French Festival Promoter Wins Appeal

After three years of keeping his lips sealed, Jacques Launay has finally spoken out over his sudden departure from France’s Jazz A Vienne festival.

A week after the Court of Appeal in Grenoble awarded him more than euro 100,000 in costs and damages and ruled that his dismissal was “groundless,” Launay told Pollstar about the three years he spent waiting for relief.

When he quit as festival head in September 2003, it was said to have been over a showdown he’d had with the controlling organization about the way the event should be developed.

Although Launay and Vienne Action Culturelle, the nonprofit body that owns Jazz A Vienne, had differing visions of the festival’s future, it’s now emerged that the real reason given for his sacking was “malpractice and embezzlement.”

As he was setting up his own Bel Air Productions, a company that would allow him to be “more flexible and open to new experiences and collaborations,” he seemed to confirm the row with Vienne Action Culturelle by telling Pollstar, “I gave the organisation three demands and they said no to all of them, and so I decided I would be better to leave.”

However, a week after the Grenoble court’s September 25th ruling, he finally spoke out.

“For the first time in three years I feel free to communicate on the subject, which has been extremely detrimental to my family and to myself,” Launay said. “Having been accused of malpractice and embezzlement and after having both my personal and professional reputations extremely tarnished, it is first with extreme relief and then a great feeling of comfort that I welcome the news of the judgment.”

Having spent so long running the festival, which has headline acts playing in a 7,500-capacity Roman amphitheatre, Launay said he felt his dismissal had been “carried out in an absolutely scandalous manner and for absolutely false reasons.”

During his time in charge, R.E.M., Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Morcheeba, Iggy Pop, Joe Cocker, and Sting were among the acts he booked.

He said he kept quiet about the real reasons behind the sacking because, at the time, it would only have been his word against the word of Vienne Action Culturelle, and he needed to concentrate on getting his Bel Air Productions off the ground.

“There was no need to say anything because most of the French live music industry knew the truth,” he explained.

He’s since released a statement that says, “I wish above all to thank all those that have supported me during this ordeal: my family, my friends, as well as all the professionals who have continued to have confidence in me and my professional competence, and have helped me continue to support my family with dignity by the creation and development of my own production company.”

Launay is currently organizing the huge French delegation that will attend the 36th annual gathering of the International Association for Jazz Education in New York in January.

At press time, it wasn’t possible to get comment on whether Jazz A Vienne intends to appeal the Grenoble court’s decision.

On October 1st, commercial director Alexandre Von Arx and PR director Frédéric Viallet left Jazz A Vienne to create an event department for the Terre de Sienne communications company.

– John Gammon