Fira Mediterrània celebrates 20 years of history
Fira delivers four anniversary messages with four outstanding artistic projects: SABA!; A vore; Songs and dances from the Llibre Vermell de Montserrat and Mar de foc
Fira’s co-productions and premières receive high public acclaim for works by Mazoni, Maika Makovski, Slow Olou, Roberto Olivan & Laurant Delforge & Vox Bigerri and Joana Gomila with her “Laboratori Sibil·les”
Fira continues to attract considerable professional activity, and professional attendance of recent years is consolidated
Fira promotes international scope and networking, which are the backbone of Fira's professional activity
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On 8 October, after a four-day event, Fira Mediterrània Manresa brought its 20th year to a close. For another year running, Manresa, the capital city of the Bages region, was transformed into an apex of traditional culture and folk music in a tour de force that featured some 300 activities. The 20th anniversary of Fira Mediterrània — the most self-reflective Fira to date — offered a programme that was dominated by four emblematic messages, the cornerstones of Fira Mediterrània throughout its twenty years of history: future, heritage, innovation and the Mediterranean.
An artistic project based on each of the four messages
The essence of Fira Mediterrània's last twenty years was distilled into four artistic projects over four action-packed days, boldly conveying the spirit of Fira to both industry professionals and the public.
A message about the future signalled the launch of Fira, which was dominated by the young voices of SABA! Joves músics d’arrel during the opening concert, bringing some of the most outstanding names of this generation to the stage: Maria Arnal & Marcel Bagès, Pau Figueres, Judit Neddermann, Joana Gomila, Manu Sabaté i Magí Canyelles, among others. Artists came together on stage in a thrilling finale with the Rufaca Folk Jazz Orchestra and the Pyrenees School of Folk. Fifty jazz musicians participated in this stand out event, which not only drew attention to the thriving future of folk music but also revealed that the folk scene is nourished from a hothouse of outstanding talent and creativity.
On Friday, Fira launched a message to celebrate heritage with the show Cants i danses del Llibre Vermell de Montserrat (Songs and Dances of the Red Book of Montserrat). With more than 40 performers, the production enjoyed a privileged performance spot when, for the first time ever, a Fira Mediterrània co-production was staged at Montserrat Abbey. This breath-taking location gave special emphasis to the traditional choreography performed for one of the most important pieces of medieval music worldwide.
Innovation is a bedrock of Fira, which was exemplified in a message by A Vore, the result of a creativity lab. Launched at the 18th Fira Mediterrània, the creativity lab brought together contemporary improvisational musicians and traditional artists to explore Jota music from the Ebro region. After two years in the making, and thanks to cooperation between l'Auditori Barcelona, el Mercat de Flors and Fira Mediterrània, the project finally made its début, proving to be an artistic hit. Audiences were dazzled by the sheer power of the music and the fresh staging of a show that was, undoubtedly, one of Fira's main artistic feats this year.
Finally, from a Mediterranean perspective, the 20th Fira finished with a spectacular event: the building of a large-scale boat made out of papier-mâché, a construction known as a falla, which was subsequently erected and burned in Manresa's main square. The result of a community project, the project threw the spotlight on the successive humanitarian crises that have been taking place for far too long now on the Mediterranean Sea and coastline. The Bages based artist Txema Rico was commissioned to build the falla with the help of 225 pupils, during the week, from two schools in the region at a series of workshops in L'Anònima building in Manresa. On the final evening of Fira, the falla was set alight in the main town square at a symbolic event, entitled Mar de Foc (Sea of Fire). Led by the stage director Sergi Ots, it also featured a guest artist, the Moroccan lead singer of N3rdistan, Walid Benselim.
Co-productions and premières received high public acclaim
Fira Mediterrània's commitment to promoting artistic creativity based on traditional culture was reflected in its outstanding selection of headlining co-productions and premières. Co-productions, laboratories and projects in process have contributed to Fira Mediterrània's positioning as an event that detects, promotes and showcases new trends in the music and performing arts industries. Projects this year included: the Turkish adventure of Mazoni (Per primer cop), Maika Makovski's exploration of her roots (Carmenka), Roberto Olivan, Laurent Delforge and Vox Bigerri (Socarrel); the clowns Toti Toronell and Pere Hosta (Escargots), and promising research by Joana Gomila devoted to the singing of Sibil·la.
Besides the projects already outlined, Fira showcased more than 100 artists, including: Cirque Rouages, Brunette Bros, Kukai Dantza & Brodas Bros, Mísia, Helena Lizari y Laida Aldaz, N3rdistan, Motivés!, Rachele Andrioli and Rocco Nigro, Raúl Rodríguez, Mithkal Alzghair, Groupe Acrobatique from Tangier, Rocío Márquez & Fahmi Alqhai, Amparanoia, Polyfonic System and the Polish group Volosi.
Fira continues to attract significant professional activity on a similar scale to recent years
Every autumn, the Fira Business Area, located in the Technical Museum, continues to establish itself as a powerful hub of exchange, meeting and business for Catalan culture. Fira Mediterrània offers an extensive and crosscutting range of projects while the cross-sector professional networking opportunities afforded by the event are uncommon among other fairs and festivals.
This year, 1121 professionals registered at Fira Mediterrània (1.4% fewer than in 2016), and 171 international registrations from 128 organisations attended the event. Activities conducted at the Fira Business Area were given positive feedback by industry professionals: 184 people registered for the professional conference and 348 attended speed dating, a popular initiative that grows every year.
One of Fira's standout activities was project presentations, nineteen in total, split into three categories: cultural innovation projects, new performing arts projects and other projects also marking their own anniversaries this year. There were 45 stands in the Fira Business Area, filling its entire capacity.
International scope and networking: strengths of the Fira Business Area
The number of plenary meetings by organisations and cultural networks at Fira increased to eight. A significant development, it enhanced both professional activity and attendance while it also promoted connection and exchange, and featuring the following associations: Kacu Mensi (family theatre); the Xàfec Association, platform for street art performance (music Mediterranean festivals); the Xarxa 4 vents network (music fairs), the Network of Civic Centre Theatres in Catalonia; and the Caramella Association (Folk music and traditional culture) and a Wiki-Marathon of Traditional Culture. The 4th Wine & Fest Forum, International Congress of Music and Folk Festivals, also merits special mention, drawing representatives from 61 festivals: 10 Catalan, 6 Spanish and 45 international representatives, of which 17 were from Europe, 3 from Africa, 1 from America and 1 from Asia. The Forum consisted of two debates about centres of creativity and the role of women in the music industry. The Portuguese singer Mísia participated in the latter.
Strong connections with local territory and high turnout but decrease in advance ticket sales
Fira Mediterrània has run as normal, despite the intensity of social and political events over recent weeks. Both the atmosphere of the event and the turnout by local residents in the streets and at performance venues were noteworthy, especially on Saturday when public attendance was at its highest. Ticket sales for paid entry shows sat at 73% this year (12% less than 2016). In line with the culture industry on a national scale, advance ticket sales for Fira Mediterrània experienced a marked drop in recent weeks. For this reason, despite ticket sales picking up at the last minute, they were lower than normal in comparison with previous years. A total of 9,462 tickets were sold to professionals and the general public, and tickets sold out completely for 11 performances. Of 177 artistic performances, 36% were paid entry and 64% were free.
Fira Mediterrània's connections with Manresa extend to the city's business community, thanks to the Club Mecenes, an organisation launched in 2015 to promote sponsorship, in which 12 companies from the region currently participate. It is also important to mention the committed involvement of various cultural agents in Manresa, such as the Kursaal Theatre, el Galliner, Cases de la Música i d'Arrel, and more. At the same time, Fira acts as an economic driver for Manresa and the Bages region, as demonstrated by several studies on the event's economic impact. Once again, throughout Fira, Manresa and its surrounding areas recorded high hotel occupation rates.
>> Statistics of the 20th Fira Mediterrània
Total activities: 298
Total number of professionals (booking agents, press and artists): 1.121 (-1.4% compared with 1137 in 2016)
Rest of Spain: 120
Total number of registered organisations: 611 (-0.1% compared with 612 in 2016)
Companies and performances
Total number of companies: 126
Companies from Catalonia: 84
Companies from the rest of Spain: 16
International Companies 26
Performance areas: 21
Total ticket sales: 73%
Artistic performances: 177
Paid shows: 36%
Free shows: 64%
Sold-out shows: 11
Number of people registered at the professional conference: 184
Number of people registered at the meeting to promote bookings 136
Project presentations: 19
Speed dating: 348
Stands at the Fira Business Area 45
Stalls in Fira Passeig: 87 (including food trucks and stalls in Plaça Sant Domènec)
Schools involved in FiraEscoles: 16
The organisers of the 20th Fira Mediterrània Manresa dedicated this year's Fira Mediterrània to the designer and illustrator Lluís Bertrans, who passed away on 5 October after fighting a long illness. For five years from 2011, Bertrans was Fira Medierrània's graphic designer, and he designed the poster for the 14th, 15th and 16th years of Fira Mediterrània. He also designed Fira Mediterrània's logo.