As Lockdown Ends, Monaco Heads To The Balcony One Last Time

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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

As Lockdown Ends, Monaco Heads To The Balcony One Last Time

Well Monaco, you’ve done it. After 49 days of confinement, from tomorrow, you are free to roam outside your home for as long as you wish and without purpose.

Seems like it was just yesterday when we had a collective meltdown with the news that the lockdown was being extended by another three weeks until May 4. But you pulled through.

It’s been quite a ride, hasn’t it? Over seven weeks we have shared from a social distance our fears and freak-outs and our opinions on wearing a mask or a bra. We have laughed at our expanding waistlines and make-do hairstyles. We have admitted that we didn’t use the time to learn a new language and that alcohol consumption was on the rise.

Yet it was hope that kept our community threaded throughout this period of isolation. A solidarity to help us get over the hurdles of distress and mental health challenges as we adapted to a life less-liberated was demonstrated in various ways across the country, beyond the absolute appreciation for our healthcare workers.

The Association Les Anges Gardiens de Monaco set up a Food Crossing in Place des Moulins where people could leave or take items.

To keep residents connected and engaged in dialogue, TEDxMonteCarlo hosted three free virtual salons with the themes of Community and Wellbeing, Education in a World of Confinement and Our Economy.

Thirty-four-year old Antoine Bahri created a Carlo gift card to support local businesses post-confinement, and for the month of May, the government will add 10% of the value to the card as an extra incentive to shop and get the economy rolling.

Marco Orsini, president of Monaco-based non-profit International Emerging Film Talent Association (IEFTA), has provided much-needed entertainment with his short clips on life in lockdown in Monaco.

On Facebook, Monaco Moms have been unrelenting in their support for each other while Ben Rolfe, Head of Special Situations Sales at Tavira Monaco SAM, just wrapped up an Unofficial Eurovision Competition. Julia Simon Moraly created the group “Aides pour les résidents à Monaco pendant le confinement” to get locals to help each other out during isolation.

And then there is Martine Ackermann, who for 48 consecutive evenings at 7 p.m. has been leading Monaco tous au balcon on Facebook Live, singing the national anthem of Monaco as well as one of the 140 other nations that make up the Principality’s population “to show we are all united.”

With neighbors near and far encouraged to step out on their balconies as a sign of solidarity, Ackermann managed to represent 46 (she was rained out twice) different cultures and raised money to buy survival food kits, enough provision for a month, for 100 families in India.

Ackermann tells Forbes Monaco she spent two to three hours a day researching the country she would represent—“ I learned a lot about Armenia and Iran”—and received requests from residents and people across the globe to perform their anthem. “In New Zealand, they followed me Live and the Dutch Embassy even wrote to me.”

The President of the Association des Parents d’Eleves de Monaco (the equivalent of the PTA), confesses there were “maybe three of four days when I really wasn’t motivated” but there was never a question of not doing it because her ultimate goal was to provide a dash of cheer to others.

“If I was three minutes late, I’d receive a message.” She says her neighbors waited on their balconies every evening, including Didier Casnati from the Gypsy Queens who would have his guitar and sing two songs every night after her performance.

She never one used the words coronavirus or Covid-19 but every time thanked “all the medical staff and everyone who continued to work for us and make our confinement less painful—the cashiers, street sweepers, delivery drivers, pharmacist, cleaners and so on.”

As she prepares for her final Tous au Balcon performance, Ackermann admits, “I’m rather sad to stop. My different characters each evening have allowed me to escape and travel.”

By 9 this morning, Ackermann, who is also president of Child Care Monaco, a non-profit that helps build girls’ schools in India, says she had received 42 messages of thanks from the community.

The best way we can express our gratitude, not just to Martine Ackermann but to everyone who has helped contribute in keeping our sanity intact since March 17, is to head out onto our balconies en masse tonight at 7 p.m. and sing one last time.

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Nancy Heslin   Forbes Monaco

Nancy Heslin is an established journalist and lifestyle writer. She has been the Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Monaco magazine (bimonthly in English) , since the magazine's 2nd issue . Launched in November 2018, Forbes Monaco is part of the Forbes family, with its 7 million readers and 71 million monthly website visitors worldwide.