Updates from Barcelona: Cultural festivals, local and global interaction

Updates from Barcelona: Cultural festivals, local and global interaction

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In a city with a high density and agglomeration, the Barcelona research team, focused on observing, during the first stage of the project, the intensity of uses of diverse public spaces in the city  by events and culture festivals. The project analyses the coexistence of different events in these spaces alongside the creation and reinforcement of those spheres as inclusive spaces.

In recent years, Barcelona’s social structure and population composition has changed radically as a result of  influx of new migrants, including those searching for better economic conditions (generally from outside the EU such as Latin America or Asia) and those looking for better quality of life (generally from EU or developed countries). Nowadays the foreign population represents 20,2% of the total population from more than 179 different nationalities).

Furthermore, Municipal administration tries to generate equilibrium in public space managing events, but the pressure over the use of those spaces is evident by the quantity but also by type of events programmed. Major Barcelona events such as the Universal Exhibitions (1888 and 1929), Olympic Games (1992) and the Forum of Cultures (2004) have transformed Barcelona’s urban structure providing new urban spaces as well as possibilities of building imaginary spaces for innovative activities. At the same time other events, including cultural festivals have been seen as means of restoring cultural and public life to Barcelona’s streets such as Les Festes de Gràcia or Les Festes de Sants, in which the festivity becomes a traditional and popular participatory expression of the city inhabitants.

Also Barcelona actually is renowned for mega-events it has staged, such as cooperative events such as the Mobile World Congress or music events such as Sónar and Primavera Sound. But recent political changes at the municipality have modified the city’s events strategy from having a strategic festival plan focused on business and economic development, to a strategy focused on events as a platform for participation, fostering social cohesion, cultural and social identity building, capital catalyst, sense of belonging and strengthening social networks. It is against this backdrop that the Barcelona FESTSPACE team positions their work. 

Therefore Barcelona FESTSPACE focuses on how public space (currently limited, restricted by different dynamics and interests) is used for cultural events, and whether these generate lasting effects beyond economic growth, including social and cultural development.

Dra. Alba Colombo, as a PI, and her team Dr. Joan Pujolar, Dra. Maite Casedevall, Dra. Julie Wilson, Dra. Natalià Cantó and Esther Oliver as a research fellow, have their primary focus on how events in a symbolic public space, such as Castell de Montjuic but also events such as the main cultural festivity  Les Festes de la Mercè, can generate sense of community and belonging and contribute to social cohesion.

The Barcelona team has worked closely in collaboration with the  City Council Culture Institute to establish collaborative research within the framework of municipal policy. Complementary, we are collaborating with our Associate Partner Modiband, promoters of Sala Montjuic festival.

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