, philosopher the tandem which, on the stage side, was able to sow 18 projects.

«Apart from the theater, replaced by readings [avec Julie Gayet, Judith Henry ou Thomas Quillardet, ndlr], we have not distorted the DNA of the festival, with dance, circus, music, magic and installations. Simply, with a capacity of 600 people simultaneously and gauges limited to 120 admissions per show, it seemed more coherent to us to favor intimate proposals where a certain softness will prevail. ”

As for the international dimension of the event, it will even be preserved, with “Belgian and Swiss artists, and German technicians”. Hoped until the last moment, the folk quartet Dakhabrakha could not, however, leave their native Ukraine. But will be replaced by the groove of the Congolese group, Jupiter & Okwess, globetrotters taking advantage of the fact that they find themselves stuck in France.

Gilles Renault

Paris summer festival Lycée Jacques-Decour and on the Seine, from July 29 to August 2. On reservation. Rens. : 01 44 94 98 00 and www.parislete.fr.