If during his televised speech on Monday April 13, Emmanuel Macron announced the gradual end of the confinement as of 11 May, the President of the French Republic also specified that “major festivals and events with a large audience will not be able to take place until at least mid-July”. Since then, there has been a cascade of cancellations of festivals scheduled throughout the country before 15 July.
In the Guadeloupean archipelago, the major festivals, especially music festivals, do not have a long life. They often last only for the duration of the mandate of the political representatives who launched or financially supported them. Among the “surviving” festivals, there is the “Festival Terre de Blues” which takes place every year on the island of Marie-Galante during the weekend of Pentecost and which is logically concerned by the measures taken by the Head of State to stop this global coronavirus/covid-19 pandemic.
Scheduled from May 29 to June 1, 2020, the 21st edition of this Marie-Galante festival – with artists such as Kery James, Youssou N’dour, La Perfecta, Donald R Johson, Admiral T, Odla, Soft, Elida Ammeida, Dynasti’z, Konvwaka and Were Vana – should therefore not take place. Since February, the question about the cancellation and postponement of the event has been asked several times on the Terre de Blues Facebook page by future participants, but the organisation’s answers have been rather evasive: “We will see”
or “In the current state of the world situation, we cannot say with certainty, one way or the other. The festival takes place from May 29 to June 1”. But now the situation is clear and the organizers, among them the Community of Communes of Marie-Galante, should have already announced the cancellation or postponement of the event.
Are we moving towards a new standoff between the Prefect of Guadeloupe (representative of the French State) and the elected representatives of Marie-Galante in the name of the sacrosanct “local specificity” to organize this festival?
Protecting Marie-Galante at all costs
We remember that, as part of the fight against covid-19, the three mayors of the island had issued an order on March 17, 2020 (the date of the beginning of the confinement in France) prohibiting shuttles from landing on the island so as not to contaminate their inhabitants. For his part, the Prefect of Guadeloupe had brought an action before the Administrative Court, which had revoked this order to ensure territorial continuity, but the boats stayed docked and planes were chartered to connect the island to Pointe-à-Pitre. Shuttles should resume their rotations after the confinement. The will of the elected politicians is to protect this small island of the archipelago at all costs from the scourges coming from outside which seems rather difficult since Marie-Galante is not on another planet and it lives largely from tourism…
Some media had interviewed inhabitants of the island who had welcomed this “closing borders to protect this land” but this decision – despite the confinement so the impossibility of going there – had also shocked “a silent majority” in Guadeloupe, especially those who go every year to the Festival. According to their statements, why would they be vectors of this disease that began in China? Some even said they would not go to the Festival Terre de Blues de Marie-Galante this year because their bank notes and bank cards are also “contaminated”… This shows that, in this area, some reactions may offend the sensibilities of each other.
In addition, we heard an “intellectual” saying himself a “specialist in the Caribbean region” denouncing the attitude of the State representative by stating that the Caribbean States had had a more “territorial management” of this coronavirus epidemic by closing their borders very early on. However, he failed to specify that these islands are independent… We now know this kind of refrain consisting in claiming everything that France enjoys and demanding specificity when it suits. During carnival, they sing in the streets “la lwa fwansé sé pli kouyon” (French law is the most silly) and they use it during this covid-19 crisis to demand the same treatment as France… In short, this is all part of our contradictions. In short, it’s like wanting to have your cake and eat it too… Is that why some Caribbean people call the French Caribbean territories the “Spoiled Children of France”?
It should be noted that in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico, which is also fighting against covid-19 with drastic measures, including a curfew from 7:00 pm to 5:00 am, did not stop the shuttles connecting it to its two small islands – Vieques and Culebra – these are reserved only for residents.
What are the results for “Terre de Blues” in 20 years of existence?
Does this coronavirus pandemic sound the death knell for the Festival Terre de Blues de Marie-Galante?
Created in 2000, this festival was first called “Créole Blues” before becoming “Terre de Blues” in 2005. For years, many people wondered if this musical event would last, because finding the funds was an obstacle course for the organizers. In 2016, the new presidency of the Regional Council of Guadeloupe came to give a helping hand to the organization through a grant of 350,000 euros instead of 20,000 euros from the former presidency. This major local authority of the archipelago still financially supports this cultural event which is supposed to support the economic activity, especially tourism, (hotels and bed and breakfasts, restaurants, car rental companies, food shops, maritime shuttles etc.). In 2019, for its 20th anniversary, the event’s budget was 900,000 euros compared to 600,000 euros three years earlier.
But as we know, after twenty years of existence, the Festival Terre de Blues de Marie-Galante still remains “on life support” since it is mainly financed by public subsidies. It remains to be seen if the objective of increasing the visibility and attractiveness of this island in the Guadeloupean archipelago has really been achieved.
Experts announce an economic disaster due to this global covid-19 pandemic, will the Regional Council of Guadeloupe, which is in charge of the economy, be able to continue to pay substantial sums of money to the Festival Terre de Blues de Marie-Galante? What will happen to one of the last music festivals in the Guadeloupean archipelago?
Following our article, the organizers of the “Festival Terre de Blues de Marie-Galante” published, on April 16, a press release announcing the cancellation of the 2020 edition