Creativity, commitment and proximity are the key words of Florida, the iconic concert hall in Agen, which is both modern and steeped in history.
At first glance, passers-by are struck by the gray of the building, which is quite impressive, and which above all does not seem to adapt well to its exotic name. However, by pushing the door of Florida, the visitor quickly understands that his first impressions are erroneous. Inside, the atmosphere is indeed impregnated with an agitation proper to the expression of an overflowing creativity. At the end of the hall, a bar welcomes students who wish to talk about music while sipping a drink. Upstairs, the concert hall, with a capacity of 750 seats, is empty pending the evening concert. This afternoon, the atmosphere is serene, but it is the calm that precedes the storm.
It is in this unusual place, where “amateur and professional artists meet and meet”, that Florent Beneteau, the artistic director, has been working for 18 years. For him, the Florida is “much more than a simple concert hall”, it is above all “a place where he has personally built himself” through “extremely rewarding” work. His daily life? Meet people “like you will meet once in your life” and encourage them in their projects. For decades, Florida has in fact made its mission of “artistic and cultural accompaniment” a priority, and it pays off. Today, to the great pride of its director, “the Florida d’Agen is a structure known and recognized at the national level, in particular for everything related to amplified music”. As proof, from this quarter, Florida will welcome popular artists such as rapper Sefyu, singer Anaïs or the group Zenzilé.
Openness to the local scene
Nevertheless, the notoriety of Florida is not linked to that of the artists who come to perform there. To continue to exist, Florida had to reinvent itself, by highlighting “a real singularity”. Today, the room is above all praised for “the diversity of its programming”, which according to its director values ”risk taking and creativity”. It is therefore very often singers with very assertive universes who are put on the bill, as recently the duo Kouyaté-Neerman or the English group Portico Quartet.
For three years, a real turning point has also been initiated by the management with the amateur musicians of the department, to whom Florida offers “the opportunity to do their first scenes”, explain David and Johnny, who have been teaching here for years. Satisfied with “the proximity to the population and the artists” maintained by Florida, they rejoice in “total freedom” which reigns in these places, rich in a glorious past.
Formerly a cabaret, then a music hall, the Florida was transformed into a cinema in the early 1980s. A cinema that Lucien, a sympathetic octogenarian from Boulevard Carnot, keeps fond memories of. Today “insensitive” to the charms of the hall, rehabilitated in 1993, he admits to “not knowing much” about his current affairs. “But hey, it’s just that it’s not my age anymore,” he says with a smile, before continuing on his way.
A little Florida flair
It’s hard to prove him wrong when you look at the public success of the Agen music hall. Élisabeth, 52, has a son who often comes here to play the drums. She sees it above all as “a space of creation” which “is worth the detour” and also praises its positive influence on the prefecture of Lot-et-Garonne: “It’s good for Agen and then it’s a little part of our patrimony. “On the Boulevard de la République, Vincent, a young man of 17, adds:” Fortunately they are there, it is the only place where you can see good concerts! Praise that David, communications officer at Florida, is happy to hear. He hopes to work for a long time to come in this place of “constant boiling, which teems with ideas and activity”.
Seeing the heat emanating from the bluish tones of the corridors like the welcoming smiles of the regulars leaning on the bar, you almost believe it, in Florida. Like what, the name of the room was predestined.