At the Lavoir Moderne Parisien, the Graines de Soleil company on borrowed time

Installed in the popular district of the Goutte d’Or, the troop is summoned by the city of Paris to leave this theater. She intends to resist this injunction and launches a petition with the support of personalities like Annie Ernaux or Ariane Mnouchkine.

At the heart of the Goutte d’Or, the popular district of the 18th arrondissement of Paris, Graines de Soleil, the company that occupies the Lavoir Moderne Parisien, is threatened with eviction. But the association of actors, owner of the commercial lease since 2014, decided to fight. The troupe launched a petition to stay within the walls of 35, rue Léon.

Among their supporters, two weight signatures: Annie Ernaux, Nobel Prize for Literature 2022 and Ariane Mnouchkine. For the first, it is a “essential support for a theater which has been a place of culture for thirty years and which was the first to host the Festival for women”.

The small theater has taken up residence in a former washhouse, described by Emile Zola in The stunner. In the 1960s, the place was transformed into a performance hall and became a must both thanks to its programming and its local presence. However, the Lavoir Moderne Parisien has seen its existence regularly threatened since 2008. This time, it is not the theater that is targeted but the company that occupies it.

In 2014, the company Graines de Soleil took over the commercial lease. Legba, the Luxembourg company that owns the walls, gives notice to the company to force them to leave the premises. A petition is launched and artists are mobilizing to save the Lavoir Moderne Parisien theater.

A legal mess

According to Philippe Péricaud, lawyer for Graines de Soleil, “to save the theatre, the city of Paris intervenes and forces the Luxembourg company to sell. This allows him to pre-empt the premises. Thus, in 2020 the town hall bought the lot: namely 35 and 37, rue Léon. And the management of the lease is entrusted to Habitat Social Français (HSF), a subsidiary of the property management of the City of Paris (RIVP).

The story could have ended there. Until the town hall remembers the necessary “equal treatment between Parisian cultural actors”. In other words, Graines de Soleil must defend its pre-square against other companies. “It does not make sense, gets carried away Philippe Péricaud. This only applies if the premises are vacant.However, at 35, rue Léon this is not the case. To push Graines de Soleil to agree to sell the commercial lease, “the town hall told them orally that the competition would be done on the sly and that they would be selected”adds the lawyer.

Suspicious, the company categorically refuses to let go of its lease. The legal procedure, which the troupe thought buried, is relaunched. And the expulsion of Seeds of Sun put back on the table.

An illegal occupation?

On the lessor’s side, the discourse is not quite the same. According to the general manager of HSF, Stanislas Degroote “we inherited the eviction procedure”. He adds that the lessor never wanted to make the company leave, but that the occupation is illegal. Jean-Michel Trouvin, lawyer for HSF, drives the point home: “The lease is invalid. They bought something that doesn’t exist!The HSF boss insists: “There is no question of making the Lavoir Moderne Parisien anything other than a theatre.” And this, regardless of the company.

Julien Favart, co-director of the company, describes as for him, “a form of abuse, the town hall was behind us and since the preemption, it has changed its tune”. Apart from the PS, at the head of the Paris council, all the political parties, from the Communists to the Republicans, support the maintenance of Graines de Soleil in the theater of the Lavoir Moderne Parisien.

A catastrophic legal situation

Contacted, the town hall takes shelter behind HSF and RIVP. “We do not have to intercede in this dispute, for which both parties have chosen the legal route.“, she limits herself to indicating.

The company, based at the Lavoir Moderne Parisien, can count on numerous support from artists and the attachment of the inhabitants of the district. This does not move the lessor at all. “The legal situation of this association is catastrophic, believes Jean-Michel Trouvin. And then we forget something that is important: no one has ever paid HSF a single cent in rent”.

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