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  • Writer's pictureLa Nouvelle Orléanaise

L’Astrolabe, "the star factory"

The first time I set foot in L'Astrolabe was on March 23, 2023, and after that first experience, I was amazed at how long it had taken me to do so. I knew of it; I knew that both well-known and emerging artists were performing there. I was just waiting for an opportunity to go there.

It happened thanks to the Lindy Hop and Charleston classes I was taking at the time with the Swing Chap association. Several of us dancers saw that The Harlem Gospel Travelers band was headlining the concert. It was time.

If it was the first time I set foot there, it wasn't the last... Last August, when the organisers of the Hop Pop Hop Festival announced that they were looking for volunteers, especially to conduct interviews, I wanted to be part of it. That's how I was able to experience the two-day festival in a unique way: I interviewed the folk music group Back and Forth and I went to meet the volunteers. 

Later, I had the opportunity to see the soul singer Lee Fields, the blues singer Nick Waterhouse, the folk singer Alela Diane, and Voyou – a rising pop star – which will remain, for me, the most memorable concert of the season. As a big pop fan, I was indeed overwhelmed by the music, the lyrics and the energy of the singer and his musicians.

It is largely thanks to Marion Geffroy, the communication manager at L'Astrolabe, that I owe these moments of joy. She chose to trust me by offering me an accreditation for the Festival; and also, I was able to go backstage at L'Astro, including the dressing rooms, and she introduced her collaborators to me.

In this article, discover both the small and big hands of this dynamic and vibrant place. We will start with an interview with Mathieu Duffaud, in charge of the programming, followed by an interview with volunteers, before concluding with a paragraph dedicated to the history of L'Astro and its future.

Guided tour of L'Astrolabe by Marion Geffroy. She loves to carry out different missions and unearth new talents.

With Mathieu Duffaud

Mathieu Duffaud sitting in the dressing room's famous armchair

LNO: Mathieu, how long have you been working at L'Astrolabe?

Mathieu: From the very beginning! I started doing an internship one month after its inauguration in March 1999 until June 1999, and I have been a programmer since 2004. It's been twenty years!

LNO: How do you choose the artists who perform at L'Astro?

Mathieu: There are several approaches to guide our choices. First, I travel regularly, in France and/or abroad, to attend concerts. It's important to see the artists perform and gauge the audience's reaction. Secondly, our team is in contact with programmers from other venues in the country – this allows us to exchange views on the artists and adapt as best as possible to the tastes of the audience, which evolve from year to year. For example, rap music is becoming more and more important as the seasons go by. Finally, artists, or their tour promoters, can contact us to perform in one of the two rooms of L'Astro. On average, 40% of the artists are from the region, and 60% come from other parts of France and from abroad.

LNO: What's the difference between the two rooms?

Mathieu: The small room can hold up to 220 spectators. It welcomes emerging artists, or artists who have their audience. As for the main hall, it can hold up to 570 people – it is reserved for headliners. For example, we have welcomed artists such as Julien Doré, Angèle, Stromae, Christine and the Queens, Muse, John Butler...

LNO: Since 2016, L'Astrolabe has been exported every year to the heart of the city with the Hop Pop Hop Festival. What was your ambition at the time of its creation? 

Mathieu: Our ambition was to create an emulation in the city centre of Orléans by offering emerging artists in various emblematic places of the city, such as the Campo Santo, the Jardin de l'Evêché or the Salle de l'Institut. Other cities offer urban festivals; Orléans had all the assets to do the same! Each edition requires a lot of preparation. To give you an idea, we have been thinking about the programming of the 2024 edition since last December. You also have to find partners, sponsors, a stage manager, contact graphic designers, security teams, etc. It's a long-term project, the culmination of which is always a moment of great joy for the whole team.

LNO: The Hey Gamins! festival, which is aimed at a younger audience this time, is also being exported outside the walls of L'Astro. In 2023, it took place in Chécy. Is it important for you to promote modern music among young people?

Mathieu: Yes, we carry out a whole cultural action in this direction. We work closely with primary and secondary schools. Music should be accessible to everyone.

Moreover, we are delighted to see that other players in the city are participating in this awareness-raising movement, because the demand is high, and L'Astrolabe cannot centralise everything. However, the impact could be even greater if it wasn't just individual initiatives; the city needs to be more ambitious in its cultural policy.

LNO: To conclude, what aspect of your job do you enjoy the most?

Mathieu: I like to go out there to unearth talent and see how the public welcomes them. It's also very nice to see artists you love perform.

With some volunteers, in the cloakroom

Dominique, Nathalie, Sandie, Simon & Frédérique

LNO: What made you decide to volunteer?

The team: There is this desire to discover different cultures, different music, but also to be helpful while enjoying the concerts. The atmosphere here is incredible! We are a team of about 100 volunteers; there is listening, mutual aid, and benevolence. It takes our minds a little off our daily lives. And the audience is really nice!

LNO: How often do you come to L'Astro? Are you cloakroom attendants?

The team: We come when we are available; this can be regular or occasional. Also, we don't have a dedicated station: we go, according to our desires and needs, from one station to another, whether it's in the cloakroom, the membership office, the bar, or the catering services.

With some volunteers, at the Membership Office

Florine, Elvira & Mohammed

LNO: What exactly is the purpose of the Membership Office?

The team: Here, we sell the membership card. L'Astro subscribers can benefit from advantageous rates for one year, not only at L'Astro, but also at partner concert halls in the region (more info on the website here).

With some volunteers, at the bar

Aline, Julien, Laury & Alexis

LNO: At the bar, you have a ringside seat to enjoy the atmosphere and the concerts. What was the most memorable concert for you?

Julien: I've been a volunteer for ten years... And for me, I'd say it's Yodelice.

Aline: I loved seeing John Butler for the first time in 2006 as a spectator, I loved seeing him as a volunteer last July.

Voyou, Alela Diane, Lee Fields & Nick Waterhouse

Let's take a step back... and look to the future

What is the status of L'Astrolabe?

It is a non-profit association with 15 employees and about 100 volunteers.

Who is at the head of L'Astrolabe?

Frédéric Robbe has been running the structure since 1998, a few months before opening to the public.

Who initiated its creation?

Augustin Cornu, Deputy Minister of Culture at the time of Jean-Pierre Sueur's mandate as Mayor of Orléans, fought to open a room dedicated to modern music. The former Salle du Baron, located above the skating rink, was converted to welsome artists and the public.

What does the term "astrolabe" mean?

The astrolabe was an instrument once used by navigators to measure the position of the stars, the Sun and the planets.

What does the future hold for L'Astrolabe?

In 2027, L'Astro will move very close to the Fleury-les-Aubrais train station; it will be an opportunity to get a makeover and gain in comfort, especially in terms of logistics. The concert venue will be bigger as well, and there will be a rehearsal room.

La Nouvelle-Orléanaise

Practical information 

Address: Bd Jean Jaurès (3rd floor of the ice rink)

45000 Orléans

Phone: (+33) 2 38 54 20 06

Social networks: Instagram, Facebook, Youtube


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