Category Archives: General

A colla in Brussels!

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. Continue reading A colla in Brussels!

The London School of Castells.

Alex Diaz-Manero asks me not to tell how much he has been living in London. “It’s confidencial — he says — only my best friend knows it and if he tells he would be violating the Data Protection Act”. He is one of the instigators of The London School of Castells, one of the some samples of this cultural fact worldwide. 

With a huge increase of Catalan population due to the Spanish  Crisis, it was already time that somebody engaged a Castells-related activity

So we decided to have a nice Q&A with him.

Tell me about the school of castells, how did it started? And, especially, why?

I am the administrator of a Facebook group named “Catalans a Londres” that now has near 2000 people in it. There I met Ingrid Hurtado, who comes from Micacos de Badalona. My sisters were at that Colla for some years and already met Ingrid. Anyway, it was Ingrid who asked “why don’t we create a colla castellera in London?”. That put the idea in my mind and I thought “ok let’s start looking for people, Facebook is a great tool for that purpose”. Also I commented with people also had considered to do workshops to practice the technique. At first we did the first workshops at Regent’s Park in the summer of 2013. 

I hope that, being a school is there someone who already did castells?

Yes, there are already up to ten people with ample experience who reside in London or its outskirts and who have come at least once to the workshops. They can teach the novices that come along. But so far has not been possible to gather them all at the same day and time. And there are more people interested with experience but they are working long hours or weekends in London or live too far away and sadly cannot attend. Continue reading The London School of Castells.

Are castells a competition?

Yes. And no. But yes. Let me explain it better:

Well, for me they actually have a certain degree of competitiviness, and a proof of it is that every two years a tournament is held: the “Concurs de castells”. This contest is set in Tarragona, where the colles who enter into the tournament compete between them, and we are talking about something like the Champions League of Castells. And I am not kidding.

(If you hit HERE you’ll find a Spanish video I couldn’t link properly where the news reporter says that the Concurs is the Champions League of Castells. Literally!)

Although, they say that the contest is split in three days, but I guess that we could talk more about three contests for each kind of colla. This is, during the season, the colles try to do their best and get classified for sunday, which is the day where the competition is for the biggest prices. So more or less the comparision with the UEFA Champions League is more or less correct, as the CL doesn’t start only with the group phase, but there are a lot of previous qualifying phases. By the same token, colles try to do their best when it comes to a Concurs’ year.

Continue reading Are castells a competition?

Who manages a colla?

So, up to this point, we have a bunch of people climbing up the shoulders of other people, to the point that a child climbs up all this bunch of people and raises his hand.

That’s really impressive, and beautiful. And all the people who sees castells for the first time gets shocked. Really. If you come to Barcelona for La Mercè’s fiestas (the week following september 24, they raise castells on Sunday) the only thing you will hear on Sunday at Plaça Sant Jaume will be Japanese girls’ yellings. And I guess you might know how acute they can be.

Castellers de Barcelona performing a 4d9f in Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona,  for La Mercè fiestas
Castellers de Barcelona performing a 4d9f in Plaça Sant Jaume, Barcelona, for La Mercè fiestas

Anyway, it’s obvious that this mass of people needs someone who manages them. In the sense that they need somebody outside the castell, telling them how they are climbing, who has to climb and when, if the castell is stable or not, to give them support… and much more! Continue reading Who manages a colla?

So, What is this blog about?

This blog is about Castells. Maybe some of you have heard already about that weird catalan tradition: People piles up over the shoulders of other people, in order to do a human structure topped by children. Have you seen Brad Pitt’s “World War Z”? When they are in Israel and the zombies begin to climb up the walls? It’s more or less the same, but with (not really) sane people, more stylish and with a band of musicians around, joining the castell. Actually, I’m pretty sure that this kind of stuff was invented in a crazy summer night of partying and wine binging, but I can assure you that there is nothing more exciting than watch, or even participate, in one of these human towers.

I am afraid you’re not really eager to participate in one of these human towers…

Even more, doing a castell it’s not only about the piling up of the people. It’s something more. It’s a whole world. It’s not only a tradition, and it is not only one of the sickest hobbies anyone can have. It is almost a cult. Even worse than trainspotting, sugar packet or doll-collecting, or triathlon-running (this last one it’s getting more and more annoying). It’s a family. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a claim of being Catalan. It’s a vindication that anyone can be Catalan if they want to. So I am warning you. We’re going to talk about serious stuff here.

Furthermore, as there has not been a single blog about castells and its world in English language before – as far as I could spot. Although, I am not going to cheat you. I am not doing this because I had own initiative and one boring afternoon I sat in front of the computer and I said to myself “I am going to entrust my castellphilia to the English-speaker world!”. Not like that. Actually I am doing this as an exercise for my English lessons. Yeah, that’s right. I have a master’s degree in Australia and I am still doing English lessons, so what? They are for free (I will tell you about that someday), and I always can learn something more. Actually this blog is kinda like homework, but without the “kinda like”.

Castells are a whole world, but I will try to be as plain as possible in my explanations and I will try to to my best and if you have anything to say to me – where can I improve my English, what are my failures, how can you get in touch with people who do castells… – just send me an email. I will be very pleased to read your queries and answer them.

Welcome, and enjoy!