The Festival de Jerez 2018 is over now. The crowds have gone home and already the town is gearing up for Semana Santa as Easter is early this year. The boxed seating is being erected all over town and some central roads are closed at night to allow the Brotherhoods to practice manoeuvering the giant pasos through the narrow streets, we walked past the barriers on Honda the other night. The Diario is carrying articles about this year’s preparations.
As for me, I am back in London and reflecting about all that I saw – there were some truly remarkable artists this year – and I will be posting reviews of performances and exhibitions over the next week or so, but, for now, see the post below, written a week ago when the Festival was in full swing.
It’s Festival time again in Jerez and the town is bustling and full. Each morning brings anticipation, of a day to be spent wandering around this lovely old town, visiting the tabancos and exhibitions and then, in the evening, of the performances themselves.
Restaurant tables have to be reserved, El Pasaje is impossible to get into and there are, for the first time since I’ve been coming to the Festival, numbered seats at all the venues. Other than in the Teatro this has not, in my experience, happened before. It brings convenience for the Festival goer, because one doesn’t have to turn up outside venues well in advance of the start time in order to obtain good seats, but it does change the general atmosphere. Spontaneity suffers.
Also this year I have seen Festival sponsored merchandising for the first time, canvas bags and posters, on sale in the Teatro. But the annual Festival Programme, so informative and such a good aide memoire (and, usually priced at €1, so cheap) has, inexplicably, not been produced for the second year running. Last year, because there was some doubt over the future of the theatre and, therefore, the Festival, the print deadline was missed. But there’s no excuse this year. I would happily pay more the €1 for it, because it’s such an excellent souvenir as well as a useful guide to what’s on.
So, while the organisers are beginning to see the commercial opportunities – a shame in some ways but probably unavoidable – they are also missing a few tricks. And, like at every popular festival, the good things sell out very quickly ( I am informed by the member of our party, who was sporting a ‘Fairport Convention at 50’ limited edition T-shirt at the time, that this happens all over ).
This year, after two months of drought, the Festival sees Jerez in almost continuous rain. Not as bad as elsewhere – there was a tornado in El Puerto and storm Emma has wreaked havoc along the coast in Northern Spain – but enough to preclude some of the outdoor Festival activities. Nonetheless we have contrived to eat lunch outside twice, sometimes in the sun. Having only just managed to escape a blizzard riven Britain last week we’re not complaining. It’s warm rain.
There are plenty of things to do indoors, an exhibition at the Palacio Pelmartin of the work of Moreno Galvan, artist, writer and famous advocate of flamenco, a lovely photographic exhibition entitled The Wines and the Women at the Claustros de Santo Domingo and beautiful old posters advertising various Jerez festivals dating back to 1903 at the Alcazar. I’ll be writing about all three we’ve been to so far and we’re off to another one tomorrow.
But, as always, the music dominates the town. The stamp of feet and fluid clapping rhythms ring out across busy Medina from the theatre rehearsal rooms, a gym in the old town reverberates to guitar and song as one passes and one sees small crowds huddling around cafe bar doorways listening to, if not watching, the performers in the packed space within. Every night there are vibrant, exquisite performances, full of artistry, emotion and colour in beautiful, unique venues.
I’m so glad to be back at the Festival once again.
If you enjoyed this article you might enjoy reading about Jerez Festivals and performances past and present. For this year try Festival de Jerez 2018. For earlier years try Lamento Camerata Flamenco Project Lola Street Art