There are a lot of initiatives around the world about castells and human towers brought out by Catalans, and especially in those places where the presence of Catalan people is stronger. One of these places is Brussels, with the biggest Casal Català, or Catalan House, around the world.
Marta Meix is the founder and cap de colla of Castellers Bxl Foyer, the colla castellera from Brussels. Born as a way of integrate people from several nationalities and cultures, this colla reflects the true power of a colla castellera: it doesn’t matter from where the people comes, their creed or their social status, as in the colla everybody counts the same to raise the castell.
Hello Marta, how many people are in Castellers Bxl Foyer, approximately?
When we perform we are around 25, while in the trainings we are around 15. Only two of us are catalans. There was a third one too, who went to Canada. The rest are Africans, mainly from Morocco. There are people from Afghanistan, too, Belgium, Nederlands, Ireland… We are a multicultural colla, and this is what we seek.
What is the response of the audience in the performances?
We have already done some performances, especially in festivals. We have been twice in the belgian papers, once in the cover!
How many kids do you have in the colla? Everybody knows that “without canalla, there are no castells”.
We have no trouble for the children, as kids are the most motivated! We have around seven kids we can trust in, but there are always newcomers. We have more trouble on finding adults and teenagers for the pinya.
How did you get the sashes and the helmets for the kids? I bet it won’t be easy to get them in Belgium…
The sashes and the helmets are on behalf the Castellers de Barcelona. More or less once a month I travel to Barcelona to train with them and learn more. They have donated us three helmets that although being impacted (used in a failed castell) are still in good conditions. About the sashes, they pass us the contact of a factory in Valencia called “Hijos de Vicente Escuder”, very good people! They send the sashes via airmail.
What do you think that are the biggest achievements of the colla?
The 3 de 4, and with so many nationalities in it.
When and where do you practice? Have you had any trouble to find a place to practices?
In winter we use the gym of the Saint-Ursulé school, and also a hall in Sipelberg sports center. While the weather is good, we do trainings outdoors, in parks or in the square in front of the church of the neighbourhood. It’s very difficult to find a hall with a good height and well-prepared!
In 8th June Castellers de Vilafranca will come to Brussels to perform within the mark of “Catalans Want to Vote”action (12pm at the Grand Place). Have you get in touch with them?
We have prepared a training and a dinner with 150 castellers from Vilafranca and Castellers Bxl Foyer. I think we can learn a lot in this training! To organise that, the Casal Català de Brussel·les has helped us a lot. The training will be on Friday, 6th June on 19:30. The Castellers de Vilafranca have invited us to join the pinya in the Castell that they will made at the Grand Place.
There is a tradition to disguise the Manneken Pis when something is going on in the city. You could disguise him as a casteller…
We haven’t thought about that. But it would be cool.
How can the people can get involved in the colla?
It’s free, we do it from a social organisation (Foyer).
In the last post I talked about the London School of Castells. Do you have any advise you can give them?
Yes! To work with children’s centers, social centers and make workshops there, and to make some performances to make them noticeable.
Thank you very much!
On the 8th of June, Castellers de Vilafranca will raise castells in Brussels, at the Grande-Place / Grote Markt at 12pm within the mark of the Catalans Want to Vote – Human Towers for Democracy campaign.