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Protest forces Paradis off stage

Fears that performers’ dispute over welfare reform will threaten France’s summer festival season

A CONCERT by Vanessa Paradis was cancelled last night as part-time performers and technicians stepped up their dispute against benefit reform plans.

The popular singer’s show in Lyon was one of three Nuits de Fourvière festival events called off after performers and technicians voted in favour of joining a nationwide strike in protest against changes to a uniquely French scheme that supports artists by providing them with a reasonable standard of living between creative projects.

The ‘intermittents’, as they are known, must work a certain number of hours per year in the arts in order to qualify for state aid. The proposed reform would cut the amount of unemployment benefit they would be entitled to.

The strike also affected the output of pay-TV broadcaster Canal+, as puppeteers working on satirical show Guignols de l'info walked out yesterday.

They have also threatened a strike that could halt next month’s world-renowned Avignon Theatre Festival - and their continuing protest has raised fears that the entire summer festival season could be affected.

The dispute has been running since March, when the government and three unions - CFDT, FO and CFTC - reached an agreement to cut benefits paid to “resting” performers to reduce the pressure on the cash-strapped scheme.

Events at the Latin-American Rio Loco festival in city of Toulouse were cancelled, while the month-long Printemps des Comédiens festival in Montpellier has also been severely disrupted.

English singer and actress Jane Birkin cancelled her show at the event on June 22 in support of the strikers.

And, earlier this month, culture minister Aurélie Filippetti was confronted by 30 naked performers and street artists she arrived to inaugurate a series of exhibitions at the Familistère de Guise in Picardy.

Performers and technicians are threatening further action if the two-year agreement comes into force on July 1 as planned.

"If the State approves the March 22 agreement, we reserve the possibility to apply our right to strike from July 4 and the government will take responsibility for the consequences," artists and technicians at the Avignon festival said in a statement.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls today said that, “we must find an immediate solution” to the dispute, and promised that a decision on reform would be made by the end of the week.

He said: “Every ten years, every five years, every three years, we have this conflict and the possibility or reality of canceling shows. We must sort it out once and for all.”

Photo: Baptiste Roussel

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