Yesterday, (Sunday morning), I left my house a bit before 8:00 am, I then spent 7 hours queuing and no, it wasn't for an Apple iPhone 5 … it was for tickets at my nearest local theatre, Le Channel on the outskirts of Calais … it's madness! Yesterday, Sunday, all the tickets went on sale for all the shows for the coming season, which starts in October and goes onto next June. The tickets are sold on a first come, first served basis. It is the same every year. Today, Monday they go on sale via the phone etc, but it is already too late … lots of the shows are already sold out and there is always a full house on the night of every show. It is incredibly popular.
I arrived at 8:00 am and I was 131st in the queue. People had been there since 6:00 am. It gets worse every year. Last year, I came a little later, but was higher up in the queue. The box office opens at 10:00 am and they can handle about 25-30 people between them in an hour. I didn't get served until 3:00 pm, but, by midday, already some of the shows were sold out. I know I could get my numbered sales sheet for the queue and then go back home and come back later about the time which I think my number will be called (a lot of people do), but I can't be bothered … the café is open for food and sandwiches … morning coffee is free and I take a book to read!
I really like the theatre and when I left London to live full-time in France, I thought that it would be one of the things that I would really miss, (not that I went that much, what with the price of theatre tickets in the West End and the cost of a taxi home). However, over here, I live within driving distance of what I think must be one of the best cultural centres in France, Le Channel. It is an incredible theatre. Based in the grounds of an old, disused abbatoir, it has two theatres, a large exhibition hall, four separate buildings for use as rehearsal rooms and set construction etc, a permanent circus big top, a restaurant, two bars, a mini ‘hotel’ for visiting performers, a fully fledged bookshop etc.
Over the years, I have seen some of the best theatre/concerts/dance performances at Le Channel that I have ever seen. Too many to name! And some of the month long theatre festivals which they hold every March have made that month for me!
However, it is also the friendly, welcoming, informal atmosphere and philosophy behind the theatre which makes it special for me. Among other things, the maximum price for any of the shows is 6 euros. The pricing policy is to keep the theatre within the reach of everybody, especially families, and children are actively encouraged to attend shows, which they do. Le Channel does a lot of work in conjunction with the local schools; they have workshops for schools and, of course, a circus school for kids. It really is a community theatre.
I am curious, though. Is Le Channel the exception to the rule in France or does anybody else have a similar cultural/arts centre near to them? I know that I feel lucky to live so near to such a cultural artistic resource, to which I can actually afford to go.