The story of the Festival de la Cité Foundation begins with a motion filed by
socialist City Council Representative Marx Lévy in 1966, which proposed a yearly popular event in the city of
Lausanne. The Association pour la Fête à Lausanne
was created on 21st March 1968, with
the first event taking place over two days on 28th and 29th June 1968.
Its primary purpose was to provide a wide range of
free shows in town, and it was met with great enthusiasm by the public.
Supported by scores of local volunteers, artists, associations and societies, the
Fête de Lausanne grew beyond of its
initial perimeter and took over La Cité, the historic old town of Lausanne as early
as 1969, presenting an ever-wider
array of events on Place de la Cathédrale and Place du Château.
Numerous incidents, often political in nature,
spoilt the first 3 editions. Those were troubled times in Europe; social unrest
prevailed and the turmoil led to the cancellation of the 1971 event. The initial drive behind those uprisings was, among
other things, a perceived lack of access to culture, especially for the
penniless, young people and workers. Several political parties backed the
movement, and a petition was signed by 240 leading figures to protest about the
lack of cultural policy in Lausanne.
Festival de la Cité was born
in this context in 1972, when Gil
Pidoux, a local actor, writer and member of the Association des Amis de la Cité, received the support of the city
council to kickstart a more substantial cultural event on the basis of the
2-day Fête de Lausanne. This new multidisciplinary
festival settled down in La Cité.
The organisers of the Festival de la Cité split away from the Fête de Lausanne in 1983
and founded a separate financial entity. In 2002, it morphed into a private fund, changed its name to the
current Fondation Festival de la Cité,
and initiated a process of professionalisation.
Several figures have left their mark on the Festival,
among whom Jean-Claude Rochat, Géraldine Savary, Silvia Zamora, Olivier
Pavillon and Jacques Bert, the long-standing director of the Festival, who left
office in 2002.
After the 2007 edition, the Festival de la Cité
Foundation Committee decided to restructure its operations. Presided by Georges
Caille, the Committee appointed an artistic and administration director,
Michael Kinzer, who took up his position in September 2008. By 2010,
the Festival de la Cité Lausanne offered
six nights of free cultural merriment, with 15 stages to be found within the historic
district. The 40th edition took place in 2011, and in 2013 a Downtown Prelude (Prélude en ville) was added in
the week running up to the Festival with a series of offbeat and offstage shows
throughout the city. In 2014, the Festival had to reinvent itself as the
construction site for the new Canton de Vaud Parliament drove it out of its
stronghold in the historic district, and successfully resettled in the City in the wider sense.
After two years, the challenge became an
opportunity to reach out to people in different neighbourhoods and a chance to invite audiences to discover or rediscover
the city of Lausanne via sociable artistic events occurring in unexpected
different events (on-location creations and installations, shows, setups
and concerts) adding up to a total of 160
performances will take place in 2016, in more than 20 often-unprecedented locations, scattered throughout Lausanne and beyond.