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Catalan and British culture mix in London in Sant Jordi celebrations

Sant Jordi is not only both Catalonia’s and England’s patron saint but also one of the Catalans’ most beloved traditions, which has been exported internationally and coincides with UNESCO World Book Day on the 23rd of April. As happened in the last 5 years, London’s Borough Market was the epicentre of Sant Jordi’s celebrations in the British capital, which included stalls selling books and roses, Catalan gastronomy and wine tasting, storytelling and a mix of both Catalan and English folklore. However, one of the most applauded activities was the performance of ‘Castellers of London’, a group made up of Catalan people living in the UK but also locals and human tower fans of various nationalities. “Performing at Borough Market on such a special day for Catalans, it feels like a dream to us” assured Marc Pujol, a member of the Castellers.

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24 April 2016 09:09 PM

by

Sara Prim

London (CNA).- London’s Borough Market, one of the most iconic spots in the city, hosted the celebration of Sant Jordi’s Day, Catalonia’s patron saint and one of the Catalans’ most beloved traditions. Like all over Catalonia, stalls selling books and roses coloured Borough Market, together with Catalan gastronomy and wine tasting, storytelling and a mix of both Catalan and English folklore. However, one of the most applauded activities was the performance of ‘Castellers of London’, a group made up of Catalan people living in the UK but also locals and human tower fans of various nationalities. “Performing at Borough Market on such a special day for Catalans feels like a dream to us” assured Marc Pujol, a member of the Castellers. The Delegation of the Catalan Government to the UK and Ireland, Catalonia’s Tourism Office, the public innovation business agency ACCIÓ, the Catalan Institute for the Cultural Companies ICEC and Institut Ramon Llull London, which promotes Catalan culture and literature, also took part in the celebrations and had their own stalls at the market.


Over the course of the day, hundr people attended the Sant Jordi celebrations at Borough Market. Although most of them were Catalans living in London or nearby, there were also plenty of tourists who stopped by and many locals who wanted to get a closer approach at Catalan culture. Whether they were aware of the tradition beforehand or not, most of them ended up knowing a bit more about the Sant Jordi legend, buying a rose or two or taking home a book.

Visitors could also stop and listen to storytelling in Catalan and taste some Catalan gastronomy, including cold meat, marmalades, and typical Catalan desserts but also wine and ‘cava’, the Catalan champagne.

Sant Jordi also served as a way to spread Catalan art and culture and promote Catalonia’s most beautiful tourist spots, through the stalls set up by the Delegation of the Catalan Government to the UK and Ireland, Catalonia’s Tourism Office, the public innovation business agency ACCIÓ, the Catalan Institute for the Cultural Companies ICEC and the Institut Ramon Llull London at Borough Market.

Castellers of London

However, one of the activities which caught most attention was a Castellers performance. To add even more multiculturalism to the celebration, the group which performed these traditional human towers was local, made up of Catalans living in London or nearby and locals of different origins who felt attracted to this genuine form of art. “I saw them once, a few years ago, on a trip to Tarragona”, explained James, a member of Castellers of London. “I didn’t hesitate to join as soon as I knew that they were forming a group of Castellers in London”, he added. Although they admit that they are “just beginners” they focus more on “having fun, meeting new people and trying to spread this tradition” rather than “doing perfect towers or going to any sort of competition”, stated Marc. “Going to a Castellers rehearsal or just having this amazing celebration, as today’s, is just a way to make us feel less homesick”, he assured.

Catalan School

Sant Jordi is also an occasion to promote Catalan language and literature. Thus, the Catalan School of London, wanted to join the initiative by offering a storytelling session in Catalan. “We explain the Sant Jordi legend and other stories related to Catalan culture and we do it in Catalan”, one of the Catalan School of London promoters told CNA. “It is not a school which offers lessons every single day, it is more about guaranteeing that our children, who are born or at least raised in the UK, practise their mother tongue and get to know their traditions”, explained one of the parents whose children go to the school at the weekend. Of course, non-Catalans are also welcome too, “if it wasn’t open, it couldn’t be called a school”, she added.

Sant Jordis Day celebrated in more than 40 countries

Through collaborative efforts between the University Network of Catalan studies abroad as well as the Institut Ramon Llull and the Catalan Government, universities and cities around the world have started their own traditions celebrating Catalonia’s patron saint, Catalan culture, and literature. This year, over 40 countries have planned some 100 activities or more throughout the week of the 23rd of April well into the first days of May. Activities planned this year include traditional book and rose exchanges as well as literary readings. But, some groups have scheduled more creative events to bring people together through Catalan culture, like a collaborative project between university students around the world to update and extend Wikipedia articles about the Catalan philosopher and writer Ramon Llull into multiple languages. 

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  • Close up of a rose with 'Castellers of London' on the background (by ACN)

  • Close up of a rose with 'Castellers of London' on the background (by ACN)
Sant Jordi at London's Borough Market