With the death of Augustin Girard on 9th July, the cultural policy research and statistical field lost one of its most respected and influential figures. Augustin spent some 30 years of his professional life in the French Ministry of Culture, serving under France's two most celebrated Ministers, starting in the early 1960s under Andre Malraux and retiring in 1991 near the end of Jack Lang's second spell in office.
As a teenager in occupied France during the 2nd World War, Augustin was to play a part in his family's distinguished and tragic role in the French Resistance. His academic career in the Post War years included studies in the USA and the UK, and perhaps as a result he was to become an Anglofile for the rest of his life, while remaining resolutely French in so many ways.
As creator and head of the DEP (Departement des etudes et de la prospective), Augustin was to preside over the largest dedicated cultural policy research unit in Western Europe. He was, as he told Christopher Gordon, "intoxicated with figures" and, no doubt, would have found political interference in the way data was presented very unpalatable. While a loyal civil servant, he was certainly no chauvinist. I well recall the time the Arts Council of Great Britain organised an international conference in London in 1987, when I asked him to speak on the advantages of the ministry of culture model. In the event, he was to be as open and honest about the disadvantages as he was on the merits. As he said at the time, the model was less important the political will.
Augustin contributed to the methodology for cultural policy development for both the Council of Europe (i.e. the Cultural Policy Review programme, in which he chaired the expert group evaluation of cultural policy in Italy among other things) and UNESCO (for whom he produced one of the early texts on cultural policy - "Cultural Development: Experiences and Policies" in 1972).
After he retired in 1991, Augustin was appointed to chair the Comite d'histoire du Ministere, which researched and published interesting books on several culture ministers (surely only the French would conceive such an initiative!).
The tribute to him in Le Figaro (11th July 2009) noted that he was one of the most important individuals in cultural life in France, yet it does not mention that he was also influential in and beyond Europe. Moreover, it is the respect in which many of his peers and younger generations held him that is especially noteworthy. Ever the gentleman, he was generous with his time as mentor to younger researchers (see for example the dedication in the late Mark Schuster's 2002 book "Informing Cultural Policy"). I was to experience at first hand his generosity of spirit through my regular engagement with him in the evolution of the CIRCLE network in the 1980s. At Augustin's invitation, I spent a week or so in the DEP in 1989 researching French cultural policy and cultural infrastructure for the first "Performing Arts Yearbook for Europe"), when he put the Departement's resources at my disposal. I will not be alone in counting myself fortunate to have known him.
France Compendium Profile
Testimonies from the French Comité d'histoire