Interview: Grimaldi Forum Managing Director Sylvie Biancheri

The Grimaldi Forum is Monaco’s largest cultural and congress centre, hosting the Principality’s main events worth in excess of €21.5 million a year. With close to 300,000 people passing through its doors annually, the spin-offs for Monaco are also enormous, amounting to €68 million in 2019 alone.
But the normally bustling halls of the Grimaldi Forum are eerily quiet, and will likely be so for many months to come.
Managing Director Sylvie Biancheri spoke to Monaco Life about how the forum is dealing with the fallout of the Covid-19 crisis.

Grimaldi Forum Managing Director Sylvie Biancheri

Monaco Life: It must be a challenge to keep up with scheduling amid the Covid-19 global crisis. Is it the Grimaldi Forum who determines which events will be cancelled and which ones will be postponed, or is it the organisers who are making these decisions?
Sylvie Biancheri: It depends. If the Grimaldi Forum is acting as the organiser/producer of the event, we have to make the decision of whether to cancel or postpone. This is the case for cultural exhibitions, shows, concerts, etc. If the Grimaldi Forum is acting as the operator/hosting venue, it is then the client/organiser who decides.
What do you estimate to be the number of cancellations so far this year, versus postponements?
For a total of 25 events concerned up to now, 20 events have been postponed and five were cancelled. Many have been postponed until later in 2020, while others have been postponed to 2021.
Has the government imposed any rules with regards to what shows and events may go on and which may not?
Before the lockdown, the government tried to identify a difference between “active” and “passive” events, to be able to determine which ones were likely to be less risky for the population, and try to maintain them. However, since the lockdown, it is clear that we had to cancel all types of events.
Do certain events have priority over others? Do business events have scheduling priority, for example?
Of course, business events have a certain priority, but we really try to “save” all the events. Unfortunately, we regretfully had to cancel our great summer exhibition – ‘Monaco and the automobile, from 1893 to today’. It was set to occupy one of our most successful spaces for three months. We have been able to find other dates to postpone most events, though.
The government has indicated that phase three will involve the opening of public spaces in June (based on the success of the first two phases). Does that include the Grimaldi Forum?
For us, unfortunately, all events until the end of August have been cancelled. In July, we still have in our schedule the Ballets de Monte-Carlo for a broadcast (no audience) and the Monte-Carlo Comedy Film Festival, but it is too early to know if the festival can go ahead. We can only wait and see.
Are you optimistic that things will return to normal by next year?
It is difficult to say. I do hope that the situation will be better at the end of the year, and I have to remain optimistic. But we don’t have any visibility about the possibility of international travel, and this makes the situation complicated for all international events.
What is the first scheduled event you have on the books for re-opening and when is it?
At the moment, besides the events mentioned above in July, the first event scheduled is taking place at the very beginning of September – One to One Retail e-commerce, organised by Comexposium, which was originally planned for mid-March.
What is the post-confinement plan for the forum? What kind of precautions for guests and staff will be imposed to keep everyone safe?
For the staff, everything is already in place, and we can list the following measures:

  • Remote work highly recommended until June 2nd
  • Temperature measurement on arrival
  • Distribution of washable masks, hydroalcoholic gel and wipes (to each collaborator and distributors also available in many spots of the building)
  • Visors for the Control Security Post agents in case of intervention, and workers and technicians on the fieldwork
  • Setting up of plexiglass separators in the open space offices
  • Control of the social distancing (4 sqm as requested by the authorities)
  • Reinforcement of the cleaning and disinfection plans for the premises and equipment, especially in all contact points (rails, handles, desks, elevators buttons…)
  • Compulsory wearing of masks in all common areas of the building and for meetings – also highly recommended in offices for more than one person.

Regarding professional events, we’re still working on this, as many clients have to be advised and monitored to comply with the requirements of the Monegasque authorities.
It is quite difficult and not ready yet, but basically we will target different types of populations and different types of measures, as they face different risks: visitors, exhibitors, suppliers, external staff working in the frame of an event and also different phases in the process – goods deliveries areas, set up, exploitation, dismantling. The risks are different according to the populations and phases of hosting an event.
Written by Casandra Tanti and Stephanie Horsman, photos by Olivia Marocco for the Grimaldi Forum Monaco
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