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October 30, 2009


Could They Really Cancel Angouleme?

imageAccording to articles like this one, a challenge to the funding of technical services by the local municipality has cast the future of the 2010 Festival International de la Bande Dessinee into doubt and suggests potential difficulties for future years if this year's festival comes off. At the heart is approximately $600,000 (USD) in monies that go to infrastructure and security costs, and, more broadly, the city's contractual investment in future editions of the event. While the Festival has itself been profitable the last couple of years and is the very definition of leisure destination travel that is the hottest category in tourism, a worldwide recession, friction between national and local expenditures on such matters, and the occasionally fiery nature of European politics all indicate a counter-possibility to those of sitting over here in North America and without any knowledge of the specific situation suggesting that a cancellation would never happen. To be honest with you, I'm usually wrong when I make assumptions about European comics.

So I asked Bart Beaty, the noted North American expert on the European comics scene who writes this site's "Conversational Euro-Comics" and who is a frequent, devoted attendee of the Festival for his thoughts on the matter. He gave me this thoughtful response.
I am so not privy to the high stakes negotiations that would take place between the town and the Festival, that I am almost tempted to just keep my mouth shut and listen to the signals. The essential problem for the moment seems to be the idea that Angouleme does not want to take on the cost (400,000 Euros) of erecting the tents and the security barriers that allow the Festival to function. Like every other government in the world, they're faced with declining tax revenues and a financial crisis. This has led them to question whether or not the city really derives that much economic benefit from the Festival, and the suggestion that the costs of erecting tents so that publishers can sell comics should be borne by the publishers. There is also concern moving forward about future funding for the Festival for 2011-2013.

This is not really surprising to me. Things are tough all over, and it has seemed for several years that the Festival has had a sword of Damocles hanging above its head. There was talk of moving it out of Angouleme during the construction downtown and the displacement that that caused, and in recent years I hear more and more about publishers who don't think that it is financially worthwhile to set up stands at Angouleme, with the costs of bringing all sorts of employees down there for the week. One would suspect that there will be publishers -- both large and small -- who would balk at added costs if the Festival has to pick up the cost of the tents. At the same time, the town has to know that if the Festival leaves it's not coming back, and I don't think they want that (no matter how disgruntled the locals occasionally get about the event).

At this point, and knowing nothing first hand about ongoing negotiations, I would think that this is public posturing and possibly brinksmanship, but that some accommodation will be worked out. Having said that, let me be the first to say that while I have a hotel room booked, I'm not buying my plane ticket until things are a little more clear. And I would guess that I'm not the only one in that position.
As Bart suggests, I'm hearing of a higher level of concern from European publishers as opposed to the contingent of North Americans that attend. I would expect the fate of this year's show to come to a head pretty quickly, as cultural officers and Festival organizers begin their slow build to late January. Neither outcome would shock me.

Friday AM Update: Bart wrote in about a half-hour before this post is to roll out to say that I should confirm he sent us the "sword of Damocles" comparison well before it was used this morning as part of this article's headline. Consider it confirmed. You should read that article, too, if this is a story that interests you. It's an interview with Franck Bondoux, the "delegate general" of FIBD and the person whose statements on radio have driven this story. This article gets into the city's response a bit, but it's written in ActuaBD.com's usually looping style that I have difficult parsing.
 
posted 3:30 pm PST | Permalink
 

 
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