‘Joyful’ Trans Musicales triumphs amid French unrest
The 41st edition of “see-them-here-first” festival Trans Musicales took place from 4 to 8 December in Rennes, France, against a backdrop of national strikes.
According to organisers, the festival did not experience a drop in attendance rates, despite the outbreak of protests across the country on 5 December over proposed changes to the national pension system, which affected both domestic and international travel.
Around 56,000 people from 50 different countries attended the event across four days, including 31,000 at the festival’s main site, Parc Expo, on the outskirts of the city of Rennes in northern France and 1,350 conference delegates.
A total of 84 acts, including Parisian electronic music crew Acid Arab, polyphonic choir San Salvador, Barcelona rap trio Tribade and English-Irish singer Maverick Sabre, played at the 2019 festival, which featured 12 European debuts and 12 performances that were created especially for the event.
“Trans Musicales 2019 was a contrasting edition,” comments Béatrice Macé, co-founder and co-director of Trans Musicales. “There was a very joyful and relaxed atmosphere at the festival, while the context outside of the festival was far from it.
“The special relationship that we, as a festival, have developed with our audience, was not affected by this context [of unrest]”
“Apart from Thursday (5 December), which was a day of national general strike, we had a similar attendance to last year, both in terms of delegates and the general public,” continues Macé.
“The special relationship that we, as a festival, have developed with our audience, was not affected by this context.”
In addition to a three-day French-language conference, the 2019 edition included an English-speaking conference session for the first time, in which French industry experts discussed the specificities of the country’s “welcoming but protective” live business.
Founded in 1979 by Macé and Jean-Louis Brossard, Trans Musicales has featured early-career performances from the likes of Daft Punk, Bon Iver, Björk, LCD Soundsystem, Jamiroquai, Lenny Kravitz and Justice.
The 2020 edition of Trans Musicales will take place from 2 to 6 December.
Sónar “stronger” after most difficult edition yet
Barcelona’s Sónar festival overcame multiple difficulties to bring its 26th edition to fruition this year, following a date change and a workers’ strike towards venue owner Fira Barcelona.
Sónar 2019, the second edition under Superstruct ownership, saw a 17% drop in attendance, with 105,000 festivalgoers attending the three-day festival compared to the previous year’s 126,000.
“The change in dates did not favour us,” said festival director Ricard Robles. Advanced Music-promoted Sónar, which usually takes place at the end of June, was scheduled this year for the 18 to 20 July by venue operator Fira Barcelona “unilaterally and non-negotiably”.
Speaking after the close of the event, Robles stated that “it has been an unusual edition but we have come out of it stronger,” adding that the team could be “mildly satisfied” with the final result given the problems they had faced just weeks earlier.
The biggest threat was posed by a workers’ strike at the festival venues, the Montjuïc and Gran Via, both owned and operated by fair trade organisation Fira.
Riggers for Fira, which is overseen by local and state governments, went on strike a week before the festival was scheduled to take place, protesting new service contracts.
“It has been an unusual edition but we have come out of it stronger”
Fira, the service provider, stated it would fulfil its duty to Sónar by hiring another provider. Festival organisers, who were not responsible for contracting the service, had no say in which company was to do the job. Sónar agreed the riggers’ claims were legitimate and urged parties to reach the best possible solution for all involved, that would result in the festival going ahead as usual.
However, representatives for the riggers filed a court motion, claiming that if new workers were contracted to complete the set-up, it would constitute a violation of their rights to strike.
On 16 July, two days before the start of the festival, a Barcelona judge ruled that another company could be hired to continue with the set-up. Although recognising the riggers’ rights, the judge stated that “exercising the right to strike for some cannot put the jobs of many others in danger and cause irreparable damage to a third party, in this case the festival.”
Yesterday (24 July), the Catalan Academy of Music issued a statement in which it showed its support for Sonar in one of its “most unfortunate” years yet, and criticised the “institutional silence” of Fira and local government institutions.
“The lack of a clear position on this conflict (the riggers’ strike) on the part of the Barcelona district council, as well as members of the general council of the Barcelona Fira, put the celebration of the festival in danger,” reads the statement.
“The lack of a clear position on this conflict [the riggers’ strike] put the celebration of the festival in danger”
“This significantly affected ticket sales and threatened the viability of a project that generates a huge number of jobs.”
The Academy also criticised Fira for its decision to change the dates of the festival for “strictly commercial and economic” reasons.
IQ has contacted Fira for comment.
“We stand by the Academy’s statement and are completely aligned with its position,” a Sónar representative tells IQ, stressing that Sónar was “caught in the middle” this year, with all problems stemming from “external factors”.
Despite difficulties, the Sónar team are “very much looking forward to the 2020 edition and hope all will be running as usual.”
The representative confirms that the festival will take place in the same venue for the next three years, moving back to its traditional dates from 18 to 20 June. The first early bird tickets for the 2020 edition sold out in just two minutes.
No police at Dutch fests as ‘overworked’ officers go on strike
There will be no police presence at this weekend’s Decibel Outdoor festival in Hilvarenbeek, Netherlands, amid a row between police union ACP and the Dutch government over pay and working conditions.
Unless there is a “serious disruption of public order”, police will steer clear of the EDM festival – which is expected to be attended by more than 70,000 people over 17–19 August – in protest at what the leading trade union calls an “enormous amount of work that can no longer be dealt with”.
“We cannot keep up with the increase in the number of events, and our work [at festivals] is no longer in proportion to other tasks,” says an ACP spokesperson. “This year alone, there are nearly 1,000 festivals which, almost without exception, demand police deployment. This places a huge strain on the force in the present circumstances.”
A social-media campaign, #nuldecibel, aims to raise awareness of the reasons behind the boycott. Zeeland–West Brabant police usually send around 300 officers to the festival, says ACP.
“We cannot keep up with the increase in the number of events”
According to local media, talks between the unions and the Netherlands’ Ministry of Justice and Security have been deadlocked for months, following the former’s rejection of a 7% pay rise earlier this summer. Outside of festivals, police have protested by not issuing tickets or collecting fines.
ACP says that while its actions to this point have been “public-friendly”, it has taken the decision to switch to those with “social consequences”, such as the Decibel Outdoor boycott, as a result of the stalled negotiations. “Politicians and citizens must be aware that it can not go on like this,” says the spokesperson.
French festival promoters last month reacted with fury after a leaked memo revealed government plans to begin charging for police at their events.