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Trans-Iberian

Covering everything from the major news of the week and burning social issues, to expat living and la vida local, EL PAÍS’ team of English-language bloggers offers its opinions, observations and analysis on Spain and beyond.

Shhhh Seville, I'm trying to sleep

Por: | 06 de agosto de 2014

Plaza

I clearly remember my first night’s sleep in Seville. It was 2am as I slipped into bed, late by UK standards, though in most Spanish cities the time when an already ebullient population comes into its own. But for the next 4 hours I was party to, rather than partying with, a pulsing arterial flow of revellers going from one bar to the next, stopping just outside my bedroom window for a typically Sevillano animated chat. Throw in a bit of flamenco sung by someone who’d clearly had one Ballantine’s and Coke too many and a stream of passing cars and motorbikes, it’s easy to see how a peaceful night’s sleep was never on the cards.

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I managed to last 2 years living in an area in the old part of Seville called the Alameda, before throwing in the towel (and earplugs) and moving a quiet stone’s throw away to nearby district, The Macarena. So I do have some sympathy for the vociferous outpourings of groups such as the ‘Sevilla sin Ruido’ (Sevilla without noise), who campaign against the city’s noise levels, proclaimed by the World Health Organisation as the second highest in the world. You would imagine then that such neighbourhood action groups would be delighted by the recently announced noise abatement measures introduced by the city council to temper the cacophonous reality of every day life in the Andalusian capital.

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The lengthy official document outlining a whole host of bylaws appears not to leave any stone uncovered, in which noise pollution misdemeanours include playing dominoes or dice on a bar’s terraza, eating standing up outside a bar, shouting and singing in the street, no unnecessary revving of car engines or playing music too loud on the car stereo, no pulling tables and chairs along the ground on outside terraces, no televisions set up outside bars, no honking car horns unless to warn of a possible collision or danger, no car alarms going off for more than 3 minutes, no leaving noisy domestic pets alone and no playing musical instruments at home if there have been any previous complaints by neighbours, to name but a few.

There is, however, one important fly in the ointment. While most of the legislation is geared towards guaranteeing the basic human right of getting a good night’s sleep, the environmental inspectors charged with measuring noise levels on their specialist equipment work only during the day, with any night time complaints being left to the judgement of the local police force as to whether decibel limits have been broken. And on this auditory discernment, would be based the fines of between €300 for minor infractions up to €300,000 for more serious cases, plus the immediate closure of any commercial activity that has infringed the legislation.

However, some of Seville’s noisiest but most entrenched traditions find themselves exempt from the noise restrictions. Religious processions such as the week long Semana Santa parades, church bells and rockets fired to send off the hermandades on their way to El Rocio, all get a big, noisy thumbs up from the council.

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And much to the ire of ‘Sevilla sin Ruido’ there is a surprising and much out of character leniency with nightclubs and karaoke bars bordering residential dwellings, which will be able to operate with levels of up to 90 decibels as long as they have the appropriate soundproofing within. The complaint being that this will not legislate for the inevitable late-night loitering outside the venue as cigarettes are smoked and the world is set to rights in alcohol-induced high tones.

This is the problem: Sevillanos are a city of street dwellers. I don’t mean in a no fixed abode kind of way, but just that it goes against their very nature to sit down in enclosed spaces, with doors firmly shut, when there’s a whole world of street corners and pavements beckoning invitingly. It partly explains why there are a staggeringly small number of bars boasting cool interiors and decent music; people just aren’t interested. Entertainment is a small, cool Cruzcampo beer in hand, somewhere to lean your elbow, some animated conversation and the warm, sultry Sevillano night air.

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In the past in matters of noise pollution and general social nuisance, it was easy to point the finger at the seething masses of the botellón generation, knocking back liter bottles of beer, smoking spliffs and making a racket until either the police moved them on or the street cleaners literally hosed them away. But this new legislation strikes at the very heart of Sevillano-ness, i.e. the positive lifestyle choice of eschewing sofas and going to bed at a sensible time, choosing instead to linger outside, beer in hand until the early hours. I mean really, can you realistically prevent a Sevillano from consuming their tapita standing up outside a bar? I would hazard a guess that even the most militant of anti-noise protesters sneaks in an alfresco ration of jamón, elbow perched on an upright table from time to time. So at the risk of layering one sweeping generalization on top of another, it would be like banning Romans from eating ice creams in a piazza or Brazilians from playing football in the street. It just goes against nature, and I’m not sure that’s something you can legislate against.

Hay 4 Comentarios

Same thing's been happening in Valencia over the past 10 years. Basically trying to outlaw youth, protect their piso property values and make everyone's life as boring as they are. Yes, I am a night person but don't do nightlife any more.

wonderful as spanish flamenco music.

wonderful as spanish flamenco music.

Welcome to Spain ;)

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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 Andalucia.com 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 korenhelbig.com.

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 perelloplus.com. @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 Spain-Holiday.com. 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: www.lookingfordrama.com.

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