These Rennes at the forefront of Culture – Who are the women of power in Rennes?

culture on the skin

Corinne Poulain, director of Champs Libres (Julien Mignot)

You can call her a captain: Corinne Poulain herself compares the Champs libre to a “ship”. Both because of her liner size and because of her desire for the different components to work together there. She arrived in 2018 at the head of this cultural facility, the largest in Rennes, at a time when she was looking for a new impetus. A challenge that was not going to displease this native of Rennes. She graduated from the IEP in Paris, holder of a Masters 2 in Management Sciences in Versailles, she did her thesis at the Humboldt University of Berlin while working in cafes.

Back in France, Corinne Poulain became director of culture at Aubervilliers. She was discovered in 2013 by Aurélie Filippetti, then Minister of Culture. She will be her adviser in charge of cultural and artistic education and the territories. A mission that she continues together with Fleur Pellerin until 2015.

After having proven his worth under the gold medals of Paris, back to the origins. Corinne Poulain is a woman in the field. She is a candidate for the position of director of culture for the Rennes metropolis. She that she obtains “because of her great skills and her excellent knowledge of the cultural landscape of Rennes”, according to Emmanuel Couet, former president of the Métropole.

Three years later, here he is at the head of the Free Fields. One of his first moves is to move the administration office to the middle of a corridor on the fourth administrative floor, transforming the old space into a shared space. In April 2019, he detailed his philosophy to Kostar: “I think the potential of free Champs hasn’t been fully revealed. (…) The question of knowledge, which was lived in silos or in open fields between the different sectors, now requires a global approach to climate emergencies and others (…)”. Since last May, the director has had to face a strike by territorial agents. They protest against the loss of rest and compensatory leave. Block the library on Sundays and cause events to be canceled. A social storm of unprecedented duration. For now, the captain can do little more than wait for calm.


Rennes (35) Émilie Audren co-director of the Mythos festival.
Émilie Audren is the deputy director of the Mythos festival. (Erwan Miloux/The Telegram)

Like many, Émilie Audren landed in Rennes to study. Born in Auray in 1975, into a family of artisans, she had no idea that this path would lead her to head Mythos, one of the most important festivals in Rennes. She at the same time getting her into the (very restricted) club of women who run or co-run festivals in Brittany. It must be said that at the base, “the arts of speech” (Mythos’s creed), is not her priority. At a very young age, Émilie Audren only had eyes for dance, which she practiced daily. At the same time, she learned accounting from her mother. A double hat, as a prefiguration of her future role with the artists. “Often I’m the one who says no. I want the budget…” she said into the microphone of France Bleu.

Arriving in Rennes in economics, here you are creating a theater association with a group of friends, a bit by chance. Shy, he prefers to operate behind the scenes. We are in the mid-1990s. It is there that he meets his future partner, Mael Le Goff. “He is an excellent manager. He knows how to take risks and organize teams. Émilie, he knows the operational organization of things and the human management of teams”, explains Pascal Keiser, founder of La Manufacture, to the Mensuel de Rennes. A high place of the Off d’Avignon in which the couple have been involved for years.

Over a friendly drink at Vieux Saint-Etienne, Émilie Audren forgets her shyness and approaches the city’s elected officials. She tells them about an original project, a storytelling festival aimed at unraveling the genre. Boldness pays off: 20,000 francs. Mythos, which was then called With a hunger for stories, was born in 1997. In 2012, consecration: Emmanuel Couet, mayor of Saint-Jacques, offered the keys to the Open Air to the small student association. Which becomes the Center for the Production of Contemporary Words (CPPC), one of the cultural giants of the Metropolis. Émilie Audren will be the director of programming. But as one of her favorite artists, Prince, puts it, “everyone has a rock background,” and the success story is starting to drag some pans down.

In 2021, a report from the Regional Chamber of Accounts criticizes the “family” management of the CPPC, and the derisory rent granted by Rennes to one of its cultural spaces, the MeM. The controversy falls ill, while the pandemic has plunged culture into crisis. In addition to this embarrassing file, the CPPC must now negotiate the resumption of artistic life -among sanitary measures, public distrust and jamming of proposals-. “We have made it a point of honor to schedule as many shows as possible that have been canceled in recent months,” promised Émilie Audren. Finally, the results will be positive for the 25th edition of the Mythos festival.

Beyond musical trans

PHOTO Vincent Michel / Le Mensuel de Rennes.  RENNES (35): Regional Council Election 2021- Beatrice Mace
Béatrice Macé, regional vice president in charge of culture. (Vincent Michel/The Rennes Monthly)

There are legendary duos. Bonnie and Clyde. Igor and Grishka. Pie and sausage. In Rennes, for 42 years, were Béatrice Macé and Jean-Louis Brossard. The two university friends had created, in 1977, what would become Trans Musicales, an international reference in contemporary music. Béatrice Macé’s role has often been summed up as “holding the strings in the pocket” of the festival. That is already a lot (especially when you have to manage budgets despite the pandemic or the risk of attacks). But this linguist by training also helped trans people to get certified for sustainable development and solidarity, she supported Acción Cultural and, in 2004, it was she who again took the risk of exporting the party to the Parc-expo.

In 2021, a new ceiling: we discover it on the list of the President of the Region Loïg Chesnais-Girard (PS), candidate for his re-election. Elected vice president of culture, she leaves the Trans. Running the two positions together would have constituted a conflict of interest. When she talks about her past career, Béatrice Macé talks about her “her old life”. However, her CV is not limited to Trans. The new “VP” presided over the Fédurok or the Collective of festivals committed to the sustainable development and solidarity of Brittany. In 2017 she entered the Superior Council of Artistic and Cultural Education.

Twenty years ago, when asked what she did for a living, Béatrice Macé sometimes answered “company manager”, because “it is difficult to exist outside of trans people”. She today she does not want to be called “political”. She prefers the term “engaged citizen.” Do you have problems accepting it? Or do you consider your mandate as the natural extension of the values ​​that she carried within the Trans? Her role title specifies that she is not only responsible for culture, but also for cultural rights and arts education, a first for a regional council. The idea is to no longer talk about spectators, but about people, with their own cultural references. Concepts that may seem a bit techno… However, Brittany has a certain history in this field. Béatrice Macé also spent her first few months participating in an inventory of what was already being done locally. Her interventions highlight equality, “hybrid projects”, especially in rural areas, and the ecological transition (reducing the carbon footprint of artists and festivals, etc.). Also, when it comes to culture, the former co-director of Trans likes to talk about “ecosystems”, about “sprouts” that, according to her, should grow denser. She repeats to her interlocutors: “We are going to move from culture to permaculture. Béatrice Macé cultivates her garden.

in the storm

Isabelle Chardonnier is director of cultural affairs for Brittany.
Isabelle Chardonnier is director of cultural affairs for Brittany. (Department of Cultural Affairs)

8: this is the number of days that separate the arrival of Isabelle Chardonnier, Brittany’s director of cultural affairs, from the appearance of the first Covid-19 outbreak in the region. One month before Édouard Philippe announces the closure of all “non-essential” public places, including performance halls. “I piloted a Drac in crisis management mode,” the director told Telegram. “But I had a good time because I was able to count on a mobilized team, which endured”. One of his assets is knowing by heart how this structure works. Since 2016, at the Ministry of Culture, he is responsible for directing and leading the Drac network.

For several months, this former Science-po Lyon multiplies meetings by videoconference and takes the opportunity to identify the needs of local cultural actors. Files are stacked on the beautiful Aremberg parquet floor of the Drac offices. A year later, while the health situation is improving, the shows resume and the heritage spaces, on hold, must be reactivated. A vast “relaunch of France” scheme finances renovation operations at seven sites in Brittany, including the Notre-Dame de Paradis basilica in Hennebont (56). Isabelle Chardonnier goes there several times with elected officials. Relieved to resume normal activity? Can be. But also, according to some observers, a little disappointed. The desire to see fresh artistic proposals emerge, matured during the lockdowns, has been slightly clouded by the desire of certain places to schedule a maximum of canceled shows in 2020. The art of the “next world” will wait.

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