Sunday was the day for the wrap-up press conference and more great food and wine. Our international group of bloggers and journalists attended the press conference held by the organizers of the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa at Casa Lluvià in Manresa.
General manager Jordi Bertran and artistic director David Ibáñez provided figures about the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa that were later shared in a press release. The performing arts fair included 230 performances and presentations, 36 debuts, and 10 coproductions with other fairs, festivals and agents.
Thirteen ticketed shows were sold out, including the Jordi Savall inaugural concert, Obrint Pas, Marc Parrot and Eva Armisén, Nats Nus, Albena Teatre, Fem sonar les musiquetes and Joan Alfred, Miquel Gil and Pep Gimeno “Botifarra”, the various acts on Friday at the Carpa Estrella DAMM / Milcentenari, and Muchachito y sus compadres.
Participants included 1.173 retired professionals (about 5% more than last year), representing 637 different organizations (8.6% increase) from 34 countries. According to the organizers, the Fira is the leading performing arts market for traditional or Mediterranean roots artists.
I had the opportunity to interview General Manager Jordi Bertran after the press conference.
How has the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa evolved since its beginnings 16 years ago?
JB- It’s been a progressive evolution. It started with Catalan groups and professionals, and later expanded through agreements with some territories like Occitania (France), the Piedmont (Italy), Campania (Italy) or the Maghreb (Northeast Africa). Finally, it became an international event that covered the entire Mediterranean and professionals arrived from the entire world. In the last years the Fira has also obtained more funding from the private sector.
Are you satisfied with the results of the 2013 edition of the Fira?
JB- Yes. It’s been a great artistic success and we increased ticket sales by 17%, the same increase in attendance by foreign professionals.
Is there still a market for traditional music?
JB- In a globalized world, glocalization provides us part of an identity. In Catalonia, contemporary musicians and composers like Carles Santos and Jordi Savall, choreographer Cesc Gelabert, plastic arts designer Perejaume, or filmmaker Isaki Lacuesta understand the arts of the 21st century from total respect to the intangible heritage that defines us as a nation.
How has the great economic crisis in southern Europe affected the Fira?
JB- La Fira carried out a reformulation of its management while the crisis was taking place. We sought synergies with artistic initiatives and private sponsor companies, we considered the daily expenses, re-dimensioned the costs of technical infrastructures, and started to increase exports. In 2008 the Fira had 20 alliances; today, the economic agreements are 160.
What can you tell us about the plans for the 2014 Fira?
JB- At this time, we need to do an overall assessment. It’s clear that we will continue to increase private sponsorship and the internationalization of the Mediterranean performing arts supply.
After the press conference we had an opportunity to see the famed castells, the human castles that are popular in Catalonia. The participants called castellers form a strong base composed of the larger men and then women, teenagers, and children add the final layers. It’s very important to create a solid foundation to prevent injuries and climbing up is as important as climbing down. The kids that go up to the top wear helmets for protection.
For lunch, our hosts treated our international media group to a fabulous experience at Sibar Plats i Vins restaurant, located at Carrer de Carrasco i Formiguera 18 in Manresa.
Restaurant owner and wine maker Pep Aligué initiated a food and wine ritual that lasted several hours. Although Italian Carlo Petrini came up with the concept of slow food, in reality, slow food has been practiced in southern Europe for decades. People enjoy good food and wine and engage in conversation for extended periods of time.
Pep Aligué brought out a selection of wines from the Manresa region, including some of his own. Although it was hard to keep track of all the wines, one of the media coordinators, Gemma, meticulously wrote down many of the names. The first set of wines were white wines: Abadal Picapoll, Mas de Sant Iscle 2012, and Més que paraules copage. They were served with a carpaccio de gamba (shrimp carpaccio, thin slices of raw shrimp marinated in a tasty dressing).
The next batch was Picapoll d’Acàcia, Nuat de Abadal, and Singular blanc de Coll Baix. The tasty dish provided was rovellons (pine mushrooms) and botifarra del perol (pork sausage).
The third set of wines consisted of As de copes, Artium reserva 2009, and 2010 Més que paraules. The delicious food course was múrgoles com fritura de verduras, jamón y crema (morel mushrooms, with vegetable stir fry, ham and cream).
More wine kept coming to the table. This time, Pep introduced us to four wines: Fargas-Fargas, Bernat Oller 2009, Exhibis 2012, and Sensus criança. The great food continued with an interesting patty called patates enmascarades con cortezas y guindillas (masked potatoes with pork cracklings and guindilla peppers).
After that we lost count of the rest of the wines. And there was more food in the form of beef (or maybe it was ox) steaks and a selection of cheeses: tou tillers (cow), carrat cenarat (goat), mas faro (sheep) and cremós d’alba (goat). Lastly, a wonderful desert.
The chef of Sibar is Angel Lluch Juaneda. If you see a restaurant called Sibar in Barcelona, this is an expansion of the original Manresa restaurant, with a similar menu and atmosphere.
At the end, Pep Aligué informed us that we had tried up to 21 different white and red wines, which was a sampling of all the region’s wines. In these wine tastings you don’t have to drink the entire amount served to you. You can sip it and drink some of it and throw the rest in a bucket so you can try other wines.
Our sociable Italian media colleague Vincenzo Membola proudly announced that he was the only one who had drank the entire amounts served to him. Bear in mind that this was a process of several hours with food so Vincenzo was still standing and in good shape. The visit to Sibar was an outstanding gastronomic and enological experience.
The showcases that evening included Musiques en Terres de Cruilla with musicians from Catalonia and bordering Spanish regions; the Ecos de Patum dramatized concert featuring the orchestra of the Escola Municipal de Música de Berga; a concert by award-wining gralla (double reed) group Els Laietans; veteran Castilian folk group Free Folk from Segovia; contemporary folk band Urbalia Rurana from Valencia; and a concert by young performers (6 to 8 year olds) from Escola Municipal de Musica in Tarragona.
This concludes the series of reports about my visit to the Fira Mediterrania de Manresa and the region near Manresa. I’d like to thank our generous hosts and the staff at Fira Mediterrania for providing a truly memorable experience; our guides in Manresa, Montserrat, and Alícia at Mont Sant Benet; and all the wonderful chefs and staff at the various restaurants as well as the Benedictine monks at Montserrat for making delightful chocolate. Special thanks to our media coordinators Gemma Casalé, David Sancho and Ivan Rodon; Pep Aligué and his staff at Sibar; Fira General Manager Jordi Bertrán; and my media colleagues for sharing their expertise.
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