KA1 – Adult Education
Coordinator : le COCU
The management of festive rituals in public spaces
Since 2012, the COCU, Samba Résille’s partner, started an event called “If we dressed up the city?”, which goal is to announce the festive moment of the Toulouse Carnival, transforming the public spaces by coloring them. It’s about starting a graphic rumor in the city to prepare the inhabitants for the coming party. “If we dressed up the city?” starts one week before the Carnival and offers to the residents, concerts, workshops and performances within this period.
Schools, activity clubs, social centers, associations and artists participate in the construction of the decoration. Until 2014, “If we dressed up the city?” was decorating several squares on the route of the Carnival. Each year, around 300 people participate in the decoration.
The link between the Festa Major de Gracià and “If we dressed up the city?” seemed obvious. The Festa Major de Gracià is kind of the big sister for “If we dressed up the city?”. The Foundation organizes the Carnaval de Gracià, a neighborhood carnival with around 300 participants. It seemed interesting for our partnership to build the link between our carnivals. In Toulouse, the Carnival has 2500 participants with more or less 20 motorized floats and 20 non-motorized floats. Thus, the Carnival of Toulouse is the big brother of the Carnival of Gracià.
The experience of organizing the « Festa major of Gracià » every august since 198 years and the experience of organizing the Toulouse Carnival since 4 years, more the Great Parade of the Carnival and the operation « If we dressed up the city ? » led us to imagine a program of exchanges involving the participation of stakeholders of the Toulouse Carnival.
A program in 3 steps has been organized:
– mobility 1: from 12th to 24th of August 2014, for an immersion in their festivities;
– mobility 2: from 7th to 15th of February 2015, for workshops of float construction;
– mobility 3: from 19th to 24th of June 2015, for a citizen forum around future exchanges.
2 employees of the COCU went to meet the Festa Major Foundation in August 2013 to build the partnership and imagine the project of European exchange, a program of mobilities over a year to allow 124 people (including members of Samba Résille) to go to Barcelona to capitalize learnings and good practices.
The Festa Major de Gracià is one of the most important festivities in Barcelona; and is famous to be the most old-style celebration of Barcelona.
It’s a celebration of decoration of streets and squares. It exists since 1820 and at some periods, the number of decorated places was over 70 streets and 5 squares. It starts the 15th of August, a bank holiday in Cataluña, and lasts a week. The principal streets are decorated with recycled objects, concerts are organized on all the squares, and artists are performing in the streets.
The Gracià celebrations were born in the 19th century, with the proclamation of the village of Gracià and the decoration of the city hall facade. These celebrations also come from the traditional dances happening in that time. The festivities got stronger and changed at the end of the 19th century, with a more civic meaning than religious.
During the Festa Major de Gracià, lots of events are organized: exhibitions, activities for children, artistic workshops, sportive activities, parades, performances of several artists (dance, theatre…) on the squares. These celebrations are clearly united, with activities and initiatives aimed at gather money for social purposes. Everyone can participate, and the context is intergenerational.
It’s in 2008 that the Festa Major became a foundation. Since then, it organizes several festivities during the year around concerts, exhibitions, and especially the Carnival of Gracià.
Its specificity is to use the local Catalan heritage to build universal activities. The project gathers the population, the associations, the institutions and the economic sector, encouraging them to engage with each other, and allowing them to develop their artistic creativity, and to be the cultural ambassadors of their city.
From 12th to 24th of August 2014
The first mobility was about discovering the Festa Major de Gracià. We left with 30 participants from the COCU to participate in the setting of decoration in the streets, live the festivities and the contest, and help with the disassembly.
The party began the 15th of August. During 3 days, the participants from the COCU, divided in small groups, helped the setting of the decorations in 5 streets and different squares, the street Providencia, the square de la Vila, the street Joan Blanques de Baix, the street Joan Blanques de Baix de Tot and the street Verdi. During this time of installation, the participants had to analyze the different techniques of assembly and disassembly, and then transliterate them with texts, pictures, little videos, sketches… They also had to analyze the different ways of the Foundation to organize the Festa Major de Gracià, the methods of communication in the streets, the internal organization… Some sketches and texts had been made.
The participants also participated in a meal in the neighborhood with the residents during the setting. They attended the Parade of popular culture, and the attempts of castellers (human pyramids). They have been received officially at the city hall of Gracià, by Madam Mayté Fandos (4th deputy mayor of Barcelona’s city hall) and Mister Jean-Claude Dardelet (town councilor in charge of the European and international relationships and the influence of Toulouse). Then, they participated in the prize giving of the street decoration. They also helped with the disassembly.
Participate in the first mobility in August 2014 to discover the Festa Major de Gracià, in the second in February 2015 to attend the Garcia Carnival, and in the third one for the citizen forum in June 2015, allowed me to live a beautiful collective experience, to improve my professional perspectives, to get more involved in the European – or why not international – festivities of Carnival.
I was afraid because I don’t speak Spanish. I spoke in Italian, my native language, really close of the Catalan language. I could integrate easily.
When we arrived, we got a warm welcome from the Foundation and the residents.
The day after, we helped to assemble the elements prepared during the year. We also created decoration of flowers, tinsels, chandeliers… It allowed us to benefit from classes around creating from recycled material.
Today, I feel able to help by exposing my motivation to participate in the workshops; the skills I acquired, the beauty of seeing the project concretizing, the preparation of the big giraffes, panthers… and Mr. Carnival. Having the eyes of a child discovering the creations made by artists amateurs, having the pleasure to share the knowledge and the know-how, sharing our knowledge in a friendly way, and enjoying life!
In the next 3 years, my wish is that the COCU and the Foundation open more to the training of youth and adults.
Attempt to describe the spirit of celebration
To describe the Festa Mayor de Gracià quickly, I miss the words. We can try by saying that it is a traditional celebration, which core is composed of a contest of street decorations. Personally, I would say that it’s a mix between a Catalan popular and traditional celebration, a musical party in a neighborhood, and a big exhibition of popular art. However, to understand the spirit of the celebration, more words are needed because it’s culture, values and history expressing through this celebration.
It’s better to give details about it, with examples if needed.
During the assembly, the residents working all night the 2 previous days don’t hesitate to wake their neighbors up à 5:30 am when they need help. Some rituals happen during the assembly:
– firecrackers are planned when it’s time to go to bed, whatever the time;
– a hot chocolate is offered to those who worked all night.
During the celebration, the residents take care of the activity of their street, from the bar to the stage, the workshops or the collective meals. For example, we can for see a resident at midnight, using a ladder to fix an electrical problem.
Anyway, it’s really a popular atmosphere, the audience is really friendly. All weekend, we felt no tensions, saw no fights, nothing broken, no nuisance, at the opposite, everywhere the most joyful and pacifist celebration. No conflicts between the police and the civils, the first ones can cross the Revolution square in scooter, in the middle of the crowd singing the Che song, no one seems disturbed. Sometimes, the young people fraternize with the police and let their bags in the small van.
Apart from the respect between men, it’s the respect of the audience regarding the creations put in the streets that is exemplary. Despite of the crowd constantly invading the streets since the middle of the afternoon and at least until 3:00 am, the constructions are in the same state at the end of the weekend. During the whole celebration, it’s more than 2 million people invading the streets, without a single damage.
Then, it’s important to note that the celebration is from the popular culture of the neighborhood, historically a working neighborhood. This neighborhood was and is still committed to the independence of Cataluña. We can see in every street Catalan separatist flags on the balconies. The political commitment can be seen on several squares where we can read messages like « « Totes a la vaga! » (Everybody on strike) or « Tot aixo amb la UE no és possible ! » (All this is not possible with the EU).
This commitment was expressed before in the political action of the city through the social and familial well-being department. Regarding the alternative vibe, we can also find a squat in the neighborhood, but some streets away, it’s all the cliché of the boho streets, with classy tea rooms, shops for fair clothes, even for children, and latest-fashion bikes.