Illusionist in court over village festival held near French World Heritage site

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On Thursday February 5th illusionist Maximilien Veyssière is due in court for having organised a festival in the small village of Asquins, about 220 kilometres south-east of Paris, in September 2014. Asquins is next to the town of Vézelay, where the basilica of St Magdelene and the hill on which the town and church stand are classified as World Heritage sites by UNESCO. It was here in 1146 that Bernard of Clairvaux preached the Second Crusade, and where in 1189 the English king Richard the Lionheart and his French counterpart Philip II – Philip Augustus – met before embarking on the Third Crusade. Veyssière, 30, and his association had made sure they chose an isolated spot in the middle of woods for their festival, at a location several kilometres from the historic heritage hill itself. However the local prefect – state representative – banned the event and when last-minute legal action by the organisers failed to overturn the ban the authorities forcibly evacuated the area, to the disbelief of local people. These local residents, appalled by the disproportionate reaction of the authorities, have now rallied around Maximilien Veyssière, as these photographs and accounts show.

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  1. © Patrick Artinian

    Maximilien Veyssière, 30, illusionist. Veyssière, the treasurer of the association that organised the festival – the 'Frangins Frendleyks' – wanted to continue the festive tradition of villages neighbouring the historic site with a musical and artistic event combining circus, theatre, live music and DJ music. It was in no way intended to be a 'rave party' as some in authority had claimed.

    Veyssière is due to appear in court at Auxerre, north of Vézelay, on February 5th on charges of:

    • Carrying out works on a UNESCO classified site without informing the authorities. (In fact these works consisted of two holes, 2 metres by 1.5 metres and 30 centimetres deep that were intended to be under the dry toilets and which would have been filled in after the event – a practice generally considered to be environmentally sound.)
    • Camping in an area that is classified and protected as a World Heritage site by UNESCO without permission from the prefecture.
    • The organisation of a musical event with amplified music despite a ban by the prefecture.

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