About Jimena de la Frontera, the province of Cadiz and Spain as a whole, focused on this small village in the mountains

What’s wrong with the Festival? Nothing!

cartel_2009 It is so easy to criticize; we do it all the time. We hear it everywhere, particularly about this year’s International Music Festival. No headliners. Who are these acts? Why only two days? There are answers to these questions and all of them will boil down to a simple question of money. The crisis. The Town Hall is in debt. The big acts are too expensive. And so on. And they’re all true.>

The International Music Festival of Jimena started out in 2001 as a vision by music director David Honeyball (now deceased) when, on a visit to Jimena a couple of years before, he saw the castle as a wonderful venue for a Classical Music Festival. The idea took hold in the minds of foreign residents, who were quick to raise funds among themselves to get it started. The Council took up the idea, and the concept was expanded to include other genres. Commercial sponsors offered their support and government agencies were agreeable to subsidies, after much begging. The castle was dismissed as too difficult to reach, so the venues we use today were introduced and successful.

Nobody believed it would happen, including myself.

But something big was afoot when the Town Hall began giving away flowers to be put in windows to pretty the town up. Soon, everyone was painting their house fronts. The village was getting tidied up, quickly, before the festival started.

And there it was: five days of music in the streets. Music many residents had never heard before and plenty they had. The memory of the fireworks at the end still make my hairs stand on end.

Jimena was on the map. The little white village at the very edge of the Campo de Gibraltar, in the boondocks as far as the province of Cádiz and the Junta de Andalucía were concerned, had come alive after a long time asleep.

The first four or five editions were absolutely wonderful. Stars and stars-in-the-making were eager to perform here. They said the atmosphere was fantastic, the people welcoming. They could even relax among the audience.

So it continued for a long while; up to the sixth edition in 2006, perhaps.

What had happened? It had grown too big. To use a well-worn Spanish phrase: Empezamos la casa por el tejado (‘We started building the house with the roof tiles’). Even the man who had done so much to promote it, former Mayor Ildefonso Gómez, admitted it with a tinge of regret. The acts were asking for fortunes because they had ever increasing riders (that’s the little things on their contracts that include what kind of sandwiches and what brand whiskey they would drink) as well as their caches (that’s the figures their managers negotiate for a performance). But it wasn’t just that: Jimena had started big and had nowhere to go but bigger.

Until the bubble burst. Everyone’s bubble began to burst last year: yours, mine, the Festival’s. And last year’s edition was a reflection of things to come. (See last year’s Festival editorial.)

There was a moment in 2008 when Mayor Pascual Collado, who had been Councillor for Culture the year before and, so, in charge of the Festival, was seriously considering not having one at all. He was eventually convinced that the event had a ‘brand name’ and should be kept going, even in reduced circumstances. After all, we said, it would be very difficult to start again from scratch when things get better.

The Festival organizers are doing the very best they can. The acts, while not headliners, are quality acts. Tickets are hardly exorbitant any longer. The atmosphere in the town is just as exciting and certainly not as crowded (so far, anyway). There’s nothing wrong with the Festival that better financial times will not cure. It would be a great shame to lose it.

That’s why I support it and why I urge you to do the same.

Alberto Bullrich 2009

1 Comment»

  Sancho wrote @

I think you’ve hit this nail 100 per cent on the head. Although this year’s festival is only two thirds of the way through in its own way it will be another success. What is now vital is that several things take place – first the mayor must declare that the 10th festival will take place next year. Second he must go against his national habit and put planning in to effect NOW. If a committee can be established NOW to run the 2010 festival on set dates then those organisations that run cultural tours of artists and musicians – such as Caixa, Unicaja and Cajasol – can include Jimena on their schedule. It’s no good asking them in April or May of next year. There is a uniqueness about the Jimena festival – in its location and people – it would be a tragedy if it was lost.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: