What better defense than attack? Questioned for cuts in cultural subsidies in his region, the president Les Républicains (LR) of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes replies in an interview with the Sunday newspaper dated May 28, denouncing “the profound injustice of (there) cultural policy and the glaring inequality in access to culture in the territory”.
After a drop of nearly 4 million euros in 2022 in cultural aid, a new cut of around 1 million euros was decided by the majority of the regional council on May 12. The regional executive justifies this reduction in subsidies by rebalancing the territories.
Mr. Wauquiez’s cuts concerned in particular the National Choreographic Center of Rillieux-la-Pape (Rhône), whose aid provided by the region increased from 195,000 to 80,000 euros between 2022 and 2023, or even to La Comédie of Saint-Etienne, which saw its subsidy reduced to 203,000 euros, down from 60,000 euros.
But it is the total abolition of the subsidy of 149,000 euros to the New Generation Theater (TNG)-National Dramatic Center of Lyon which has aroused the most reactions. Many saw it as a measure of retaliation for the criticism leveled at regional policy by its director. Joris Mathieu had notably denounced the “autocratic excesses” of Laurent Wauquiez, pointing a “form of terror” of which “the implicit aim is to silence and dominate”.
Critics included in a column published on May 4 in The world, by 200 public entertainment personalities and four former ministers of culture – Roselyne Bachelot, Jean-Jacques Aillagon, Aurélie Filippetti and Philippe Douste-Blazy. They see in the removal of this subsidy a “punitive measure” and D’“bullying”.
“There are cultural deserts in our country”
In the program “C ce soir”, on France 5, on May 18, the Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, for her part, denounced the “Laurent Wauquiez’s Neopopulism”. “Defending the territories is being a populist? pretends to wonder Laurent Wauquiez in The Sunday Journal. Trying to ensure that everyone has access to culture, this is therefore worth the accusation of neo-populism, in the mouth of a minister of culture whose cultural policy it is difficult to say, and who would do better to leave between oneself and Parisianism. »
To criticism, the president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region replies that he is thus redirecting aid to less favored territories. “In our country, the majority of the credits of the Ministry of Culture are reserved for Paris, the Ile-de-France region and a few metropolises. We have built a two-speed culture,” accuses the elected LR.
And Laurent Wauquiez to quote figures from 2019 according to which “the Ministry of Culture devotes eight times more money, in euros per inhabitant, to Ile-de-France than to the rest of the country: nearly 195 euros per Ile-de-France resident, compared to 24 euros in the other regions”. “There are cultural deserts in our country just as there are medical deserts”, he snaps.
The president of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region also draws a parallel between the crisis of “yellow vests” and cultural policy in France. “Basically, it’s always the same question. Some people are told: you are polluters; your world is that of yesterday; hospitals and public services, it’s at home that it closes… And culture, exhibitions, performances, it’s never at home “he develops.
“Let’s stop opposing two Frances, there is a France which is entitled to the same promise of access to culture”says the one who now likes to pose as a defender of “territories”.