That’s one lasting impression of this year’s Festival, as the official video below shows. But it didn’t hamper our enjoyment, indeed, aside from driving us indoors – to see some rather lovely art (see Festival Art 2018) – we didn’t even really notice it. That’s because we were having too good a time.
The Festival de Jerez just keeps getting better and better. Every year we think, ‘You can’t top that’ but, the following year we see something equally as good if not better. This year’s highlight for me was Santiago Lara’s La guitarra en el Tiempo in Sala Paul ( which, though not the most lovely of venues, is rapidly becoming my favourite, we have seen so many very good things there over the years ). Closely followed by Rafaela Carrasco’s Nacida Sombra and David Carpio’s Con la Voz en la Tierra.
It is becoming more commercial, but, if it brings income to the town that has to be good, youth unemployment here is still very high. But its organisers could still take a trick or two – re-starting publication of the excellent Festival Guide would be one of them. There are plans to build a new flamenco centre in the rather decrepit but beautiful old town, near Plaza Peones, which will, when it eventually happens, formalise the city’s relationship with this art ( there is already the Flamenco Archive in Palacio Pelmartin, left ).
‘The gypsy city’ Llorca called Jerez and it is unique, especially as flamenco here is more joyous than anywhere else in Spain. Often called the ‘blues of Europe’ for its association with the downtrodden and transient, flamenco has its heart in gypsy music, but in Jerez the music also has a happy and celebratory side. Gypsies were always welcomed here, as labour to pick the grapes which make the sherry wine. Many stayed. I hope the new centre won’t negatively affect the spontaneous, very local, peñas and tabancos.
The Festival is also becoming even more popular internationally. Again, good. Though there is a down side. For the first time ever at the Festival I didn’t see any flamenco in El Pasaje. This tiny bar between two passageways has got itself a reputation for flamenco performances and it was impossible to get into, even to book a table for drinks and nibbles. We went to Guitarron (another flamenco bar) and La Pandilla, though for lunch not in the evening and not for performances.
But now I’m back in London and preparing for another Festival, that taking place on 12 May in Clapham about books and writing. For a while there will be no rapid rhythms of hands or heels, no trilling cascades of guitar notes, no melding of voice and instrument.
Hey ho, I still have my CDs. There’s a peña in Pimlico and there’s always next year.
And, oh yes, it’s raining.