by Rory Mulholland, The Telegraph, November 17, 2017
France is to launch an annual lottery to help fund the preservation of its crumbling cultural heritage, but will not emulate Britain by charging for entry to its churches and cathedrals, Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen has said.
"We've been talking about the lottery for years so now we're doing it,” she said as she unveiled her strategy to maintain or restore France’s vast network of heritage sites over the coming years.
The new lottery, which will be combined with the launch of a new scratchcard whose proceeds will also go into the heritage budget, will be launched in 2018, probably to coincide with European Heritage Days.
The minister said that state spending on heritage would rise by five percent next year, with €15 million earmarked for smaller sites in villages with fewer than 2,000 inhabitants.
The small spending increase is unlikely to placate critics who point out that overall heritage spending is pitifully low, having fallen by 40 per cent since 2010 to under €400 million a year.
An estimated 600 of the country’s 35,000 châteaux are falling into ruin, as are thousands of other sites. Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, for instance, needs a renovation estimated at €150 million.
The government has contributed barely €2 million.
Ms Nyssen said that the new lottery would likely bring in around €20 million a year, and acknowledged that this money combined with the small increase in state spending was not the perfect answer to the problem.
But she insisted that government spending was “realistic” given the poor health of state coffers, and promised that spending would be maintained at this level over the next four and a half years of President Emmanuel Macron’s mandate.
One idea she ruled out for the time being was to charge people to get into places such as Notre-Dame.
This was a proposal made by Stéphane Bern, a TV presenter who specialises in heritage and royalty, who was recently tasked by President Macron to find funds to prevent French cultural and historical sites from falling into disrepair.
“In London, the entrance fee for Westminster Abbey is €24!,” he pointed out earlier this week, drawing the wrath of many who saw the idea as sacrilegious and brutally capitalistic.