The cultural life and identity of Béthune appears to be dwindling. In this post-industrial city in northern France, industries that once brought wealth and vitality have failed or reached their useful end.
Once-migrant workers remain, trying to make a living in a place that can no longer provide the economic or social support they need. The relatively young population suffers from high levels of unemployment and many live in poverty.
What happens to individual and community identity when an established way of life becomes unviable?
La Comédie de Béthune will rent worker’s houses or apartments in three areas of the city – the conurbations of Béthune, Bruay-la-Buissière and Lillers – and offer them as temporary homes for artists.
The artists will work in a variety of forms to create projects that explore space and place. They will create links across communities and widen communication channels that have become destructively narrow.
As one of 38 national dramatic centres in France, La Comédie de Béthune is a regional and national reference point for creating and producing theatre. Its mission is to reach a broad audience and engage new people in theatre. It also plays a key role in preserving traditional theatre jobs and training.
Since 1994, the theatre has been a driving force in a ‘theatre decentralisation project’, collaborating with local authorities to present performances in local towns. It also brings theatre into schools and runs participatory projects that bring artists and the public together.
Cécile Backès was appointed director in 2014 and has focused the theatre’s work on new writing, creating a strong local artistic presence in communities, and putting young people at the heart of everything it does.
Funders and supporters
The programme in Béthune is supported by the Region Hauts-de-France support SIA Habitat and Maisons & Cités – Hauts-de-France social landlords partnership City of Béthune, City of Lillers and City of Bruay-la-Bruissière.