A Voyage à Nantes with Jean Blaise (part 2)
“Culture is never too expensive”
What is Le Voyage à Nantes? A publicly-owned corporation in charge of both culture and tourism in Nantes - a fusion said to be a European premiere. It's also a series of hundreds of events taking place from June 15th to August 19th 2012 on the banks of the Loire river. “The city turned upside down by art” is the leitmotiv of this two-month long megafestival, which has nevertheless been subject to criticism. Two-part interview with Jean Blaise, enthusiastic Director of Le Voyage à Nantes.
Nantes has never been a European Capital of Culture.
Jean Blaise: We never tried to be one! But I like to say that we are one anyway, because of all the accomplishments and economic investments I mentioned before. Often cities that have this label like Lille in 2004 or Marseille for 2013 needed it... With all what we've created it's more a matter of communication. We can generate tourism all year long showcasing what we already have on offer.
With a high cost! 8 million Euros in 2012 for Le Voyage à Nantes alone. 30 million if you include all the subdivisions of this public mega-structure. Isn't this too much?
JB: Of course not! Culture is never too expensive in a civilized country. I am always happy when there is money spent in this field and I really hope that the new French government will increase the budget of the Ministry of Culture and Communication [the new minister is Aurélie Filippetti, writer and daughter of a communist miner]. Why? First of all, because it is better for people to be cultivated than ignorant. Second, because culture is about economics. It's a question of image and attractiveness of a city. The reason why you should come and live here or relocate your business here. On top of that, there is cultural tourism that has an unbelievable impact. We are building it one year after another. According to a study we did covering July and August 201, 200 000 foreign visitors came to Nantes during this period of time. 100 000 were actual 'tourists' sleeping at least one night in the city, the other 100 000 are 'excursionists' visiting Nantes just for the day and sleeping elsewhere. The trickle-down or the money generated is around 42 million euros!
There is also a problem of urban identity. French essay writer Philippe Forest published an article in Libération in 2004 called “Nantes, the city that doesn't exist”...
JB:That's his personal opinion...
In a qualitative study published last February by IFOP, inhabitants said that region’s working class and agricultural past is forgotten. Some kind of collective suffering?
Is it possible to do it without major political support? You endorsed Jean-Marc Ayrault and François Hollande...
JB: No. It's the role of politicians- to implement policies and to stick to them. No U-turns. Thanks to what has been created using culture -and also investment in public transport networks- transportation- Nantes has been reunified.