The cross : When did you realize that the cause was heard?
Jean-Louis Guilhaumon: From the end of March, we had very serious fears. But we are incorrigible optimists. JIM’s story argues for this behavior. We hoped until the end that things would improve. We have never faced such a level of difficulty. It was when we realized that we were unable to organize the festival in satisfactory sanitary conditions that we decided not to take any risks and to give up, with our hearts out.
→ REPORT. Marciac, a village that is too calm without its jazz festival
We opted for the organization of a virtual festival, with rebroadcasting every evening of our archives on France Musique, France Inter, Mezzo, the Ina and JIM websites, musical picnic baskets with local products to taste in front of home concerts. We understood that we could not put on events, whatever the nature. The scale and importance of our audience exposed us to operating conditions that we could not have mastered.
Everyone was taken aback by events to which we had never been subjected. The decision to ban any demonstration beyond 5,000 people, we expected upstream from ours. This waiting time forced us to negotiate with each of the artists so that we could be retroceded the advances we had granted.
What are the consequences for you now?
J.-LG: They are of all kinds and still not all measurable. In a remarkable movement of solidarity, the State, the Region and the Department have maintained their subsidies, despite the cancellation. It is a very nice gesture that offers us security. Public money represents 10% of the cost of the festival when it takes place. Between 65 and 70% of our resources depend on our initiatives, ticketing and related resources. We are also very dependent on our sponsoring partners. A number of them are experiencing great difficulties. Many have maintained their initial level of assistance, or have weighted their intervention.
You mentioned a deadweight loss of 20 million euros. What does this figure cover?
J.-LG: This is the sum of the economic benefits generated by JIM. Many festival-goers maintained their reservations, despite the cancellation. We hope that we will not have to deplore too many disappearances of companies, in particular restaurateurs and hosts, thereafter. We are now committed to maintaining our association and to imagine a very good program for 2021. And to mobilize all the public aid mechanisms to get through this difficult period which has considerably weakened us. It is a year we will remember. We are penalized in all of our activities. We have to face additional health expenses and loss of income. This period has many surprises in store for us for which we were not prepared.
What do you fear today?
J.-LG: I do not locate the bulk of the difficulty at the start of the school year but later. I’m worried. I especially fear the beginning of 2021 when the post-Covid effect will reveal the extent of its damage. Real support must be sustained for several more months and it does not say that the State and the communities will be able to consent to it over time in such a sustained manner. It will take two to three years for our economy to recover. It will take other initiatives, develop other concepts. It is a fundamental challenge for all of society. We are going to have to carry out some reflection work so that our initiatives can operate in a much more uncertain context.
What if 2021 looks like 2020?
J.-LG: I refuse to consider it but I am forced to think about it… We would encounter major problems. The effects would be terrible. I am already struck by the magnitude of the consequences. It is an unreal time. Everyone is in shock, stunned. All the same, with a capacity for resistance which leads us to project ourselves into the future.