“Où est le masque?” COVID-19 and France’s electronic music scene

France is a nation built on ‘liberté’ and ‘égalité’, but the footage from last weekend’s Possession Techno event in Paris was always likely to lead many to question whether ‘fraternité’ (at least with those battling the coronavirus) is still part of the country’s modus operandi.


The event, which clearly shows young Parisians giving social distancing (and in many cases face masks) a wide berth, has come under fire from social media users – one of those performing at the event, Amelie Lens, was slammed by many for her participation.

Among those to respond was DJ Paulette, a former Paris resident, who wrote on Lens’ Instagram page, “Are you batshit crazy @amelie_lens France is just about to go back into lockdown and you just played a party with thousands of people and zero social distancing? How is that ‘Merci Paris’?”

Elsewhere, as Terry Farley succinctly put it on Twitter, “F**king nonsense putting money before lives.”


To date, France has reported 192,000 cases of coronavirus, with last Sunday seeing a spike of 3,376 cases – the country has also recorded 30,296 deaths.

This makes the hosting of last weekend’s event a highly irresponsible act, whichever way you look at it.

However, for those involved, and in attendance, the lack of clarity around what is permissible when it comes to social gatherings muddies the water somewhat.

Responsibility on what is and is not allowed falls on the shoulders of Roselyne Bachelot, France’s Minister for Culture, who in an interview with La Provence in late July, expressed her desire to “project festivals into the post-crisis period”, such are the importance of cultural gatherings to the French summer…. taking into account certain health guidelines, of course.

This led to the publication of an update by the Ministry of Culture, which outlined that gatherings of more than 5,000 people will be able to resume on 1 September, or from 15 August if certain prefectural authorisation conditions are met.

The guidelines go on to state that seating configurations are necessary at said events – including distancing between two people or groups of people – as well as mandatory wearing of face masks.

In the run up to the publication of these guidelines, France’s government has faced pressure from artists and cultural groups to establish a reopening plan for the country’s electronic music scene.

In an open letter to Bachelot, published in the Liberation newspaper last Friday, more than 170 artists, including Laurent Garnier, Bob Sinclair, Martin Solveig, Etienne de Crécy, Vitalic and Jean-Michel Jarre, called for support for the 100,000 direct and indirect jobs linked to the sector, saying that the “cathedral of electronic music is on fire”, a reference to the recent blaze at Nantes cathedral.


“Electronic music is a vector of powerful values,” the signatories wrote. “It is an economic sector with high local, national and international added value, and contributes, alongside all the arts, to giving meaning to life, cultivating minds, nourishing the world and the well-being of societies.

“Without these artists and these spaces of diffusion, it is a part of the cultural richness of the country which withers before our eyes.”

Also, like many other countries, France has seen a swathe of free parties take place during the lockdown period, with numbers growing as the summer has drawn on, as a recent report in Le Monde noted.

“At first it was more family-oriented, big picnics with friends that turned into a party,” one partygoer told the paper. “Then it got massive, with thousands of people every weekend. You saw people coming out of the woods in clusters to take their Uber around 5am.”


The French government therefore has a fine line to tread, particularly in a country known for the protestations of its populace – does it seek to clamp down further on what is likely inevitable, or loosen the regulations enough to enable safe, controlled revelry?

Judging by the pictures from Paris last weekend, it’s a balance they don’t appear to have achieved.

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