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Catalan street art makes its mark at London’s Greenwich and Docklands International Festival

Six Catalan performing arts companies have introduced their projects at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF) 2014 Showcase and a further three have taken part in the official program of the festival, thanks to the collaboration of the Culture Department and FiraTàrrega with GDIF. The 2014 edition of the renowned street arts festival will run from 20-28 June, showcasing some of the most interesting street theatre on the continent. Its director, Bradley Hemmings, told CNA that FiraTàrrega has "influenced the structure and development" of the show, one of the largest in the UK, and he was looking forward to receiving fresh Catalan projects.

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25 June 2014 05:48 PM

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ACN

London (ACN.) – Six Catalan performing arts companies have introduced their projects at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF) 2014 Showcase and a further three have taken part in the official program of the festival, thanks to the collaboration of the Culture Department and FiraTàrrega with GDIF. The 2014 edition of the prestigious street arts festival will run from 20-28 June, showcasing some of the most interesting street theatre on the continent. Founded in 1981, FiraTàrrega is the international market for performing arts that takes place every year in Tàrrega, in the West of Catalonia, during the second weekend in September. Its main objective is to boost the performing arts market and open the door to the internationalisation of the companies. GDIF director, Bradley Hemmings, told CNA that FiraTàrrega has "influenced the structure and development" of the British cultural festival, one of the largest in the UK, and he was looking forward to receiving fresh Catalan projects. Six companies have submitted their proposals for the professional section of GDIF to try to find new contacts or opportunities; and three, the dancer Joan Català, Tombs Creatius and the Circ Pànic, have performed for the public at the festival.


Between the 20th and 22nd June, six Catalan companies took part in a meeting of international programmers held at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival (GDIF). In the Festival Central Marquee, in the Old Royal Naval College, the various companies presented their work in front of more than a hundred of international programmers in order to get contracts, mainly in festivals from United Kingdom, or to find co-producer partners for their projects.

The links to Tàrrega

Bradley Hemmings, the director of GDIF and a "great fan" of FiraTàrrega, said to CNA that this year GDIF welcomed "200 professionals from all over the UK, other parts of Europe and also beyond Europe” who register to come and see the wide range of work that is presented at the festival. "They make contacts, and see what productions are available for future touring to possibly invest in, or co-commission, or collaborate in the development of" he explained.

The most important collaboration, he emphasised, is the one established between GDIF and FiraTàrrega. "I have been to FiraTàrrega for maybe 15 to 20 years, it is a festival that I love, and it’s very much influenced the structure and development of our own festival" said Hemmings. "We have learned so much from the huge showcase that’s organised there, so it’s a big inspiration for us." The director added he will be meeting with the director of FiraTàrrega, Jordi Duran, to discuss the programme for 2015 and plan for future collaboration. “I’m always very excited to hear his ideas, he has a fresh and exciting curatorial voice,” Hemmings remarked of Duran.

The 2014 edition of GDIF has hosted more than 150 performances by 30 international companies. Among the three Catalan acts that made the festival programme was the dancer Joan Català, who performed 'Pelat'. This dance, according to the artist, is an "experiment, which has become a spectacle," and the performance is distinguished by the use of audience participation.  According to Català, his goal is to remind people of the value of “collective work" and to recover "handmade, artisan work, not technology."

During his performance of ‘Pelat,’ Joan Català interacted with the audience to recall an “ancestral” time in which people worked on the land with animals and with great physical effort. In addition, the dancer also introduced into his choreography elements which refer to Catalan culture and collective effort, for example human towers. In one instance, Català requested four men to build a tower with a wood log and some ropes. Then involving the audience’s help, he finally crowned it in the style of a traditional Catalan anxaneta.

"It is a bit odd at first," admitted Català to ACN. "But they were very good at every point. There is a different entry code here, and the first day it is a bit strange because London is a city with a frenetic pace, where people have forgotten simple handcrafted and handmade work. "

The other two Catalan companies taking part in the official programme of GDIF are Tombs Creatius, who performed their show, ‘Colors de Monstre’ over the weekend, and Circ Panic, presenting ‘The Man Who Lost His Buttons’ as part of the Dancing City programme, who will perform on Saturday 28th June.

A free art

"There is a freedom in Catalan art that sometimes is missing here in the UK," the Director of Milton Keynes International Festival, Monica Ferguson, remarked to CNA. On Sunday, Ferguson participated in the professional meeting with the Catalan companies within the context of GDIF, and her goal was to find new artists and new proposals for the British market.

In a new collaboration between GDIF and FiraTàrrega, international developers were able to see six new projects first-hand at the festival. The Kamchàtka company  introduced 'Fugit', a traveling street theatre. In addition, programmers had a chance to see 'Table for Two' from the co.LABse company, described as a “theatrical and culinary experience” and directed by Sergi Estebanell. There was also the presentation of 'Constructivo', a show with great humour in which two machine pallets seek answers to the ethical emptiness they feel, from the Collado-Van Hoestenberghe Foundation and Piero Steiner.

Another show presented was ‘Thank you for dancing’, the product of the collaboration between Filles Föllen and Barbara Wysoczanska, and a co-production between FiraTàrrega and the Polish Ulica Street Art Festival (Krakow).  The show consists of a piece of street dance designed to include audience participation. Toti Toronell & Pepa Plana, who were recently awarded the National Prize of Culture from the Generalitat of Catalonia, presented 'Despistats (Distracted),' and the Cia La Tal was also in London with their production, 'The incredible box'.

Monica Ferguson, who devoted a special section of the 2010 edition of her Milton & Keynes Festival to Catalan culture, described Catalan artists as having "a sense of adventure and risk taking that sometimes we lack in the UK.” She continued: "There is more freedom in the way they take chances and ask the audience to take chances as well. This year we also have a Catalan company in the programme and I'm very interested to see what will develop in the future.”

Fiona Rycroft, a representative of the Catalan company La Tal, said the aim was precisely to attract the interest of developers such as Ferguson. "It is about getting people to see your face, it works a lot. Then you are recognized when you come back" said Rycroft. For her, the date in London within the framework of the GDIF is an opportunity to publicise the group and see if it can go to present its new show in the UK. "I hope that this is the case next year," said Rycroft, who has brought Cia La Tal’s tour to several European countries.

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  • Artist Joan Català during his performance 'Pelat' in the GDIF (by ACN)

  • Artist Joan Català during his performance 'Pelat' in the GDIF (by ACN)