With the return of international mobility this year, we’ve been working with esteemed colleagues in Catalonia to deliver Catalonia-UK Exchange: a programme of activities to continue strengthening cultural and artistic relations between outdoor arts professionals in the United Kingdom and Catalonia.
Working closely with the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises (ICEC), and Catalan Arts, their brand for the internationalization of Catalan culture, Catalonia-UK Exchange brought together artists, festivals and key institutions in the sector of both territories. Our aim is to reiterate the importance of international exchange despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and Brexit, and continue creating opportunities for building long-lasting relationships amongst international outdoor arts professionals.
Catalan artists at BIDF and SIRF
The first stage of this collaboration has seen Catalan companies Moveo, Zum-Zum Teatre and Humanhood (Cat/British) performing at Birmingham International Dance Festival (BIDF), as well as Catalan artists Angel Duran and Los Informalls taking part in the pitching event XTRAX Shorts during the XTRAX/SIRF 2022 Outdoor Arts Showcase.
Spotlight UK in FiraTàrrega
The first stop of our programme in Catalonia took place in partnership with our long-standing collaborators and one of the strongest outdoor festivals and market events in Europe, FiraTàrrega.
During the festival, which took place from Thursday 8 to Sunday 11 September, XTRAX had a shared stand with Without Walls in the marketplace, and organised a number of key meetings with international and UK colleagues. Throughout the three days of the festival, XTRAX met with over 50 national and international outdoor arts professionals, reconnecting with colleagues that we had not seen in person since before the pandemic, as well as making new connections.
On Saturday 10 September we hosted a morning reception for UK and international colleagues titled Building bridges, opening borders, in collaboration with Outdoor Arts UK. This event gave us the opportunity to talk about the desire of the UK artistic community to stay connected despite the complexities of Brexit, as well as to share the experiences of some of the artists who had been supported to take their work to FiraTàrrega.
Furthermore, Maggie Clarke and Irene Segura spoke directly to Natàlia Garriga, Minister of Culture for the Generalitat (Catalan Government), Joan Francesc Marco, Director of the INAEM (National Institute for the Performing Arts and Music in Spain) and Miquel Iceta, Minister of Culture for the Spanish Government, about some of the key challenges that Brexit is posing for continued cultural and artistic exchange between our countries.
The artistic programme of FiraTàrrega presented three works from the UK which were received very positively and made it to the press: Robot Selfie by Kaleider, Tape That! by UK-Irish company Hands Down Circus and Born To Protest by Just Us Dance-Joseph Toonga., which you can spot in the four short videos produced by the festival here.
Key events and dates:
- FiraTàrrega Performing Arts Market: Thursday 8 September – Sunday 11 September
- UK Spotlight (XTRAX x Without Walls) at La Llotja Fair Pavillon (Stand No. 03)
- Building Bridges, Opening Borders: meeting with professionals from UK – a breakfast reception: Saturday 10 September, 9:30 – 11 am (Jardí Pro of La Llotja)
UK programme at MAC (La Mercè Arts de Carrer) festival, Barcelona
The final part of the Catalonia-UK collaboration in 2022 saw XTRAX deliver a programme of activity at La Mercè, the major annual festival of culture in Barcelona.
La Mercè 2022 took place between Friday 23 and Monday 26 September. XTRAX hosted a UK delegation at the festival, which included representatives from the British Council, Arts Council England, City of Manchester Culture Team, as well as artists and directors of festivals and key outdoor arts organisations.
On Wednesday 21 September, in the run-up to the festival, we participated in Time to act: Inclusion in Cultural Programmes, a session and roundtable discussion on inclusion and accessibility in the performing arts. Together with the British Council, Catalan Arts and SDE, we shared our work on access through Without Walls with over 40 professionals. The session allowed us to hear perspectives and experiences from both the UK and Spain, while at the same time gaining a better understanding of the situation for disabled artists in Catalonia and seeing the potential for further collaboration.
A reception with the major cultural organisations in Catalonia and members of the UK delegation then took place on Friday 23 September, hosted by Barcelona City Council. The Consul General of the UK in Spain spoke at this reception, along with the Director of International at Arts Council England, the Director of the Market Development area at ICEC and the Head of Culture at Barcelona City Council. This reception was designed to lay the groundwork for deeper ongoing exchange with the Barcelona city region, as well as to emphasise the existing challenges for continued mobility between Catalonia and the UK due to Brexit.
A networking lunch for artists and promoters from the UK and Catalonia also took place on Friday 23 September. This was attended by over 20 artists and organisations from the UK and Catalonia, and allowed a range of new creative connections to be established.
The street arts programme of La Mercè (MAC, Mercè Arts de Carrer) included four UK shows, which were presented over the weekend : Frock by Stopgap Dance Company, Future Cargo by Requardt & Rosenberg, Insect Circus by String Theatre and The Lips by Puppets with Guts.
The audience response to these performances was fantastic and they were obvious highlights within the MAC programme, reinforcing the unique place the UK has within the wider ecology of European outdoor arts.
- MAC Festival – Friday 23 to Monday 26 September (several locations across Barcelona)
- Professional event Time to act: inclusion in cultural programmes – Wednesday 21 September, 10 am – 1 pm (Arts Santa Mònica, Barcelona)
- Institutional reception hosted by Barcelona City Council (by invitation only) – Friday 23 September, 12.30 – 2 pm
- Networking lunch (by invitation only) – Friday 23 September, 2 – 4 pm
XTRAX’s international showcase activity is part of our Platform4:UK project funded by Arts Council England which aims to promote the work of UK outdoor artists internationally, creating new markets for UK work and developing strong international partnerships.
Image credits: Tape That by Hands Down Circus © Neil Hainsworth
Aperitivo by Los Informalls © Aida Vargas
Born to Protest by Just Us Dance – Joseph Toonga © Cave & Sky
Frock by Stopgap at SIRF 2019 © Stockton Borough Council