Crowdfunding saves crumbling French chateau

An aerial view of the 19th-century chateau de La Mothe-Chandeniers, which is now owned by around 25,000 people from 115 countries through a crowndfunding aimed to buy and restore the structure. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2017
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Crowdfunding saves crumbling French chateau

POITIERS, France: It’s a modern story of an ancient fairytale castle: a crowdfunding effort online has raised €1.6 million (SR7.12 million) to restore a chateau in western France.
Around 25,000 people from 115 countries have become shareholders in the chateau de La Mothe-Chandeniers which has turrets, a moat and an elderly owner who had not maintained it.
The 19th-century building has fallen into disrepair with trees and vegetation sprouting out of its roof and windows, raising fears that it might be knocked down and redeveloped by property developers.
Thanks to a joint effort by online fundraising site Dartagnans.fr and a local association Adopte un Chateau (Adopt a Chateau), sufficient money has been raised to buy and restore the structure.
“It’s a record in France and probably in Europe in terms of the amount raised and the number of contributors,” the head of Dartagnans, Romain Delaume, said on Tuesday.
The website offered buyers the chance to become shareholders in the castle at the cost of €51: €50 as a donation for the restoration work and one euro to buy a share in a joint company set up to manage the site.
Organizers initially hoped for around 10,000 people, but thanks partly to reports in the French media the final number of donors came in at just under 19,000.
Many of them bought shareholdings for friends and family as presents, meaning that the total number of owners of the chateau will be around 25,000.
Most of them are from France, but people from as far afield as Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and Peru now have a small slice of history in the French countryside near the wine-growing Loire valley.
“Bravo for this initiative both collective and private,” wrote the aristocratic speaker of France’s parliament, Francois de Rugy, on Twitter. “France’s historic buildings need a diverse range of ideas to be saved and developed.”
The current chateau de La Mothe-Chandeniers dates back to the 19th century but the site has been home to a castle since at least the 13th century.
It was pillaged after the French Revolution in 1789 and heavily damaged in a fire in 1932 before being bought by its current owner, an 82-year-old local man, in 1982.
A thorough survey will be undertaken in the next few weeks to check the scale of the damage to the structure and the site will then be secured pending the start of restoration work.
Various ideas have been floated for the future from turning it into a “collaborative and creative laboratory,” somewhere for artists to work, or a bed-and-breakfast holiday destination.
Getting all the shareholders to agree might be a challenge.
They will be invited for a visit “as soon as possible in 2018,” said Delaume, and will be asked to take part in the restoration work.
He also stressed that not all of the building can be returned to its former glory because a complete overhaul has been estimated to cost at least €3 million.
Another round of fundraising in the future has not been excluded.


Weinstein in search of a lawyer as trial approaches

Updated 12 min 55 sec ago
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Weinstein in search of a lawyer as trial approaches

  • He is accused of harassment by more than 80 women
  • Weinstein’s first lawyer withdrew from the case in January

NEW YORK: The main lawyer for Harvey Weinstein has asked a judge to be removed from the case, leaving the disgraced movie mogul without counsel as his sexual assault trial approaches in September.
Weinstein has been charged over the alleged assaults of two women — a rape in 2013 and an incident of forced oral sex in 2006. He faces life in prison if convicted, and is also accused of sexual misconduct with dozens of other women.
Weinstein’s first lawyer, Benjamin Braufman, withdrew in January after which Weinstein hired two other high-profile attorneys, Ronald Sullivan and Jose Baez.
Sullivan, who also teaches at Harvard, pulled out in May after coming under fierce criticism on campus for defending the man seen as giving rise to the #MeToo movement.
Once one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, Weinstein has been accused of harassment and assault by more than 80 women, including stars such as Angelina Jolie and Ashley Judd.
Then last week Baez asked to withdraw from the case, New York news outlets reported. He did so in a letter to State Supreme Court Justice James Burke, who is overseeing the case.
“First, Mr. Weinstein has engaged in behavior that makes this representation unreasonably difficult to carry out effectively and has insisted upon taking actions with which I have fundamental disagreements,” Baez wrote.
“For example, he has engaged outside counsel to communicate with myself and my co-counsel and has decided to have another attorney threaten legal action against this firm,” Baez said, adding that since May 15 or earlier Weinstein has known that Baez probably could not stay with the case.
Neither Baez, nor a spokesman for Weinstein nor the Manhattan prosecutor’s office responded to AFP’s requests for comment.
No hearing is scheduled until September 9, when jury selection is scheduled to begin in a trial that promises to be a media sensation.
It is not clear if the trial might be postponed because of Weinstein’s lawyer problems.