"We cannot organize a festival under the pressure of a strike that could get longer day by day," Festival d'Avignon artistic director Bernard Faivre d'Arcier was quoted as saying in Le Monde newspaper.
The cancellation marks the first time in the festival's entire history that the event has not run. This year's event was scheduled for July 8-28. The annual summer fest is one of the country's largest cultural draws and boasts audiences in the 500,000 to 700,000 range; it also boosts the local economy into the millions.
The striking artists — which include actors, dancers and technicians — are protesting a proposed cut in unemployment insurance benefits. At present, workers in the performing arts must log 507 hours per year to be eligible for a year of unemployment pay. The new plan would lessen the qualifying and paying spans — 507 hours every 10.5 months for eight months of benefits.
The opera festival — Festival d'art lyrique d'Aix-en-Provence — in nearby Aix-en Provence also shut down its festival. "Outside demonstrations induced wide disruptions during the first performances of the festival. Today, we do consider that we are not able to guarantee reasonable conditions of performances. Therefore we have to cancel the whole festival from July 10. We express a deep regret toward the public, the artists, the personnel and all our partners," stated a release.
For more information on the Festival d'Avignon, visit www.festival-avignon.com.