Thursday, 10 January 2013

Festi-Zad at Notre-Dame-des-Landes

Last weekend saw a music fesival at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (44), but it was an event that was quite different to the  usual corporate sponsored big budget music events

Festi-Zad took place at one of France's flashpoint protest sites, Notre-Dame-des-Landes in the Loire Atlantique department in western France. The site of the event was on land currently being occupied by demonstrators protesting against the building of the new Aéroport du Grand Ouest, intended to replace Nantes Atlantique Airport in 2015.

This Zone À Défendre (ZAD) is being occupied by protest camps and squatters, with opposition to the 580m euro project coming from environmentalists such as the Greens along with anticapitalists and some in the Socialist Party, even though the party officially backs the development.

Meanwhile locals are also opposing the new airport, with a vigorous campaign fighting it. It's become a major confrontation point between the French protest movement in all its shades and the authorities.

It was against this background that the event took place, over January 4, 5 and 6. It saw a huge number of bands, with entrance fee a donation of either food or cash to help finance the fight. Organisers say there were around 30,000 people there, with rap, punk and ska acts perform along with DJs and sound systems.

The protesters said in a statement beforehand: "During three days, we propose to everyone to express our rage - in a partying mood - against all those who decide things about our future so far from us.

"Against all those who, for their own interest, are ready to destroy thousands of square kilometers of our most precious patrimony. The world of this airport is a world of wars, poverty and misery, alienation of populations and destruction of the environment. A world of boredom, a world of death!

"If there is precisely something against which Free Partying can fight, this thing is boredom. In its mental, police, civilized, forced or consumed shape, it doesn't matter. Free Partying and Radical Struggle are melting together in a creative gush that spread the weeds of subversion. Free Partying is life. And life isn't this airport!"

There may have been no big names on the bill, and I'm sure the facilities on offer weren't up to those at the bigger festivals that fill the calendar over the summer months, but events like this show that music remains a vital force in movements calling for social change, as it did in the 60s and 70s and beyond.

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution", to use the oft-quoted line attributed to anarchist Emma Goldman.

The weekend event passed without violent incident, but the confrontation continues at the ZAD. It's difficult to see how the matter will be resolved peacefully. It cannot end with both sides getting what they want. There has already been violence between police and protesters in November, and most probably there will be again.

While the protest may not eventually succeed in halting the airport, those involved in the protest movement must be heartened that events like Festizad show that, even if only for a few days, another world can be possible.

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