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Behind the scenes : Rencontres d’Arles, Reception staff


Loyal to your post. It’s the designated phrase to describe the reception, sales, and security staff welcoming festival visitors.  Loyal since the foundation of the Rencontres.  At their posts behind their wide wooden crates, punching tickets, or keeping a sensitive eye on the exhibitions surroundings.  Timid, reserved, or voluntarily modest, the staff is also  part of the party.

Not everyone engages.  They’re private, not being too conspicuous, escaping the light. We find the same voluntary modesty at the core of the Festival’s organization.  The coordinator at the center of the administration, Monique Lopez, has repeatedly said, “We prefer shadows to light.” That catchphrase would become philosophy.

Often refusing interviews, Monique Lopez is discreet, preferring to showcase this anonymous crowd then her personal actions. However, she’s always been loyal to her post, twenty-four years managing the reception staff.  Twenty-four years that she summarizes with a simple wish: “to bring a smile, a passion for life, no matter what one’s situation is.”

Legally, the 231 who make up the reception, sales, and security staff at the festival are recruited under state-aided contracts.  Controlled by Pôle-Emploi, many of them are job applicants, seasonal and living in sometimes unstable situations.  Some of them get unemployment, others stack up temporary contracts.  This state-aided contract is for six months of the year. One of them admits to us that it’s “a breath of air as much as it is a springboard”.   The advocacy and prestige of the Rencontres can be beneficial to those interested.  “Many of them find temporary contracts, sometimes permanent contracts,” Monique Lopez emphasizes.  In 2013, for example, reception staff and businesses had met for an Open Job: a platform intended for recruitment, leading to a real success.

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