Each year on July 14, Bastille Day, Carcassonne goes all out with a non-stop 50 minutes of fireworks over the castle. The spectacle attracts 700,000 people to a town of 50,000 and there’s a link here in the right hand column to a 4-minute video of the highlights. I still get goosebumps when I watch it. As you can imagine, coping with the influx of that many people in less than one day is quite the challenge for the government. Streets have to be closed, parking spaces created, extra security provided, restroom facilities put in place, on and on. That got me to wondering: who pays for all of this?
A search of one of the 3 local newspapers online turned up an article about the fireworks display that Paris puts on each year from the Eiffel Tower. That incredible show lasts almost an hour and the bill this year for the fireworks alone was half a million euro. I saw a map of our corner of France and was surprised to see that towns stretching from the Spanish border all along the Mediterranean and into the surrounding Pyrenees and Black mountains have their own pyrotechnic celebrations on this national holiday and each village, town, and city includes it in their annual budget. Yes, France pays for art!
When I first saw how much Paris paid for the fireworks, I started a sentence with “I can’t believe how much they paid…” and Bill finished it with “for something pretty?” Of course he was right. A society that values art and culture in general is naturally going to provide for that. France even has a special visa category for artists who want to move there that eliminates much of the red tape that the rest of us must go through. Carcassonne recently refurbished an 1860 Dominican chapel to become an art gallery. This is the second public art space in the heart of the city that I know of and the entry to both is free of charge.The city also sponsors a theater for a wide variety of plays, musicals, and other live performances plus a concert hall for music of many styles. Oh yeah, there are all of those free music, food, wine, and other entertainment events every week on the main square. I’d say that art is alive and thriving in the south west of France.