Dear Regional President Xavier Bertrand,

Dear Alain Gest, President of Amiens Métropole,

Dear Laurent Somon,

Mayor, dear Brigitte Fouré

Ladies and gentlemen elected,

Dear Thierry Kirscher, President of the Maison de la Culture

Dear Gilbert Fillinger, Director

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

First, there is the obvious. That 50 years have passed and that the words of André Malraux, spoken on the same desk, as visionary as they are passionate, are still very topical.

That the issue of civilization that he described on March 19, 1966, seven years after his appointment as Minister of Cultural Affairs in the government of Michel Debré, this place claimed for art, as close as possible to the citizens, must continue to structure our action.

More than ever the speech of André Malraux calls us, obliges us.

More than ever, culture is our urgency, it is a factor of individual emancipation and social cohesion and, I would even say, dear Xavier Bertrand, of national union. It is open to the other; it is the leaven of democracy; it calls us to hear new languages, those to which artists invite us, in their diversity and through their singular regard for the world.

This house of culture was built 50 years after the Battle of the Somme. The centenary of this tragic hour of our history makes us still today to measure how much the wager of the houses of culture was part of a profound and structuring response against barbarism, a response forged by the children of those who fell into the mud and inhumanity believed to be the deepest and yet was to be followed by Nazi horror.

We must be proud to continue this fight for culture, after the terrible events we experienced in 2015, at a time when we must find solidarity to respond to the crisis of meaning we are going through, at a time when, everywhere, in Picardy as in Europe, we are looking for a new breath.

Creation – whether it is theatre, dance, music, contemporary art, the art of gardens – challenges intolerances, simplifying discourses, rejection of others. It is the learning of otherness, the leaven that binds men and women together. Beyond the emotion it arouses, the entertainment it can provide, it questions our certainties and upsets us in our conventions.

What better example of this openness to the world than the presence of Tim Yip and his parallel worlds. This Chinese artist creates without worrying about the boundaries between cinema costume, sculpture or even design. It places this magnificent exhibition in the history of this territory, echoing the nearby cathedral and the cemeteries of the battlefields and that of Nolette, Europe’s largest Chinese cemetery where workers and fighters of the First World War lie.

I come to share this anniversary between the first and second reading in Parliament of a law that enshrines freedom of creation but also of broadcasting and programming. Beyond the principles, the recognition of this fundamental freedom can only be meaningful with the means to exist fully, that is, with financial means.

That is why the budget of the Ministry of Culture and Communication was increased by 2.7% in 2016, after having been called upon to restore public finances. I must say that this is nothing new: Malraux was complaining about the Inspectorate of Finance, which has gutted its development plan for the Houses of Culture, and already Jean Zay, the great inspiration of our cultural policies, Had no harsh words in his writings in captivity for those who held the public finances in too tight a hand. Here too, culture is an eternal struggle.

Thanks to the decisions of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, in 2016 there will be an additional eight million euros devoted to companies and young creation through various mechanisms whose outlines I will specify very soon.

The ministry continues to build new theatres with the help of local communities that continue and extend this ambition. Last November, the grand theatre of Sénart was inaugurated. Next Thursday, I will be in Clermont-Ferrand on the site of the new national stage under construction.

I shall also see to it that the conditions of employment and social protection are guaranteed for artists and performance technicians. The system of intermittents before being the issue of social accounts, is the keystone of our creation model. You can count on my commitment.

These houses of culture were the crucible of contemporary creation and their encounter with the greatest number. Le Havre, Bourges, Amiens, Grenoble, Bobigny, Chalon-sur-Saône, Chambéry, Créteil, the eight that make up the first story, describe a map of France where a fierce optimism and a real sense of concrete are combined. From the very beginning, they were convinced that culture could contribute to changing the world, but that it had to do so with the right tools.

Gabriel Monnet, Bourges' first director, said: The Moffspring of the CCulture must be a machine to open hearts, eyes and ears in order to renew human relationships”.

True to the original spirit of the Houses of Culture, Amiens is that of artists of all stripes, crossing the living show, cinema, contemporary art exhibitions, jazz: let us not forget that we are also celebrating the 30th anniversary of Label bleu! This label that gives us to hear the universalism of Rokia Traoré, the fusion Klezmer and joyful of David Krakauer, the Kora of Ballaké Sissoko gives us to live a music of the world mixed and powerful.

These houses are meeting places. And as you know, meetings don’t happen. They don’t happen. They are the fruit of a constant work developed by the women and men who have carried these institutions, who have experimented with new ways of accompanying artists and of allowing everyone to understand that the territories of art were also theirs.

This is why I want to pay a strong tribute to the directors who have succeeded each other at the head of this house: Jean-Claude and Bernard Marrey, Philippe Tiry, Dominique Quéhec, Jean Marie Lhôte, Michel Orier, Jacques Pornon and Gilbert Fillinger. Through them, of course, I also think of all the teams who have worked over the years to make this house a success in the light of the stages or in the shadows.

Here in Amiens, it is the first time that a city and the State have built together a House of Culture. For 50 years, nothing would have been possible without a patient partnership between the State, local authorities – here, the Metropolis of Amiens is the first public partner – and the entire professional world.

That is the strength of our model. Let us not let it deteriorate. As soon as I arrived at the Ministry, I convened the Council of Local Authorities for the Development of Culture. I want to emphasize here once again how essential this collaboration between the State and the local authorities is for me.

A strong state, sometimes called a guarantor or an arbitrator, but a state that listens, is responsible and a partner.

I say this in a region that has invested a lot in culture, which knows more about all the issues than elsewhere. A region that supports, today and will support even more tomorrow, I hope, this network of cultural institutions of production and dissemination so essential, starting with the 8 national scenes of Nord-Pas de Calais-Picardie, of which the House of Culture of Amiens is part. Across France, the 72 national stages gather three million spectators each season, a quarter of whom are children and adolescents. Amiens is well placed with its 100,000 annual spectators. Under the direction of Gilbert Fillinger, she continues the story forged with Ariane Mnouchkine, Patrice Chéreau, Jean-Pierre Vincent and Antoine Vitez to name a few.

Today, the Maison de la Culture is opening up new avenues. It is being transformed into a European centre of creation and production – and in this opens the borders that others close. I salute his collaboration with the Tehran Filter Gardens Festival. It also wants to go beyond its walls to invest in public space and participate in social debates, closer to the inhabitants.

Tomorrow new generations of artists, citizens will invest it. Hence the fundamental role of arts education, in school time and in that liberated by the new rhythms. The importance of the network of libraries that the State will in 2016 financially help to open on Sundays for cities that will engage in this process. The network of conservatories, where professionals and amateurs are trained, which the State reinvests after moving away from it.

It is with this dense and ambitious network that we can, together, create the conditions for this the deepest metamorphosis of the human being ” which André Malraux summoned.

Thank you.