France’s Civil Unrest Hits Drama Festival Series Mania Amid Riots and Rail Strikes

Civil unrest in France is hitting drama event Series Mania as transit strikes and protests begin to impact festival goers.

The popular European drama festival is held annually in Lille in northern France, and has this year drawn its largest number of delegates to date. But the event’s usually tranquil city setting has taken an unexpected turn amid national turmoil in France due to President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial pension reform.

Macron’s government is raising the minimum retirement age in France from 62 to 64 years, and prolonging the years of contributions required for a full pension. The reforms were passed last week without a parliamentary vote, prompting widespread protests around the country that have only built upon months of hostilities and strikes by groups such as rail and waste disposal workers.

Protests in major French cities such as Paris, Bordeaux, Marseille, Lyon and Lille intensified this week after the government survived two no-confidence votes.

In Lille, protestors on Tuesday tried to storm the red carpet of a Series Mania festival event, and needed to be pushed back by security forces. Anti-riot police were photographed rushing onto the scene to aid security.

Meanwhile, festival goers out on Tuesday evening to celebrate the first day of the industry-facing Series Mania Forum encountered riots in the old town. Variety understands some delegates had tear gas rolled in front of them, and also witnessed fires set on the street. Video footage of the evening seen by Variety shows riot police in the area en masse amid protesters, sporadically firing clouds of tear gas.

Elsewhere, crippling transit strikes are also impacting attendees. Some delegates booked to leave Lille for London via train on Thursday night, which is the final day of the Forum, received alerts from Channel Tunnel rail operator Eurostar on Tuesday notifying them of canceled train services due to mass strikes that are set to take place across France on Thursday.

Eurostar updated passengers about the strike action on its website, noting that the general strike “will involve disruption across multiple sectors, including national rail services and it will have an impact on the availability of some of our crew.” A schedule of canceled train services is available on its website.

France’s state-owned rail service SNCF has also warned of extensive disruptions to train travel on Thursday, which could affect delegates traveling from Lille to other parts of France, or those traveling to Paris to catch flights.

Series Mania kicked off on March 17 and will conclude on March 24. This year’s high-profile guests include “Westworld” showrunner Lisa Joy and “Desperate Housewives” star Marcia Cross, who took part in a well-attended masterclass on Tuesday.

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