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Three-metre Hallyday statue unveiled in French village

A three-metre-high statue of Johnny Hallyday has been unveiled in a small village in the Ardèche, as fans continue to mourn and celebrate the late star, who died in December aged 74.

Over 2,000 fans descended on the village of Viviers (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes) to see their first glimpse of the resin statue, which was created by sculptor Daniel Georges, and sits outside the village’s American-style restaurant, Le Tennessee.

It shows the singer in an entertainer’s pose: with one hand pointing towards the crowd, and the other holding a microphone.

A choral reprise of one of Hallyday’s hits, Je te promets, was sung as the statue was revealed at midday on Friday June 15, with dozens of Harley-Davidson motorbikes having paraded through the town that morning.

Viviers already has links with Hallyday’s family; the star’s mother - who lived in the village herself - is buried there, and the statue comes just one week before Hallyday’s own birthday.

He would have been 75 this week.

The statue project was created by local man Pierre Ragottaz, himself aged 76, and a big Hallyday fan.

He had the idea for the homage while visiting the singer’s tomb at the Madeleine Church in Paris.

Mr Ragottaz hopes that the statue may provide an extra place for fans to convene in memory of their favourite star, as Hallyday’s family’s decision to bury the singer on the French island of Saint-Barthelemy, thousands of miles away, left many fans without a set place to grieve and remember.

Mr Ragottaz said: “When he died, it was such a huge shock. I cried that Johnny had just ‘killed my youth’. I said to myself, there is only one place in France where he has a soul, his own DNA, and that’s Viviers. This has been done by the fans, for the fans.”

Hallyday was a regular visitor to Viviers when he mother was alive and living there, and came to her burial after she died.

Over 300 people helped raise the money - estimated at between €12,000 and €15,000 - to pay for the project, with their names set to be inscribed on the statue itself. An association was created to help collect the money and spend it wisely.

Viviers local Cathy Munoz came to watch the statue being unveiled. She said: “Whenever I need to see him and remember, I will come here, because Saint-Barth is a little bit too far.”

Association president, local man Thierry Magnet, said: “When they installed the statue, it was a big moment; I cried. The next step will be to make sure that we can welcome a maximum of people who will come to the site on pilgrimage.”

Johnny Hallyday was one of France’s best-loved singers and entertainers.

His funeral - a state hommage populaire - saw almost one million people take to the streets of Paris to remember him and watch the procession.

A monthly mass, to accommodate the numbers of fans who continue to flock to remember him, is now held in his memory at La Madeleine church in Paris.

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