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FREE OPEN-AIR PERFORMANCES AND ATTENDANCE’S BEHAVIOURS IN FRANCE
DANIEL URRUTIAGUER
Institut d’Etudes Théâtrales, EA 3959, université de Paris 3
EconomiX, UMR 7166, université de Paris 10
[email protected]
Abstract:
Most economic studies on the performing arts demand indicate weak price elasticity. However, some
results suggest a much greater elasticity for the lower income groups. As their audience is socially
stratified to the benefit of executives, highbrow professionals and academic qualified people,
performing arts organisations are encouraged to produce or diffuse more free outside performances.
Since the nineties, urban festivals and cultural events are a way to diversify attendance.
The paper intends to analyse attendants’ motivations and attitudes from surveys. The assumption is
that the perception of shows remains the deciding factor for free and paying attendants. Fireworks or
dance concerts may attract working-class people whereas most open-air performances catch regular
audience’s attention.
1. Introduction
In their review of literature on arts demand, Heilbrun and Gray (2001) remind that the price
elasticity of demand for attendance at the performing arts is low. Estimates are varying from
- 0.05, according to Gapinski (1986) for theatre in London from 1972 to 1983, to - 0.9,
according to Throsby and Withers (1979) for theatre, opera and non profit performing arts in
the USA from 1929 to 1973. Nevertheless, they agree that an individual firm may face higher
price elasticity than the performing arts industry1.
Income elasticity of demand is estimated around 1 in their quoted studies2, and 1.27 for the
French demand in performing arts on 1995 (Crédoc, 2000). Price discrimination is therefore a
way to increase income. Varying prices according to the different attendants’ willingness to
pay may capture a bigger part of consumers’ surplus. For instance, Huntington (1993) noticed
that varying prices on more than 30% of capacity venue may increase box office revenue by
24% for the English subsidised theatres which are not discriminating their rates.
Thus, we can assume that price elasticity is rather weak for the global demand in performing
arts, whereas it differs from one consumer to one, according to their personal income,
education and experience. Lower price elasticity might be expected among established
consumers, for whom qualitative characteristics of performances are likely to be decisive
(Throsby, 1994). Abbé-Decarroux and Grin (1992) identified a significant positive coefficient
of artistic education and performing arts attendance from an early age in estimated demand
equations for Geneva’s opera, orchestra and theatre on 1988-89. Abbé-Decarroux (1994)
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infers from his model on risk aversion, which he applies to the demand at the Comédie de
Genève during the eighties, that demand for reduced price seats is price-elastic while demand
for full-price seats is inelastic. Lévy-Garboua and Montmarquette (1996) infer from their
model on theatrical consumption as a process of positive or negative surprises that demand is
elastic to the personalised price, which takes into account the global exit cost and qualitative
variables.
Cultural policies are implicitly assuming a higher price elasticity of arts demand for popular
classes. Throsby and Withers (1979) noticed that Western public authorities are mostly
justifying their assistance to the performing arts on grounds of merit-good considerations. If
we believe that the existence of the arts is essential to civilized life, subsidies to performing
arts organisations allow lowering prices. We may thus expect a more socially balanced
audience.
The number of free open-air performances has been increasing from the nineties. In their
survey about French street companies on 1996, Dapporto and Sagot-Duvauroux (2000)
identified five main market segments. Private events, and social-cum-cultural structures are
the least lucrative segments. The main objective of casual municipal fetes is to strengthen
social ties. The most income-generating segments are inner or abroad festivals, and theatres,
which are including more free outside performances in their programme. Some scènes
nationales3 are used to open or close their season with open-air shows. Other organisations
are giving more weight to these cultural events. The EPPGHV (Etablissement Public du Parc
et de la Grande Halle de la Villette)4 is an interesting case of a multi-field programming,
which is apparently trying to put access within everyone’s reach. The direction of
communication and relationship with audience financed a series of quantitative and
qualitative studies to know better their attendants and park visitors’ attitudes.
The purpose of this paper is to compare paying attendance of auditoriums and audience of
free outside performances, for which indicators are still rather scarce. We may add movies to
performing arts as 30% of the scènes nationales include an art house in their multi-field
facilities. To understand better attendant’s behaviours is a way to analyse how free admission
allows artistic democratisation. The research question is how free open-air performances may
widen the social composition of audience or go into the firms (local authorities) strategy to
diversify their offer to keep one’s clientele (electorate). We may infer that the nature and
location of the programme are then the key point. Of course, the lack of statistical data on this
question is a great limit of my paper. It is an exploratory investigation on a contemporaneous
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problematic around artistic programme strategies, which mixes some quantitative and
qualitative approaches.
A national enquiry is used to compare the social composition of audience for free street
theatre compared to paying theatre, dance, opera and circus (§2). I will then analyse the
paradoxical limits of democratisation with free open-air events by using a sample of
EPPGHV productions or diffusions, which have still an elite audience (§3). At last, I will
raise questions on arts democratisation around the gap between popular shows and the
programmers’ criteria of artistic legitimacy. The EPPGHV’s more popular events and
observations on street performances will illustrate the debate (§4).
2. The social composition of audience for free / paying performances
The Ministry of Culture commissioned Donnat (1998) to do a national inquiry on French
cultural practices in 1997. The sample was 3 000 French people above 15 years, who
answered to 128 questions. This inquiry is the only one to measure the attendance at street
shows on a national scale. People are asked whether they attended performance of the
different arts at least once during the year.
2.1 ATTENDANCE STRUCTURE
Table 1 – French attendance rates according to social and demographic variables in 1997 (%)
WHOLE
SEX
Men
Women
AGE
15 to 19 years
65 years and more
SOCIO-PROFESSIONAL GROUP
Executives and highbrow
Unskilled workers
AGGLOMERATION
Rural area
Paris intra muros
QUALIFICATION
Unqualified
University
Theatre
Dance
Opera
Circus
Street shows
16%
8%
3%
13%
29%
16%
16%
6%
9%
3%
4%
11%
14%
30%
27%
27%
9%
11%
4%
3%
2%
15%
4%
35%
10%
44%
5%
21%
4%
13%
1%
21%
9%
50%
25%
9%
25%
5%
18%
1%
13%
11%
16%
21%
47%
8%
38%
3%
20%
1%
12%
9%
20%
19%
48%
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Table 1 gives the attendance rates according to sex, age, socio-professional group,
qualification and residence for theatre, dance, opera, circus and street shows. The average
ratio and extreme values are given.
Unsurprisingly, attendance ratios indicate a social stratification, which Baumol and Bowen
(1966) already noticed in the sixties. Social position and qualification are the most
discriminating variables whereas sex is here the least one. Attendance is negatively correlated
with age. Opera is the most socially unequal activity. The rate of executive attendants is 333%
above average whereas the ratio of university qualified visitors is 300% above. The respective
gaps are 175% and 137.5% for theatre, 162.5% and 150% for dance. The social structures are
the least unequal for circus and street shows audience. The whole attendance ratio is the
highest for street shows. Free artistic shows may then widen audience. However, social
differences are still significant. The ratio is respectively 72.4% and 65.7% above average for
executives, highbrow professionals and people with academic qualifications as compared to
14.8% and 34.5% below average for unskilled workers and unqualified people.
2.2 THE SOCIAL DISTRIBUTION OF LEISURE AND AUDIENCE’S PERFORMANCES
Gershuny (2000) noticed a long-term convergence of spare time for the different social
groups. His survey on time budgets in developed countries indicates that executives are
increasing their working time from the eighties whereas employees and workers are
benefiting by a drop from the seventies. Fermanian (1999) noticed that, on 1995, French fulltime executives are working each week five hours more than the average of other workers
with a full-time job. We may infer that the leisure price increases the negative substitution
effect, which partly counterbalances the positive income effect on attendance at shows for the
highest social groups. Thus, the competition between potential leisure activities is increasing
particularly when they are intensive in time. Executives’ attendance at socially discriminative
arts like opera may be reinforced to get benefits of distinction.
Nevertheless, street shows may still attract executives and academic qualified people because
they are combining unexpected artistic images and urban sociability. Whereas a growing
feeling of insecurity leads to look at unknown people suspiciously, particularly at home, local
open-air fetes paradoxically attract more people, who are looking entertainment and
encounters within a more easy-going mood. Holbrook et alii (1984) assume that a dominant
sensibility to visual or verbal components explains how people react differently to visual or
verbal stimuli. Theatre performances are boring most visual orientated people (Bourgeon and
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Filser, 1995). They may feel more pleasant experiences at open-air performances because
images and music are a better way to attract the crowds than text.
Employees and workers’ leisure may be partly forced because of a larger rate of
unemployment and more unwilling part-time jobs. Low income hinders attendance at paying
artistic performances, of course. However, travelling costs from periphery to downtown are
relatively expensive and prompt poor people to stay in their neighbourhood. Social isolation
or communitarian relationships develop a passive attitude towards arts, even though
admission is free. People do not take interest to look for information about open-air cultural
events whether they are feeling to have nothing to do with this activity.
3. EPPGHV programmed open-air shows and socially unequal audience
I will firstly give some information on the socio-demographic structure of the visitors’
Villette Park to understand better the failure of open-air parades to drive popular people to
free jazz concerts. I will then analyse the audience of Royal de Luxe performances to indicate
the social bias occurring from a restricted audience that street companies require for the
quality of reception. At last, open-air cinema summer festivals are analysed as drawing a
specific audience, who is fitted to the innovation.
3.1 THE VISITORS’ VILLETTE PARK AND JAZZ
The communication direction of the EPPGHV conceived a quantitative enquiry to know
better the behaviours of visitors’ Park during the year (Parc de la Villette, 1996). The
knowledge is necessary to adjust a democratisation strategy, which should be based firstly on
the Park territory. 2 427 visitors answered questions on their socio-demographic
characteristics, the way they followed during their visit and their attendance at the gardens
and cultural equipments in the Park. Factorial analysis has derived seven profiles within three
main groups.
People belonging to low socio-professional groups, without high qualification, men and
young are more frequently “regular visitors”. They are walking to the Park almost daily. 17%
of visitors are “familiar”, who know some garden names and cultural events, whereas 25% are
only “users”, who are indifferent towards Park’s cultural offer.
Academic qualifications and executives are more frequently “occasional visitors”. 7% are
“walkers”, who are enjoying gardens mostly with their children, whereas 24% are
“specialised visitors”, who are younger and coming for a specific purpose as attendance at a
show without knowing well the global offer on the site.
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The “tourists” are coming for the first time to the Park. 11% of the visitors are “active
tourists”. They are rather coming from regions or abroad and have a plan to discover cultural
equipment in the Park. They are more often executives and have academic qualifications. 12%
are “passive tourists” without an organised plan of visit. They are rather belonging to lower
social groups and coming from Paris agglomeration.
The site provides work for 4% of the visitors. They are coming to the Park for working or
studying. They are familiar with the local cultural offer whereas they take less interest in
gardens. More women, young and academic qualifications are belonging to this profile.
Some executives are in charge of programming specialised festivals in the EPPGHV. The
central direction grants them a managerial autonomy but is controlling the budget and staff
allotted. A festival “Jazz à la Villette” is programmed from 1994. Jazz parades have been
planned to encourage visitors’ Park to discover free jazz concerts during the festival. Poussou
(2003), who was managing the communication and relationships with audience at EPPGHV,
recognises a failure. Parades caught some visitors’ attention. However, musical style was too
far from the popular expectations on rhythms. As audience at jazz is elitist, a progressive
artistic education is required to get people more familiar with its specific musical codes so
that they could appraise delicacy at its true worth. Interested students in jazz took advantage
of free entrance. Thus, the part of audience with A-levels or academic qualifications was 90%
for paying performances and 85% for the free ones (Lévy, 2001).
3.2 ATTENDANCE AT ROYAL DE LUXE’S PERFORMANCES
Royal de Luxe is a French renowned street company. Their ingenious machinery is built from
scrap and is used to invent historic stories with humour and poesy. In 1995, 18 000 people
attended at five open-air performances of Peplum in La Villette Park whereas a show around
Chinese Tales attracted 14 000 attendants at fourteen performances in 2001. In 1995, 280
attendants’ Royal de Luxe, against 640 in 2001, answered at a questionnaire about their sociodemographic characteristics, their source of information and interest to other shows. 18
qualitative interviews in 1995 and 41 in 2001 are focused on their feeling about the event
organisation and the perceived quality of show.
Table 2 gives some details for the socio-demographic structure of the attendance at Royal de
Luxe structure as compared to the Park’ visitors (Parc de la Villette, 1996). Ratios on the
whole attendance are given.
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Table 2– Attendance structure at Royal de Luxe’s performances in EPPGHV and La Villette Park (%)
Women
Less than 33 years old
Job holder
Student or scholar
Executives and highbrow
Employees and workers
Academic qualifications
Less than A-levels
Living in Paris
Attendance’s Peplum
1995
Unasked
63%
60%
26%
57%
19%
66%
11%
55%
Attendance’s Tales
2001
65%
53%
60%
21%
64%
11%
75%
12%
53%
Visitors’ Park
1996
40%
61%
50%
31%
31%
45%
47%
39%
54%
Compared to the structure of visitors’ Park in 1996, Royal de Luxe’s audience is quite similar
for the part of Parisians, young people but is more feminine and much less popular. The
greater part of job holders derives from a smaller ratio for retired persons. Compared to 1995,
the part of executives and highbrow professions and the part of people with academic
qualifications significantly increased. Despite free entrance, the attendance structure is rather
similar to paying performing arts performances.
This case illustrates the social bias that organising an open-air performance in a restricted area
may provoke. A good visibility of a show requires a limit to the audience. Rationing by lanes
is substituting to price discrimination. People had to queue for 2 or 3 hours before getting a
free ticket for entry. Search and information costs amplify the socially unequal distribution of
knowledge. Despite free admission, people who already know and appreciate the programmed
company are over weighing in the audience.
Inquiries indicate that, in 1995, 95% of the audience, and 96% in 2001, are not coming for the
first time in La Villette Park. 83% in 1995 and 89% in 2001 already attended other cultural
events in the Park. From 1995 to 2001, the part of attendants who already knew Royal de
Luxe increased from 78% to 84% whereas the ratio of Royal de Luxe’s previous attendants
put up from 31% to 52%. The knowledgeable audience is thus the majority.
The sources of information followed this evolution. The part of people who heard Royal de
Luxe’s series by word of mouth fell from 44% to 34% and from 50% to 32% for the press.
Opposite, the part of attendants who got information from posters increased from 19% to
31%. There is a significant difference in the choice of information channels according to
previous attendance at Park. In 2001, 63% of the new comers have been responsive to word
by mouth, 24% to posters and 13% to newspapers. The ratios were respectively 26%, 34%
and 37% for Royal de Luxe’s previous attendants.
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The table 3 indicates the rates of Royal de Luxe’s attendants who have already seen other
Park cultural events at least once.
Table 3 – Other Park events that Royal de Luxe’s attendants have already seen
No answer
Open-air movies
New Circus
Other show at the « Grande Halle »
Music Fete
Open-air dance concert
Concert at Music City
Jazz festival
Other open-air event
Fireworks
Péplum
1995
17%
33%
19%
19%
20%
10%
4%
7%
13%
10%
Tales
2001
11%
52%
38%
32%
20%
19%
19%
19%
18%
9%
Compared to 1995, the diversity of other performances they attended in the EPPGHV
indicates a significant increase for the programmed inner events in 2001. The part of Royal de
Luxe’s attendants who declare to attend a Jazz festival raised by 171% whereas it doubled for
the “new circus” shows and increased of 375% for a concert at the Music City.
Qualitative interviews indicate rather similar perceptions between Royal de Luxe and “new
circus” shows, which are mixing different artistic disciplines like theatre, dance, music,
jugglery, and trapeze. Attendants appraise a similar capacity to create surprises by
manipulating objects with poesy, some close relationships between the artists and their
audience. This profile concerns more the attendants who have gone to a Royal de Luxe’s
performance before (Lévy, 2002).
3.3 ATTENDANCE AT “OPEN-AIR CINEMA” FESTIVAL
From July to august, the EPPGHV organises about forty open-air cinema showings at
nightfall, around 10 to 10.30 p.m., on a giant screen. Advertisement during a short first part
finances the diffusion costs. People are sitting on the grass or can rent a deck chair with
blankets. This service is free for EPPGHV member card holders. Urban sociability is then
mixing artistic expectations for the attendants. They can gather earlier and have a picnic on
grass. The audience is not based on parallel ranks as in a movie theatre. Varying circles of
friends are quietly waiting nightfall around a tablecloth or blanket. Advertisements are a good
opportunity to joke loudly. During the film, they may move, lie on the ground, sit down. The
reception has then a more collective coloration.
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A showing attracts 4 500 to 5 150 attendants on average. A peak was observed in 2001-02
with 6 500 to 6 800 people.
On 1995, 432 questionnaires have been filled during the opening session. “Cleopatra night”
mixed Joseph Mankiewicz’s movie with an oriental fete before and a concert after film. On
2004, a more complete enquiry concerned the audience of the whole festival with 802 filled
questionnaires.
Table 4 gives some ratios on the whole attendants about the socio-demographic structure of
the attendance at open-air movies in 1995 and 2004. The questionnaire was much shorter in
1995 and did not inform on the sex and socio-professional group.
Table 4 - Attendance structure at EPPGHV open-air movies in 1995 and 2004 (%)
1995
Unasked
63%
67%
23%
Unasked
Unasked
62%
22%
61%
Women
Less than 33 years old
Job holder
Student or scholar
Executives or highbrow
Employees or workers
Academic qualifications
Less than A-levels
Living in Paris
2004
58%
79%
61%
28%
53%
4%
80%
8%
52%
Compared to Royal de Luxe’s attendance, the weight of women and Parisians in the audience
is rather close. 90% of the attendants knew the Villette Park before and 80% have already
seen some shows there. The evolution is opposite for age. Whereas the street company’s
audience is older in 2001, open-air movies festival is gathering much younger visitors in
2004. The part of academic qualified attendants increased more for the movies festival. The
part of job holders decreased to a level, which is close to Royal de Luxe’s audience. The parts
of executives or highbrow professionals and employees or workers are lower because this
festival attracts more professionals in an intermediary hierarchical position. 61% of the
attendants’ festival came with friends without children and only 7% alone.
The conception of this festival induces an overweighting of young students and professionals.
The film is beginning late and to sit down or picnicking on grass at night attracts less old
adults. The programme is more privileging highbrow films. In 2004, a quarter of showings
concerned classics before 1960 and around 80% movies in their original foreign language.
One third can be classified as “authors’ films”. Furthermore, security rules led to an open-air
show in a closed location. Guards’ Park went through bags at the entry. Controls probably
dissuaded young people from local popular districts to come. (Grandval, 2004) Thus, the
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programme choices and location context lead to an audience’s homogenisation, which is
growing with the event renown.
The questions on the sources of information indicate a large diffusion by Internet. In 2004,
35% of the audience got mainly news on the movies festival by Internet. From 1995 to 2004,
the part decreased from 38% to 19% for word by mouth; from 24 to 12% for newspapers,
from 18% to 12% for posters and from 16% to 12% for EPPGHV documents.
Cross-section tables indicate that age is negatively correlated to word by mouth as a main
information channel but positively correlated to newspapers.
4. Programmers’ distinctive strategies and popular expectations
I will firstly analyse the open-air cultural events that popular visitors’ Park prefer. There are
fireworks, the Music Fete and dance concerts. As these events do not benefit of a consensual
artistic legitimacy, their weight in EPPGHV programme decreased. This case illustrates a
general problem with a gap between programmers’ valuation criteria and popular
expectations. An analysis on political and individual expectations about arts street will then
proposed.
4.1 THE EPPGHV POPULAR CULTURAL EVENTS
The overall study on attendance’s Park in 1996 allows knowing some characteristics of the
audience’s profile at some popular cultural events. The inquiry investigated these questions
on a 412 people sub sample. The EPPGHV contributes to the Music Fete on 21st June, which
Jack Lang, as Minister of Culture, and Maurice Fleuret, as his Music Director, nationally
instituted in 1982. Two world music groups give dance concerts in a Park field each Sunday
afternoon on July and August. Fireworks shows are more exceptionally offered.
Table 5 gives some rates on global attendants at dance concerts, Music Fete and fireworks in
1996.
Table 5 – Attendance rates at EPPGHV cultural events in 1996 (%)
Dance concerts
Music Fete
Fireworks
Less than 33 years old
65%
61%
53%
Job holder
53%
54%
63%
Student
15%
22%
19%
Less than A-levels
34%
38%
43%
Living in Paris
81%
52%
58%
The audience’s structure in table 5 is much closer to visitors’ Park than the attendance at
Royal de Luxe shows or open-air cinema festival. The part of attendants without A-level is
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around 40% against 10%. Audience’s dance concert is more local whereas fireworks shows
attracted older people.
As dance concerts are given in a wide open field, their audience is gathering people with more
different motivations and social positions than attendance at cinema festival or Royal de Luxe
shows. Visitors’ park can be caught without planning to attend a concert. Before a concert, a
lot of people are living with their own activities on grass, from picnic to relaxing. The circles
are rare and less thick than for cinema festivals. When concert is beginning, younger and
motivated people are gathering in front of the stage whereas background visitors are
following their activities. While hearing music and songs, they may turn into active listeners.
The process is similar for Music Fete and fireworks shows.
Qualitative studies in 1993 indicate that visitors’ Park have a rather good opinion of open-air
events. From May to October, 31 interviews show that regular users appropriate a piece of
field for their activities and do not recognise the cultural equipments and their audience. Some
may feel trouble with open-air events because of the noise and youngsters’ behaviours.
Nevertheless, most visitors appraise the plan to give open-air performances in the Park,
particularly for music (Parc de la Villette, 1993a). A sociologist, who is speaking French,
Arabic and Kabylian, interviewed 21 visitors of foreign origin. Their information about the
EPPGHV cultural programme was poor. However, they perceived open-air performances
positively, particularly during summer holidays. Some specific animations may give them an
interest for artistic shows. (Parc de la Villette, 1993b)
Whereas popular visitors can take an interest in open-air concerts and fireworks shows, they
may still lack of concern for artistic shows. A way to concern a population to arts is to work
on their popular myths, their local problems of life and sources of joy, so that people may see
themselves in the show. They could then appraise social and poetic references. However,
mixing artistic forms and social concerns do not correspond to the standards of artistic
excellence. In France, most professional artists who are looking close relationships with local
population are rather considered as social workers. The Ministry of Culture does not subsidise
them.
Programmers’ reputation depends on their peers’ recognition. They are encouraged to select
renowned artists to increase their audience whereas some emerging artists who are innovating
in aesthetics should be present. Artistic education to open the reception to new artistic forms
is appraised whereas artistic legitimacy is a priori denied to social concerns.
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The weight of free open-air artistic events in the EPPGHV programme cannot thus be
important. Tiévant’s qualitative study (2004) on the different uses of the visitors’ Park notices
a perceived decrease of open-air performances since the nineties. Regular visitors’ park find
this evolution regrettable whereas they are taking in interest some visitors’ cultural practices
which emerged spontaneously. Programming air-open performances in the EPPGHV is then
more directed towards a diversification of the artistic offer for regular attendants’ cultural
equipments. Discovering new open-air configurations of shows and sociability may enhance
the interest in the programme of the establishment5.
4.2 STREET PERFORMANCES AND POLITICAL / INDIVIDUAL EXPECTATIONS
A national study on French attendants’ arts street is still in progress. I will then refer to
Dapporto and Sagot-Duvauroux’s study (2000) and some personal observations. Whereas arts
street companies are much less subsidised than for theatrical troupes on average, a large part
of their income and artistic recognition comes from selling performances to festivals6 and
municipal fetes. They are then depending indirectly from local authorities.
Whereas State subsidies to arts are mostly justified in terms of externalities or merit good
considerations, local authorities may easily incorporate cultural expenses in their Town
policy. Street arts companies can be receptive to this political demand as they are sharing an
interest to use public locations as a stage and are trying to concern all the population and not
only a paying audience.
Programmers and companies may then focus the artistic production around local way of life
and architecture. Suggesting poetic uses in the urban environment encourage the population to
look at their cultural practices with a new light. Local authorities may thus expect from street
performances that they contribute to enhance self image in some areas to develop a more
positive energy for social life. It is a driving force for a policy of cultural development.
For instance, artists can follow some ways in the town, which symbolically underline the local
segregation problems and raise useful questions. To introduce an incongruity in surroundings
is a way to suggest poetic views and make people think. The company Le Phun in their show
“the sowing revenge”, for example, sets a big garden at night in a district. It is then growing
for three days. Actors who are playing gardeners form contacts with astonished local people.
The further reactions can be diverse from irritation to fun or a fancy to appropriate this
artificial garden for social life. The company KompleXKafarnaüM is working on the basis of
local television reports around inhabitants’ interviews on their life. The reports showings on
the walls of buildings at night give an opportunity to have another look on neighbourhood.
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The company Ilotopie performed a show “colored people” with plastic painted naked actors
who are wandering on streets as a clan of exiled families.
Dapporto and Sagot-Duvauroux (2000) distinguish three main profiles of arts street festivals.
Their typology is based on organisers’ objectives for their artistic choices in the programme,
their relationships to the audience and to space. Factorial analysis opposes on a first axis the
events which are trying to animate heritage for tourists or the town on a festive way. The
second axis opposes artistic specialisation to diversity.
A first profile concerns an orientation around a specific artistic line, which is based on
distortion. Programmers who are concerned with artistic coherence have to see the shows
before selecting them. The performances should introduce a poetic distortion in the way to
look at urban surroundings and then facilitate more creative relationships in the area. Most big
festivals are organised in this manner. The second profile is focusing on the aim of a popular
fete. Programmers are selecting a diversity of festive shows to catch the interest of the largest
number of population. Small festivals are closer from this conception. The third profile
encourages heritage animation. The objective is to attract tourists and stimulate local
economy.
Freydefont (1997) differentiates two more artistic lines in comparison with distortion to raise
social questions. Cruelty theatre is developing violent performances out of conventional
literary theatre and traditional fetes. Générik Vapeur in France, Titanic in Germany or Fura
dels Baus in Spain are belonging to this family. Poetic and burlesque theatre of tales and hoax
are inviting people to lose touch with their Cartesian rationality and revive naivety as with
child stories. Royal de Luxe, La famille Burattini in France and Jim Whiting are in this
category.
Thus, street performances are given within a political local frame, which refers to poetic and
economic objectives. The offer encounters attendants’ diverse behaviours as walkers in the
street can deny it, stop a while with distance, become a more or less active attendant, easily
leave the group. When discovering a street performance, people can kindly listen to actors and
see images, or accept to be a provisory protagonist of the story. Other people are rather
suspicious and are looking the show from far. Others may feel irritation against a trouble for
urban order or no interest, when they do not share the implicit cultural references. Undesired
attendants may trouble a performance or damage public safety. Summer festivals particularly
attract poor young people who are roaming streets or begging. Their presence may develop a
more or less exaggerate climate of fear. Aurillac festival provides free infrastructure to
accommodate them, but some municipalities are more aggressive like in Annonay7.
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5. Conclusion
As price elasticity is probably higher for low-wage workers or poor young people, we might
infer a free access to artistic performances as a way to democratise their access. The audience
structure of Arts Street is certainly less unequal on a national scale, but free tickets are not
enough to homogenise attendance at open-air performances. Despite more leisure time,
popular classes are taking less interest in the symbolic profits of artistic events. The
conception of the show and the relationships between artists and their audience remain, thus,
the main source of appraisal.
The case of EPPGHV indicates that programmers are encouraged to develop open-air
performances on the fields which enjoy artistic legitimacy. Concerts and fireworks are
popular manifestations, for which audience’s structure is similar to visitors’ park. Their
weight in the EPPGHV programme is nevertheless slight. The strategy is to diversify the offer
to maintain a regular audience with an opportunity to discover relaxing out-air performances.
Open-air cinema festival is a case for which young people with academic qualifications
appropriate themselves an event, which mixes nocturnal sociability and rather highbrow
showings.
Arts Street is spreading with a higher artistic legitimacy from the nineties, as most local
authorities and State understand that poetic uses of urban surroundings may improve social
ties and the self image of a district. However, there is a gap between the ideal community,
which is politically expected, and the diversity of perceptions.
I should now carry on the cross-section analysis of EPPGHV surveys. We also require more
attendance surveys on open-air and inner programmes to test the assumption about the free
open-air performances as a more or less efficient diversification of programme to keep one’s
clientele for artistic organisations and take political benefits for local authorities.
14
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Notes
1
Felton (1992), for example, found that price elasticity facing individual companies for the major US orchestras,
ballet and opera vary widely within the same medium and budget group. Each group contains at least one
company with elastic demand.
2
Moore’s estimates (1968) for Broadway Theatre are contrasted. Income elasticity is 1.03 in a cross section
study on 1962 and only 0.35 for the time series from 1928 to 1963. Goudriann and de Kam’s estimates (1983)
are another exception with 0.104 for a cross-section study of Dutch theatres on 1979.
3
Scènes nationales are structures of diffusion which benefit from a national label of quality. Their multi-field
programming is mainly composed of theatrical plays. Their manager is not usually a director. They are mainly
subsidised by local authorities. (Urrutiaguer, 2002)
4
L’“Etablissement Public du Parc et de la Grande Halle de la Villette” (EPPGHV) is a State establishment. It is
located in northern Paris at Villette Park, which has 35 hectares. Activities opened in 1993. The double mission
is, on the one hand, to run the cultural urban facilities of the Park and “Grande Halle” of La Villette and, on the
other hand, to diffuse artistic, educative and social activities which are opening up for the Town. Budget is round
36.6 millions euros in 2002 (Parc de la Villette, 2003).
The EPPGHV is managing activities on the Villette Park with two other State establishments, the science and
technology complex museum and the Music City. The EPPGHV is programming the “Grande Halle” for multifield shows, the Delouvrier House for expositions and La Villette House, which diffuses shows, accommodates
companies for a while and expositions.
5 However, the yearly encounters around urban cultures (RCU) are an exception as a process towards cultural
democracy. The programme is focusing on hip hop but is trying to give an important weight to theatre shows, in
a first part of the daily session, and to choreographic companies which take an interest in mixing styles of dance.
The will to broaden artistic outlook is not very appreciated because most young attendants’ hip hop are sharing a
normalised code and promptly react in their group. Mixing classic or modern dance with hip hop may offend
attendants’ expectations whether the company does not master enough hip hop code around physical challenges.
6
In a previous study (Urrutiaguer, 2005); I indicate that French local authorities are financing three quarters of
festival subsidies. All the indexes of inequality show a substantial increase in regional disparities for State
subsidies to festivals between 1992 and 2002.
7
The 3-days “festival de la Manche” in Annonay (northern Ardèche) was driving 40 000 attendants since 1988.
In 2002, the new right-wing mayor – deputy, Gérard Weber, decided to close this festival because “during 10
months, we are not preparing a festival, but we are preparing premises to accommodate dropouts” and a lot of
time and money is spent “to support alcoholism, drugs and a way of life I condemn”. (Masi, 2002)
16
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