Friday, 20 July 2012

Who thinks about the public when a human tower collapses?

Last weekend, the historic centre of Calafell celebrated its Festa Major and I went there to take part in the traditional human tower exhibition. The atmosphere was full of expectation since all three teams – the “home team” Nens del Vendrell, the team from my town, Bordegassos de Vilanova, and Xicots de Vilafranca – planned to build human towers of eight levels.
Looking only at the results of the day, we all have reason to be quite content.

Nens del Vendrell managed to crown, but not complete, a 4 of 8 and completed 2 of 7, 5 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Xicots de Vilafranca had to dismantle their attempt to build a 3 of 8 before it was crowned, but completed their first 2 by 7 during this season and followed up with a 5 of 7, a very light 4 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Bordegassos de Vilanova, for our part, opened with our seventh (!) 2 of 7 this year, but only managed to crown, not complete, our big challenge of the day, the 4 of 8. After this we rounded off with a 3 of 7 and a pillar of 5.

Having pointed out that the results were satisfying, this day gave me many reasons to reflect over how tourists might perceive Catalan human towers. We experienced a number of dramatic falls and since the ambulance staff had to intervene and even take one casteller to the hospital, the exhibition had some almost unbearably long breaks.

What is worse, there was not anyone - neither among the Festa Major organizers, nor among the participating teams -, who seemed to think about the public when the activity stopped. That irritates me since I know that most participants like to have a lot of people watching and, on top of that, Catalan authorities on all levels love to use castells in tourism promotions.

We must not let the public leave the squares with a feeling that this cultural activity is highly dangerous and that might very well have happened in Calafell – a coastal town full of foreign tourists at this time of the year.

The solution to this is very simple: Like at many days of human towers organized in the towns north of Barcelona, we in Penedès ought to have a speaker during our exhibitions. It is enough if they only speak Catalan and Spanish – the important thing is to signal that there is one person who, if needed, can answer questions and help you digest what you see.

We want for tourists to return to their countries with nice memories of Penedès and Catalonia and its human towers, so let us all take responsibility and improve where we can.


Florenci Salesas said...

I totally agree with you, Erik. This is a really wise advise. I hope the ones who should read this!

Erik Wirdheim said...

Dear Florenci,

Thanks for your comment.

Well, it will take time to change this , since we will be stuck with at least two defense lines of excuses.

The first is: "But here in Penedès, as in Tarragona, everybody already knows what human towers are all about, so, no, there is no need for a speaker."

And when you say "But what about the tourists?" you will reach the second one:

"We do not build human towers as a tourist attraction. We are content just having a good time, challenging each other between the team (colles)."

...after which all team presidents go home and write a letter to their respective town council, demanding more financial support, since "castells" are so important for the tourism sector... ;)