The Festival d'Avignon

Le Prince de Hombourg, Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, Cour d'honneur du Palais des papes, 2014 © Christophe Raynaud de Lage

Artistic Project

Founded in 1947 by Jean Vilar, the Festival d’Avignon is one of the most important contemporary performing arts events in the world. Every year in July, Avignon becomes a city-theater, transforming its architectural heritage into various majestic and surprising performance venues, welcoming tens of thousands of theater-lovers of all ages. The Festival manages to bring together a popular audience and cutting-edge international creation. Avignon is also a state of mind: the city is an open-air forum where festival-goers discuss the shows and share their experiences as spectators. For a month, everyone can have access to a contemporary and living culture.

The programme includes shows, but also readings, exhibitions, films, and debates, which are so many gateways into the worlds of the artists and intellectuals invited to the Festival. Every evening, there is at least one show première, making Avignon a place of true creation and adventure for artists and spectators alike.

“To provide theatre, and collective art, with something other than indoors spaces; to reconcile architecture and dramatic poetry.” – Jean Vilar

The Festival's directors are appointed by the board, and have to be formally approved by the Mayor of Avignon and the French Minister of Culture. Since Jean Vilar, the artistic director has been entirely free to draw his or her programme up. This independence from any interference has always been guaranteed, regardless of the political context.

The author, director and actor, Olivier Py was born in 1965. After studying at the National Superior School of Theatre Arts and Techniques (Ensatt), he entered the National Conservatory of Dramatic Art Paris in 1987, while studying theology. His first play, Oranges and Nails, was created by Didier Lafaye in 1988. In the same year, Olivier Py founded his own company. Olivier Py is faithful to the Festival d'Avignon, where his work has been seen many times, notably in 1995, when he made a mark on the Festival by performing The Servant, an endless story, a twenty-four hour cycle, or in 2006, on the occasion of the closing of the 60th Festival d’Avignon, when he staged a tribute to Jean Vilar, The Vilar Enigma in the Cour d’honneur du Palais des papes. In 1998, Olivier Py was appointed as the director of the Orleans National Drama Centre. Then from 2007 to 2011, he was at the head of the French national Odeon-Theatre of Europe. Olivier Py has been entrusted with the management of the Festival d’Avignon starting with the 2014 edition. A position he is helding since September 2013.

Born in 1971, Paul Rondin initially studied literature before going on to train in the performing arts. In addition to his vocational training, he completed a course in Arts and Cultural Management and Political Science. From 1994 to 1996 he was Manager of the theatre department of the DRAC (Regional Direction of Cultural Affairs) of the Ile de France region at the Ministry of Culture, then Project Officer at AFAA (French Association of Artistic Action) at the Foreign Office. In 2000 he became Administrator of the National Drama Centre in Orléans, under the direction of Olivier Py, until 2007. During that period, he also committed himself and lent his support to the International Parliament of Writers / International Cities of Refuge Network. In 2007, he joined Olivier Py at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe becoming Secretary General until the autumn of 2012. After a preview of the Avignon Festival, he became the Managing Director from the 1st September 2013 onwards. In 2018, he served a second term of office at the Festival Management. In 2014, he co-founded the French Tech Culture, got involved in several symposiums on cultural politics and the digital/cultural rapport, both in France and further afield. He initiated « Encounters Research and Creation » with Catherine Courtet (National Research Agency).

Facts and Figures

Every edition of the Festival:

  • offers about 50 shows from France and abroad, for a total of about 300 performances and over 400 events, including panels, debates, and screenings. 80% of the shows are original creations or are having their French premiere at the Festival.

  • also includes the Workshops of Thought, which brings together researchers, philosophers, and activists; encounters with the artists of the Festival; readings of texts written specifically for the Festival; film screenings; and exhibitions, all of which turn the Festival into a celebration of thought and discovery. There are about one hundred such events as part of 14 programmes, and most of them are free.

  • transforms more than 20 locations, most of them historical and outdoors, into scenic venues, very diverse in terms of both architecture and maximum occupancy (from 50 to 2,000 seats).

  • issues about 110,000 tickets for paid shows and welcomes about 30,000 spectators to its free events such as debates, panels, readings, etc. Roughly 38% of its audience comes from Avignon and its area, 28% from Ile-de-France, 23% from other French regions, and 11% from abroad. In recent years, the Festival has had an average attendance rate of over 90%.

  • welcomes more than 600 French and foreign journalists, who write more than 2,000 articles about the Festival. A number of television and radio broadcasts are also recorded live. All major print media send correspondents to the Festival, which is also covered by about 50 photographers.

  • 12% of festivalgoers are professionals of the performing arts (programme directors, producers, communication and public relations teams), and 20% are there for professional reasons (companies, journalists, etc.). They come to discover shows, work on future productions, and organise panels about the performing arts and cultural policies. A true professional forum, the Festival and the Institut supérieur des techniques du spectacle also organise debates and panels to present new points of view and research axis. It is a unique moment in European cultural life. 10,000 copies of the guide for performing arts professionals are also printed every year, providing more details about those events.

  • prints 80,000 copies of the programmes and 12,000 copies of the guide of the young spectator each year. In 2019, the Festival reduced its paper consumption by 2 tonnes

  • the Festival’s website, available in both French and English, receives more than 4 million page views a year. A mobile application was launched in 2019, replacing the spectator’s guide. 140,000 people follow one or more of the Festival’s 4 social media accounts, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

  • has a budget of 14 million euros for 2019 (excluding benefits in kind from the City and the Agglomeration), whose expenses are distributed as follows: 70% for programming, producing and co-producing, and cultural activities; 30% for the technical facilities and operating of the Festival's various performance venues and for upkeep (including that of La FabricA). 60% of its resources come from public subsidies (49% from the French government, 20% from the City of Avignon including benefits in kind, 13% from the Communauté d'Agglomération du Grand Avignon including benefits in kind, 9% from the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, 9% from the Département de Vaucluse), and 31% from its own revenue (ticket sales, sponsors, non-commercial partnerships, specific partnerships, show sales, etc.).

  • has established long-term relationships with sponsors, first and foremost the Fondation Crédit Coopératif. The Festival has set up a circle of partner companies bringing together about fifteen small and medium-sized businesses as well as a circle of individual sponsors.

  • generates economic benefits for the region’s culture and tourism industry estimated to about 100,000 million euros.

Concurrently with the Festival d'Avignon, the Off welcomes more than 1,000 companies performing on their own initiative and with their own funding in a hundred different venues.

Contact the Festival d’Avignon