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January 24, 2007

Bart Beaty at Angouleme 03—A Longer Update in Anticipation of Festival

Bart Beaty Reports In From Angouleme:

I hate French keyboards!

Bit of a fuller update -- Angouleme now has an Internet cafe, so I may get others, too.

One of the lead stories in the Charente Libre this morning was an interview with the director of Casterman. He says that 2007 is make or break time for the festival in this city. All of the publishers were unhappy with last year and revenues being down. Now that it is clear that the festival can never return to its old location in the center of the old town, the publishers demanded a central site where they would all be together. They have received this, but the drawback is that it is far from downtown. I walked it this morning and it took 40 minutes, although that was hampered by the snow and ice.

The new location is a bit bizarre. The good thing is that all of the publishers -- including the small press and fanzines -- are together for the first time in decades. It is truly one stop shopping. The horrible thing is that there are no restaurants down there. None. There is a snack bar but the average French person is no more likely to eat at the snack bar than the average SDCC goer is likely to order foie gras. This means that it is likely that festival goers will arrive at the publishers tent, leave for lunch and then the key question: will they come back?

The festival is betting everything on the navettes (shuttle buses). They are claiming that these will move people around smoothly and efficiently. We shall see tomorrow if that is the case.

One publisher, Albin Michel, was so upset about the food situation at the tents that they decided to bring their own kitchen and chefs! Then, the local restaurateurs took offence, and when the smoke cleared Albin Michel boycotted the festival because of the food situation. No one takes this as a good sign

The key is that the publishers are united in the feeling that the city should do more to appease their interests. Casterman claimed that it costs them 120,000 euro to attend, and they want more or they will leave. The Charente Libre asked point blank about the rumour that has circulated for two years about the festival picking up and moving to La Rochelle. This was denied, but it was also indicated that there needs to be a plan B, C, and D if this festival is not a big moneymaker.

All of this is complicated by the coming elections, as the festival receives money from various levels of government. The Socialist Party candidate for President is Segolene Royale, who is the president of Poitou-Charente, this region. She strongly supports keeping the festival in Angouleme, and were she to become president (she is currently second in the polls to the conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy) that might be a boon for the festival. Next year will see municipal elections, and those will be closely watched by the publishers as well.

Is it so much hot air? Hard to say. The big publishers get an enormous media boost from Angou that they don't get from anything else. They need an event like this, and festivals in Grenoble (15 years ago) and Paris in 2002 and 2003) failed to compete with the FIBD. But the big publishers hold a lot of cards.

The headline on the new issue of DBD is Angouleme: The end of an epoque. It could well be the case

As for the snow, it has all melted, although some additional snow and cold weather are forecast for tonight. Dress warm if you're coming!
posted 8:06 am PST | Permalink

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