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Festivals of Spain: More tea than bull

Por: | 01 de abril de 2014

“Do you want to know a secret?” grins Jorge Martín, mayor of Algo, a village hidden in the mountains behind Málaga’s Costa del Sol. “If we have a problem, we can work it out.” He is talking about one of Spain’s wonderful festivals, but one of the few with British connections. On this occasion, it’s an annual tribute to The Beatles, which includes music, fashion, and the obligation of using their song lyrics in conversation. As a festival influenced by British culture, it’s not alone. Two other locations have also chosen to extol different aspects of our lifestyle.

Our much-loved British fish and chips are the basis for the festival in Salyvinagre, a small village near the port of Santander. The weekend celebration originated in the 1950s, when ships from the UK docked in the city. Many English seamen preferred to head to the little village to escape the hustle and bustle, and inevitably they told tales of the cuisine from their homeland. The villagers, always eager to welcome visitors, tried to create the dish for them, albeit with varying degrees of success and confusion. At first, as a seamen’s diary confirms, it was hit and miss. “Sometimes fish with no batter, sometimes batter with no fish, but the biggest problem was mushy peas. The villagers asked why they had to mush all the peas together. To be honest, we didn’t have an answer, so in the end we told them it was because it was easier to keep them on the plate.”


Festival ingredients: Fish, chips, mushy peas and tea.                             Photo Flickr (CC): Kevin Hutchinson

Nowadays, participants wear appropriate costumes, with some villagers dressing as fish and others as chips. During the Saturday end-of-festival party, they all run around the village plaza chaotically, until music starts and each fish undertakes a choreographed routine with a chip. The intention is to make calm out of chaos and to emphasize the harmony of the dish. Matches have been made here. “I was a chip and I met my future wife because she was a fish. I immediately knew I had the most wonderful piece of cod in the village,” says Juan Porshon, a keen festival attendee.

Whilst fish and chips are waltzing near Santander, the British love of tea and theatre is celebrated at another village, Escenamiedo, in the north of Extremadura. Originated by the De Quetelisson family after a visit to the UK in the 1970s, their eldest son, Gladwen, now oversees the events. “My late parents were besotted with the British way of life, but especially tea and acting, so they decided to start an annual festival to celebrate both,” he explains. “We call it Tea-atre, and the idea is that all of the productions have a tea theme. It takes a lot of imagination to adapt a script in a suitable way. For example, last year we did Teatanic, about the sinking of the great ocean liner, but from the perspective of all passengers drinking tea. We decided that, under those circumstances, there would have been considerably less panic. We’ve also tried a stage version of the movie From Here To Eternitea and, of course, E M Forster’s A Room With A Brew.”

Popularity has meant the festival has been extended to incorporate other initiatives. “A sculpture competition was introduced in 2011. The works have to be made from dried tea leaves and each sculpture must include the word ‘tea’ in its title, in the same way as the theatrical productions. Winning entries for the last three years have been an aeroplane called ‘Prioritea Boarding’, a strange taxidermy-style creation named ‘Reflections on Immortalitea’, and 2013’s controversial ‘Nuditea’,” concludes Gladwen. For the closing party, or par-tea, the village plaza is cordoned off, with sugar cubes taking the place of tickets. One lump will get you a normal seat, whereas two permit you to enter the VIP area.

Back in Algo, meanwhile, Jorge Martín is musing on the plans for this summer. “I feel fine,” he smiles. “If things get difficult, I’ll get by with a little help from my friends.” I ask if he’s expecting a good attendance. “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he laughs, “It’s not unusual.” He thinks for a second, and then adds, “Sorry, that’s Tom Jones!” I tell him not to worry, and that we’ll just let it be. He has to leave the interview a little early as a delivery lorry arrives with a consignment of Beatles-style wigs. The mop-top additions are obligatory for the final day of the three-day event, although many festival-goers wear them throughout.

The British flavour makes all three of these events an unusual diversion, far removed from the normal delights of bulls, tomatoes or olives. However, the timing of the celebrations can change from year to year, so it’s highly recommended to check the date of all information carefully.

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Authors (Bloggers)

Chris Finnigan is a freelance journalist based in Barcelona. He writes for Barcelona Metropolitan and is a book reviewer and reader for The Barcelona Review. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics. You can find him on twitter @chrisjfinnigan

Ben Cardew is a freelance journalist, translator and teacher, now resident in Barcelona after growing up gracefully in Scotland via Norwich. He writes for The Guardian, the NME and The Quietus, among others, on everything from music to digital media. You can find him on Twitter @bencardew

Fiona Flores Watson is a freelance journalist, guide and translator who has lived in Seville since 2003, and has been a writer and editor for more than 20 years. She writes for the Guardian, Telegraph and Sunday Times Travel Magazine. Originally from Essex, Fiona is also Consulting Editor of and has her own blog, Scribbler in Seville. She has been contributing to Trans-Iberian since 2014 and tweets at @Seville_Writer

Jeff Brodsky is a freelance writer. He arrived in Barcelona in 2013 via an admittedly indirect route, living in Chicago, Arizona, Seville, Amsterdam, North Carolina and Madrid. Despite not having stepped foot in Seville for over five years, he still speaks Spanish with an Andalusian accent. Jeff’s writing has been published in newspapers and magazines in America and Europe.

Koren Helbig is an Australian freelance journalist and blogger enjoying a life of near-eternal sunshine in Alicante. She writes for publications in Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom, focusing on stories exploring smart and positive approaches to social issues. She hangs out on Twitter at @KorenHelbig and keeps a selection of her favourite stories at

Julie Pybus lives in a small off-grid house on a hillside in Catalunya. She usually focuses on helping charities and social enterprises with their publications and websites, but has also written for The Guardian, Country Living and The Observer. Julie launched and runs a hyperlocal website which endeavors to increase understanding between the different nationalities in her area @JuliePybus

Paul Louis Archer is a freelance photographer, multimedia storyteller and artist educator. A cross-disciplinary worker, who endeavors to encompass the mediums of photography, audio design and writing. Born in Hertfordshire of an English father and Spanish mother. Based in the United Kingdom. @PaulLouisArcher

Vicki McLeod is a freelance writer and photographer. She has lived in Mallorca since 2004. Vicki writes about her beloved island for The Majorca Daily Bulletin, the only daily English language paper in Spain; produces regular columns for the Euro Weekly News, and articles for Vicki runs PR strategies for several businesses in Mallorca and London as well as working on her own blogs and projects. She and her husband, Oliver Neilson, supply photo and text content for private clients via @phoenixmediamlr. She tweets at @mcleod_vicki.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne and based in Barcelona, Alx Phillips writes about contemporary art, dance and theatre in a way that human beings can understand. For more previews, reviews, interviews and extras, check:

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