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Why has France scrapped its most spectacular festival?

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Why has France scrapped its most spectacular festival?
Photo: Région Poitou-Charentes/Flickr
15:49 CEST+02:00
Over ten thousand people have signed petitions after authorities cancelled the largest free festival in France, Roman Nights or Les Nuits Romanes.
Roman Nights - or Les Nuits Romanes in French - is a festival that for over a decade had been showcasing the Roman heritage of western France through spectacular light performances, art, and music - and all after sunset. 
 
The festival saw shows each night between late June and early September across Poitou-Charentes, a region on the Atlantic coast of France.

Photo: Région Poitou-Charentes/Flickr
 
But the 2016 spectacle - which was all prepped and ready to go - has been canned by Alain Rousset, the president of the newly formed super region Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes. 
 
The politician cited financial reasons for the cancellation, explaining that the recent merger of regions in France meant that there were budgetary constraints in the culture department.  
 
(The map above shows how Poitou-Charentes, left, has expanded to become the much larger Aquitaine-Limousin-Poitou-Charentes region.)
 
"We're going to break the bank if we extend the Roman Nights to all the regions," he said, reported Le Figaro newspaper
 
He deemed the cost of around €4 million to be unjustifiable, especially after a "flash audit" of the region earlier this month revealed an "alarming financial situation", the paper reported.
 
Rousset noted that the new region needed to "harmonize its cultural policies" as he confirmed the cancellation.  
 
But the public aren't ready to let go that easily. 
 
An online petition trying to bring back the gig has garnered almost exactly 10,000 signatures at the time of writing. A separate petition has 2,000 more. 
 
Photo: Région Poitou-Charentes/Flickr
 
The first petition - which is on Change.org and is entitled "Hands off our Roman Nights" - explains that the performers had already been chosen and a schedule already prepared.
 
"Ever since 2004 the festival has been a great success, each year attracting more spectators and more tourists," it reads, noting that there has been a growing contingency of Brits at the shows. 
 

Photo: Nuits Romanes/Facebook
 
Last year alone, there were more than 160,000 spectators who headed out for the 250 performances put on by over 500 artists, it added.

Those against the move by Rousset have called on him to "reconsider his hasty decision" and to "take into account the economic interests of the region". 

As it stands, those against the decision will have to wait until next year, when the regional head of culture is looking into hosting a new event, reported the Nouvelle République newspaper. 
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