Do you like castells? Would you like to know how a castells colla (group) is set? How about taking part on a guided tour that would take you round the main castells sceneries in Tarragona from the very origin? A brand new edition of the “Tarragona, Ciutat de Castells” festival is back –until 2 October, when “Concurs de Castells de Tarragona” competition (aka “Biennal de Castells”) takes place–. This a pioneering idea born back in 2013 with the intention of getting the city known on an international level –making the world of castells more accessible to those citizens and tourists not belonging to a local colla–, but also capitalizing one of the main cultural and tradition-related appeals of our country: castells, declared Intangible Heritage of Humanity.
The 2 most successful activities –performances on Wednesdays and guided tours into the colles’ premises– will once again become the main attraction of this 2016 official programme. Thus, on every Wednesday of July, August and September, users will have the opportunity to admire single performances by the 4 main local colles: Xiquets de Tarragona, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, Xiquets del Serrallo and Castellers de Sant Pere i Sant Pau. The events will take place at 20h, in Pla de la Seu or Plaça de les Cols, just opposite the Cathedral.
In the same way, Tuesday evenings will provide those willing to know even more about this activity exciting guided tours into the premises of both Xiquets de Taragona and Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona during their rehearsal sessions, but also to the main castells-related spots in the city. All guided tours will start at 20h and will last 2 hours.
Joan Sala is one of the best well-known faces within the Colla de Castellers Xiquets de Tarragona, for which he’s been both “cap de colla” and president. Joan, as you’ll get to see on this post, is an active militant of the Part Alta, the place where he lives and what has become a sort of micro cosmos of his personal life for years. No wonder his three pictures for the #lamevatarragona project, that is, his most personal and intimate Tarragona, were all taken within the walls.
His first photograph shows what can be considered as the sancta santorum for castells in the city. “I’ve chosen Plaça de les Cols because, for Tarragona citizens, performing in this square for Sant Magí festivity is a true honour, as this is spot with 200 years of history. Performing here doesn’t just mean today’s castells world, but something our ancestors also did. Besides, it has that bit of magic only a few other squares in Catalonia provide. For every casteller in Tarragona it is a true honour being able to perform here, and for Xiquets de Tarragona in particular, after years and years, it provides one of the best experiences throughout the year”.
Just a few metres from Plaça de les Cols, we find Plaça del Fòrum, the second spot pictured by Joan Sala. “I’ve picked Plaça del Fòrum because my parents live just some 200 metres from here, and I live just 50 metres away. I remember, as a child, spending the whole summer playing in this square next to some two-thousand-year stones. The place has changed immensely in the last few years. To me, this square has always been a sort of Plaça de la Font young sister, and it has been slowly discovered by locals and tourists. I particularly like siting and watching people walk by in the summer, with tourists on kind of typical route: from the Cathedral to Plaça del Rei. In my case, I think it’s a question of both personal and city pride, for what I reckon Plaça del Fòrum perfectly represents this blend, this symbiosis”.
The third photo provided by Joan shows the so-called Volta del Circ Romà. “To me, this is a familiar thing. I come here very often with my daughters, who are completely addicted to the Voltes and the whole question of Tarraco. Places like this, once you’ve had the chance to travel around the world, make it easier to fall in love with Tarragona. Every local should really visit the place, as it is a truly amazing experience. The boards tell us about the activity within the Circus and the way everything was back then, which provides a romantic charm. I personally love it”.
As the perfect cherry on the cake, we decide to stay within the Part Alta with Joan Sala and meet him in what it could be considered as his second home: the premises of the Xiquets de Tarragona, in Santa Anna street. “This is my team, the matalassers, and it has been for the last 21 years. Xiquets de Tarragona, heir of the whole Tarragona castells tradition, heirs of those that had preceded them. I think that being a casteller of Xiquets de Tarragona is about your lifestyle. My entire life moves around the Xiquets, the rehearsals, performances, personal relations with your mates… I am very happy indeed to have chosen this last location for the occasion, and having the chance to show others the entrance to the premises, as it is very important to me. I believe we Xiquets are one of the most important entities in Tarragona and it is, somehow, a way of living and feeling castells, as well as the history of Tarragona”.
Tarragona will welcome on Wednesday, 24 June –coinciding with Sant Joan’s castells (human towers) performance– the 3rd edition of “Tarragona, City of Castells”; a singular, original and authentic project willing to bring the world of “castells” to locals, as well as tourists willing to know more about it.
This project will kick off on Sant Joan’s Day and will end on Santa Tecla’s Festivities. The year’s edition main difference can be found in the higher number of performances that will take place in the city –two times more in fact–, which will be held every Wednesday night, from 8 July to 9 September, and that will include, simultaneously, the 4 “colles castelleres” (castells teams) in the city: Xiquets de Tarragona, Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, Xiquets del Serallo and Castellers de Sant Pere i Sant PauTarragona, City of Castells” will still allow users to attend the actual rehearsals of both Xiquets de Tarragona and Jove Xiquets de Tarragona, as well as guided tours to the main and most relevant local “castells” scenes, among other activities.
“Tarragona, City of Castells” has consolidated as a product in just 3 years and has caught, not just the attention of locals –unaware until now of the way a “colla” works from the inside out–, but also to those tourists visiting the city and see “castells” as a spectacular and exciting tradition that, at the same time, gathers a number of values such as teamwork, solidarity, the relation between people of different ages and the acceptance of everyone, without any exceptions.
“Tarragona, City of Castells” will count on the support of Tarragona’s Tourism Board for the 3rd consecutive year, which will programme and promote the different activities in 4 languages (Catalan, Spanish, English and French) so that this product gets to every visitor.
In this sense, it is worth mentioning that tickets for the rehearsals are already for sale, and include a guided tour to the home of either Xiquets de Tarragona or Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona. The first of the rehearsals will take place on Tuesday, 30 June.
Tickets are available for purchase at Tarragona Tourism’s website:
Calendar for the 2015 “Tarragona, City of Castells” Wednesday’s events:
• 8 July: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 15 July: Castellers de Sant Pere y Sant Pau.
• 22 July: Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona y Xiquets del Serrallo.
• 29 July: Castellers de Sant Pere i Sant Pau.
• 5 August: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 12 August: Xiquets del Serrallo.
• 26 August: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 2 September: Xiquets del Serrallo.
• 9 September: Castellers de Sant Pere y Sant Pau.
Rehearsals for both Xiquets de Tarragona and Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona (on Tuesdays):
• 30 June: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 7 July: Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 14 July: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 21 July: Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 28 July: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 4 August: Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 11 August: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• No rehearsal on 18 August.
• 25 August: Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 1 September: Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.
• 8 September: Xiquets de Tarragona.
April’s #lamevatarragona character, talking about his personal Tarragona, works as an administrator and has been a member of one of the most legendary bands in the city, the so-called Mi-te’ls. We agree to meet him at Esperidió Square. First clue; and is a very conclusive one. The square named after a true castells legend in Tarragona (Jaume Tarragó i Plana) in the 19th century, who was part of the quatre de nou tower erected by Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls opposite Tarragona Cathedral in 1881’s Santa Tecla festivity, is one of the most intimate and personal spots for Albert Grau Valls, casteller in Colla Jove Xiquets de Tarragona.
“This is the first spot I’ve chosen, the Esperidió Square, at the top of Cós del Bou Street, by the Roman Circus. The reason why I chose it is because this is the place I grown up as a person. Of course, this is where the Colla Jove premises are located, and so I’ve been in this place since the 80s. I’ve seen the street and indeed the whole neighbourhood go through a deep transformation process, which explains why I feel like at home when I come here. If there is a place that somehow defines me, this will be the area that comprises Cós del Bou Street, Esperidió Square and Baixada de la Peixateria, which comes to sum up what is known as the ciy’s fet casteller (everything related to castells). I really feel like at home”.
The second spot pictured by Albert is the promenade that joins the city and Arrabassada beach. “The sea is vital to me. And this promenade is where runners and sportspeople like to go. Staring at the sunrise or sunset from here is just incredible. Running along the coastline, by the sea, is fantastic, and it takes me to those places that would make our eyes water if we had to travel 10,000Km to see them. And it is something we’ve got right here”.
His third choice is yet another historical spot in the city linked to castells, Les Cols Square. Albert however, takes us to a very precise corner. “I chose this corner near Gallo Morón because here’s where those taking part in castells gather before every performance. Back when I was cap de colla (the leader) we would also come her to make any decisions… It is a place that has seen a lot of tension, nervousness, the place where we laugh, but also cry, and all this, added to the square’s history, the place where some legendary castells where erected, makes it so special that I get emotional every time I come nearby”.
In order to complete the circuit, we ask Albert to go into the premises where he grew up as a casteller to tell us what these 4 walls mean to him. “Colla Jove’s rehearsal building is located right in the middle of the city’s old part. It was a fish market originally. We are now in the right side of Major Street, which used to be the fishermen’s area. Years ago, boats would moor down here, in Miracle beach, not in the port as they do today, since this didn’t exist as it is now. And when colles (castells groups) would come here to perform, fishermen would stay on the right side of the street while farmers would stay on the left side. It then became the firemen’s headquarters, and it was then abandoned for some years, right until the 80s, when we got them back from the City Council. Here’s we we’ve rehearsed some 6, 7, 8, 9 and now 10-store towers, and I’ve been luck enough to take part in all of them. This is my home. This is where I’ve become a casteller, cap de colla, president… I know every corner in the building, back when I was young and foolish, and now that I a grown-up.”
When Losada sent the ball over the crossbar on the very last penalty shot during the UEFA Final game between Espanyol and Bayern Leverkusen (1988), Ricard Marrugat, one of the few Espanyol supporters (perico) in Gandesa, cried like a small child. He came back brimming with hope twenty years later in the time of De La Peña, Tamudo and Luis García, and decided to go on a pilgrimage with his team to the final in Glasgow. It was an austere trip, with no place to sleep. Espanyol was defeated again in the penalty shootout. Marrugat though, president of Castellers de Sant Pere i Sant Pau does not give up easily. He has learnt how to see the bright side of failures while stopping his group from becoming discouraged. “There should be motivation, although in Castells, one must find the way to recover”, he says; in every possible sense.
Born in 1990, the Colla Castellera de Sant Pere i Sant Pau has not the status of the two other great ‘colles’ of the city, the Xiquets and the Colla Jove, and yet, thanks to a renovation process of his core in recent years, its constructions are becoming more and more important and it is determined to enter the top20 in the short term. Marrugat, who joined the ‘colla’ a few years ago thanks to his son, knows the importance of keeping the illusion of projects alive. Despite the fact that ‘castells’ tend to go for the stars, he thinks it is essential to keep at least one foot firmly on the ground, in the same way the garnatxa vines he grows do in Gandesa. “When everything’s ok and the colla improves, no problem. However, one must get to know people and find the best way to speak when things go wrong. Only then can a setback work as the ideal push to keep on moving forward”, he explains.
Together with the Xiquets del Serralloo, Xiquets and La Jove, as well as other invited groups, Sant Pere i Sant Pau’s performances play a central role this summer in different spots around the city as part of the programme Tarragona, Ciutat de Castells. This initiative was designed to give visibility to the local Castells’ activity, to position the city as a reference in this field, and to work as October’s Concurs warm-up, the actual World Cup in the Castells calendar. Besides exhibitions, shows and workshops, the programme provides tourists with a unique opportunity to attend rehearsals. “We want to divulge our activity. We all win here”, Marrugat states. Sant Pere i Sant Pau is named after a 16,000-people neighbourhood; unfortunately, and due to its tiny dimensions, it can barely get new associates, the actual seed for new castells.
Human towers are a concept that is an essential part of Tarragona, which has experienced ups and downs throughout history, and which was reborn in recent decades coinciding with the restoration of democracy. Just like other associations born these years with the purpose of putting new energy to the city’s popular heritage, the castell groups (colles castelleres) are working as a sort of meeting point for different generations and sensibilities, people from various origins that are playing a certain role for the benefit of teamwork. Thus, they become a powerful instrument to provide assistance to the social structuring.
The square is the entire reason of being for castells. The colla Sant Pere i Sant Pau goes on 20 to 25 sortides (trips that involve a performance, a competition), which can gather up to 120 members of the group. It is during the rehearsals though –twice a week-, especially those involving difficult human towers, according to Marrugat, that one gets both the responsibility and the emotional implication of the members of the ‘colla’. “When we try important things, the room becomes silent; we’re not performing for the people, it is about oneself. Celebrations are also more effusive that in the square”, he says.
Marrugat, director of Institut Terra Alta, believes castells to include values related to education, such as thoroughness, motivation and evaluation. This is why, each year, 15-year-old teenagers of the mentioned institute come to Tarragona in order to create their final academic paper. “Castells improve people”, he states.