JORDI DURAN ROLDÓS (Spain)

FIRA TÁRREGA – THE IDEA AND ACTION

Access to culture, to culture in capital letters, and not to the simple and perfectly legal entertainment, is today something few people have. It is a fact that goes far beyond the shameful VAT hike to 21% that stage productions have to pay to the Spanish state, and can be explained by having a look at the face of the society we are part of.
 
We are more than men, than men and woman, than old people, than mere children. We are more than white people, we are more than Christians – practising or not – or just inheritors of the Christian morality that has ruled the West for the last millennium. We are more than our physical and moral capacities, we are more than the place that we live, more than our nation, culture and mother tongue. We are more than our material inheritance, than our education, sexual orientation, health and sicknesses. We are more than just a way of understanding the world. We are everything and nothing, we are different, each and every one of us. 
 
The cultural activity we relate to is not inclusive. The country’s facilities do not integrate enough, they are not facilitators of citizenry, they are not a house for everyone. If we look at the programmes of the great public spaces dedicated to stage creation and exhibition, we can see that their programme does not, almost in any way, reflect the social reality of the environment we live in, who we are today or what happens to us. If in Lleida province one in five people is a recent arrival, why do we insist on producing shows written in the West by Westerners?
 
Private theatre is basically aimed at the mainstream, and public theatre, when it is not behaving like a private company, timidly attempts to represent everyone, or rather to give everyone a decent opportunity. On the other hand, the omnipresence of the older white man is boring. Both in front of and behind the scenes and/or institutions. I would like to see more shows signed by and featuring women, by people under 30, by Protestants, Arabs or Jews, by the differently-abled. Following on, I want to see ambitious productions that incorporate collectives at risk of social exclusion into the creative process, so they can be understood as a real artistic asset.
 
I don’t think that public or private cultural events – even though the purely private ones are quite able to do as they please - should have to incorporate special sections dedicated to diversity (from a marketing point of view) into their programming. They should not present any exceptions, nor open as many windows as collectives they can think of. They need panoramic views! We can’t throw up barriers between us all and struggle to seat everyone in our stalls. For this reason I don’t believe in ‘Queer’ sections, sections for ‘Kids’, a series of shows dedicated to woman, to immigrants or community practices understood as fleeting or fashionable. Programming must be able to go beyond conventional labelling and aspire to stage the kaleidoscopic reality we live in, something possibly impossible, albeit much more profitable in terms of form and content than we are used to.
 
FiraTàrrega is a complex project that seeks very varied objectives. We look out for study, stimulus and the promotion of street arts. We are a market of theatre, a festival and a popular celebration for all. This was, until recently a project that lived away from its home city, turned its back on the citizens that gave it legitimacy and saw how this festival popped up in their city in the second week of September, just like a mushroom. A festival organized by a few people who knew a lot, who were from outside the city. I firmly believe that, apart from the cutbacks, festivals die because nobody defends them, and if they do not belong to the people, well, what meaning do they have?
 
For this reason, since 2011 we have launched a process that seeks to work closer with our neighbours, a slow destroying of our ivory tower that we had sheltered in all year, isolated, when our activities were less visible and shared.
 
Nowadays Tàrrega is the home of a Master in Street Art Creation, a pioneering international study that is a collaboration between FiraTàrrega and Lleida University that turns a city of almost 17,000 inhabitants into a university campus every two years. Every day, open-air rehearsals, the coming and going of teachers, the energy of the students that pushes them to suggest street activities and share them with the townspeople. Without spelling out too much, the 2015 activities have just launched a festival dedicated to artistic creation in food and drink spaces called Brew Fest – quite the local success – making the city a hotbed that combines our task and the idea of culture in general to the locals.
 
In addition, we can also say that the city has a new programme of cultural activities linked to FiraTàrrega that goes from March to September. This is a cultural provision linked to the town’s own activity with the aim of opening up the creative processes organised by us to the citizenry. The objective is very clear: artists are not Martians, and art is useful and necessary.
 
The Tàrrega audience not only have the chance to participate in an open rehearsal and follow a piece that will be premiered at FiraTàrrega, it also can enjoy a space where they can closely follow the discourse of a creator, and make it their own; getting to know it and relating themselves to it at a closeness that neither party is used to. The team members remember the first edition of the Creation Support Programme at FiraTàrrega in 2011 with great affection, and loved the fact that the first runs of the participating companies were full of locals. Viewers that had gone to the show recommended by friends arrived curious to some premiere or other, such as La Veronal and their unforgettable Pájaros Muertos (Dead Birds). Slowly, this has become part of the normal process of the project.
 
On the other hand, much of the material we use is addressed to the place as an artistic asset in itself. We try to create bridges of dialogue with our neighbours that go beyond just featuring as extras or volunteers. In fact, this is a practice that is closely related to street arts (the type of art FiraTàrrega is built upon) that is built on two essential tenets: the exhibition space and the viewers, who are a completely active element of the show.
 
Initially we understood the opening of the project up to the citizens via our experiences with working with schools, local associations and amateur theatre groups in the area. However, there is a group of less-visible citizens with no connection to these groups, with limited resources or complicated ages: those people we often ignore. Working with these groups is more difficult: they are a disperse collective, with no representative chosen by a board to speak for them.
 
We have also worked with people in risk of social exclusion and with the municipal bodies in charge of looking out for them, such as the Dawn Association or the Cultural Initiative Support Office. Som, by the Amantis collective, or Close Encounters of a Different Kind, by the Hungarian Martin Boross are two clear examples of this. These are non-instrumentalised stage experiences that go beyond a merely therapeutic or integrative function.
 
Another focus of ours has been those people or collectives closely linked to a significant space, such as the project we did in 2012 with what had been the Cal Trapat farm machinery factory and the Amebeu Teatre theatre company. Exactly what this space that those of us who live or work in Tàrrega share as a testimony of what we have been, and therefore are, as been one of the main obsessions of this current project. We want to read the remains of the urban and rural landscape of Urgell county via the stories created by creators from all over, and show a different Tàrrega at every fair, both for the locals and for the visitors.
 
Today we work to try and take everything into account, seeking a balance between themes and forms, art and entertainment, degree of risk and commitment or participation. We look to be able to offer experiences that invigorate our viewers-cum-actors, and improve all of us together. We should say that we all make mistakes: we start again and move on. Nothing is sure or forever. We will work until they let us, or until we are able to continue with the energy and drive that the city, sector and institution deserve.
 
Our aim to contribute to the creation of a more inclusive project, one that reflects the commitment of our work, a commitment matched by many of street acts we programme. Street arts are synonymous with celebration and festivals, but also of a meeting of citizens who discuss a series of concerns that grow out of a specific artistic matter. We understand art as an engine for change, as a space for social improvement, and we understand the culture industry as a space for business capable of creative viewers by using more inclusive practices.
 
* Jordi Duran Roldós
Artistic director of FiraTàrrega
partnerzy ckis Visegrad Fund art prometheus Nyirbatorert Alapitvany Thalia Teatro Radio Centrum Kalisz
Gateway to La Strada. 2015 CKiS. Wszelkie prawa zastrzeżone.