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Life in Culebrón is a disconnected series of pieces about the banal and ordinary of everyday life in an inland Alicante village seen from my very British perspective.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Fira i festes

Every year, in Pinoso, we have fiestas the first days of August - a mixture of events, a funfair, stalls, parades, taunting young bullocks and temporary discos. It goes on for eight or nine days.

Last night was the official opening of the 2015 edition. There is a new councillor in charge of the organisation after the elections back in May. It's still the same party in power but the councillor with the responsibility for the fiestas has changed from Eli to César. The programme, the remarkably glossy, 90 plus page long programme was very late out, just two days before kick off and that caused a bit of grumbling.

When we first got to Pinoso the pregonero or pregonera, the person who makes a speech and then officially opens the fiestas, used to deliver their opening address from the balcony of the Town Hall. It's the usual routine for the majority of the small towns and villages acrosss Spain. It's the obvious thing to do. Flanked by the mayor, appropriate councillors the carnival queens and their ladies in waiting bedecked in traditional dress.

When the Socialists were elected the format changed drastically. It's quite possible that I have misremembered some of the detail but only the detail; they moved the area for the principal participants from the balcony to the square in front of the town hall. There was a stage but it was only enough to raise the great and good high enough so they could be seen - more dais than stage. There was a big TV screen and the town press office made a promotional video about the fiestas and another which was used to introduce the Pregonero/a before they made their speech. Much more was made of the personalities of the carnival queens and their court - each one walked into the square to stirring music through a corridor of past carnival queens, members of the fiestas committee and other notable locals. When the speeches were over the whole lot trooped off to church for a quick service before turning on the festival lights supported by the town band or maybe other musicians. Firework display next and then off to the municipal garden to see the folk dancing always with invited dancers alongside the home grown talent.

That moving the event to street level, the use of things and people the town already had - like the TV production facilities - seemed symbolic to me. There were other things that first socialist time which were much more community based - working on the idea of participation rather than presentation - or at least based on the Ernie Rutherford principal of we have no money so now we'll have to think. There were lots of other things that first year which were cheap and cheerful like classic cars and vermouth sessions or where the free option disappeared be that the entrance fees for the "pop" concerts or the replacement of the free beer and paella with a paella competition and bring your own picnic.

Whiilst they have been in power one of the noticeable things about the first term of the administration was its prettying up of the town. New or remodelled gardens and play areas, a new cultural centre, a new museum, the renovation of at least one typical town house, development of a town walk, improvements to streets and roads and more. Their critics say that's all they have done. I like most of the changes. Anyway one of the projects was to make the car park alongside the Town Hall much smarter with fountains, a clock, lots of local marble and a big mural on the side of adjoining buildings. Last night, for the opening, the venue was that car park with a high, maybe two metre high, stage as the focus of attention.

The carnival queens were introduced but they walked to the stage without the corridor of people. They were joined on stage by César, the Mayor and the Pregón. There were two big screens this time and the Pregón wore a microphone headset so he could move around as he spoke. Church, lights and then another innovation with the firework display launched from the rooves of a couple of buildings that flanked the car park. The folk dancing was on the same stage rather than in the garden.

It was all very good, I liked it but I wondered too if it were a reflection of what's happening in Spain. For that first administration things looked bad. The Town Hall was in debt, income had fallen and the result was a, probably, less flashy but, for me, much more rooted event. There's a sense that things are improving, that money is starting to flow again. That two metre high stage changed the townsfolk from participants to audience.

We shall see how it all pans out. Oh, and the title is Valenciano for Fair and Fiesta

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