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Joe Strummer: the Spain years. “I Need A Dodge!”

October 30, 2014 – 11:41 am

Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, in Granada in 1984/5 - a still from the documentary.

Joe Strummer, lead singer of the Clash, in Granada in 1984/5 - a still from the documentary.


Here at the blog, we’re always interested in quirky stories about the British in Andalucia, such as an English soldier who fought against Napoleon for Spain, buried near Seville , a certain Mr Henderson’s railway from Algeciras to Ronda,  and Laurie Lee’s fabled journey in the 1930s.

Not so long ago, a square in Granada was named after Joe Strummer, founder and lead singer of The Clash, described as “one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history”. Strummer visited Spain on numerous occasions in the 1970s and 1980s, and was quoted as saying that he wanted to give up music and open a ferreteria in Granada. At the time of his mid-1980s visits, he was pondering his musical future with the band, and was at a turning point in his life.

Now a Barcelona-based British indie film director, Nick Hall, has made a film about Joe Strummer in Spain, based around the American Dodge car he lost in a Madrid car park in 1986. The documentary is called I Need A Dodge! and looks at Strummer’s sojourns in Spain.

Nick Hall explains how the idea for the film first came about: “Soon after I started investigating Joe Strummer’s ‘refuge’ in Spain in 1984/5, I heard a recording of an interview on Spanish national radio from the 1990s. In the interview Joe talks about a car he had in Madrid some years earlier. One day he left the car in a car park but couldn’t remember which one. And there it stayed. In the interview Joe appeals to the Spanish people to help him find his car. I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to Joe’s Dodge and what he was doing in Madrid without the rest of The Clash. I thought I’d dig around a bit…”

Hall explains about the effect the musician had on Spanish people: “Joe Strummer touched many people’s lives in Spain during this period. He became friends with the biggest stars in Spanish music and produced an LP for a local Granada punk band [called 091]. Everyone I have interviewed for the film tells an interesting, and sometimes funny, tale of their time with a rock star at a crossroads in his life. I believe it’s a story that needs to be told and an investigation that needs to be completed – just in case!”

The film features interviews with members of 091, Radio Futura (a famous Spanish rock band, which Strummer asked to help him buy the Dodge)  and The Clash, as well as some of Joe’s closest friends.

Hall also reveals that Strummer “spent months on end here; over a year and a half period he was here more than he was back in London.” “I had this image in my head of Joe Strummer going off to dig up [Spanish poet and radical Federico Garcia] Lorca and discovering – the contrast would be huge. It’s difficult to imagine now, the contrast between the life with the Clash – he’d been playing in Shea Stadium – compared with life in Andalucia in 1984.”*

Strummer first visited Spain in the 1970s, the filmmaker says:

“Before [the Clash] he lived in a squat with two sisters from Malaga. He had a girlfriend from Malaga [Paloma Romero], who went on to become the drummer from the Slits. That is the connection. Richard Dudanski, who was his big friend, they had a Romero sister each, and they all traveled to Malaga in ’73 or something. They’d talk about Lorca. [Dictator Francisco] Franco was still in charge then. He was very interested by Spanish culture and politics. Spanish Bombs would have come out of that. And once the Clash was falling apart and he needed to run somewhere, he went back.”*

Here are the lyrics from Spanish Bombs, about the Spanish Civil War, which was on the band’s massively successful album London Calling:

Spanish songs in Andalucia
The shooting sites in the days of ’39
Oh, please, leave the ventana open
Federico Lorca, dead and gone
Bullet holes in the cemetery walls
The black cars of the Guardia Civil
Spanish bombs on the Costa Rica
I’m flyin’ in on a DC-10 tonight

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon

Spanish weeks in my disco casino
The freedom fighters died upon the hill
They sang the red flag
They wore the black one
After they died, it was Mockingbird Hill
Back from the buses, went up in flashes
The Irish tomb, drenched in blood
Spanish bombs shatter the hotels
My Senorita’s rose was nipped in the bud

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon

The hillsides ring with, “Free the people”
Can I hear the echo from the days of ’39
With trenches full of poets
The ragged army, fixin’ bayonets to fight the other line
Spanish bombs rock the province
I’m hearin’ music from another time
Spanish bombs on the Costa Brava
I’m flyin’ in on a DC-10 tonight

Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Spanish bombs
Yo te quiero infinito
Yo te quiero, oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon

Spanish songs in Andalucia, Mandolina, oh mi corazon
Spanish songs in Granada, oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon
Oh mi corazon

And Hall comments on the Clash’s huge popularity in Spain:

“Well, he sang about Spain. Can you imagine? Spain wasn’t on the map then, in terms of British-American rock music. And there’s only so much flamenco and copla a young person can take [laughs]. Young Spanish people were listening to what everybody was listening to. There was a punk movement. The bands that were coming out of the young crowd were influenced by the British bands more than anything, and for one of them – one of the most important – to be singing about Spain, that would be massive. They only played three gigs in Spain, ever [in 1981], but it feels like they were always much closer to Spain. Those three gigs left a mark.”*


Here are the dates for the film’s showings, but sadly thus far there is nothing planned for Granada or other cities in Andalucia. Let’s hope they can find an interested venue.


30/10/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Barcelona
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Madrid
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Bilbao
01/11/14 In-Edit Music Doc Film Festival Pamplona
20/11/14 Phono-Cinema at Bestia Festival Montevideo
tbc/11/14 Phono-Cinema at Bestia Festival Mexico City
For more information about the film, go to

* These quotes are from an interview on


Here is the trailer for the film.





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Autumn – gathering season in Andalucia

October 15, 2014 – 2:58 pm
olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Ripe olives ready to pick.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Jars of seasoned olives at a food fair - they're a very versatile ingredient.

There are many activities you can join in with around Andalucia at this time of year, as natural products are harvested in the sunny autumn, as morning mists rise, jumpers are pulled on and fires lit. Nights are chillier as the days get shorter, but daytime is still delightfully warm.

In the Sierra Sur of Seville, you can have a day picking and preserving olives - start off with a breakfast at the farmhouse featuring, you guessed it, olives. Did you know that Spain produces more than 250 types of olives, both for table and to be made into olive oil?

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

An olive-picker in action.

Then you go into the fields with expert pickers to see how it’s done – there’s a lot more skill to picking olives than just grabbing the fruit off the tree. This process is known as el verdeo.

Later back at the farmhouse you can learn how to prepare and preserve the olives you collected - the aceituna aliña (seasoned olives) of the area is famous.

And naturally, the experience finishes with a tasting of different types of the popular Andalucian speciality, accompanied by wine, beer or other drinks. You can also choose the option of staying to have lunch in the farmhouse – a traditional meal of rice, meat, and pastries.

This activity takes place near the town of Arahal in Seville province – contact Foodies Andalucia for more details.

In November last year I went with my children to see olives being picked, this time to be made into “liquid gold” - otherwise known as olive oil – in deepest Jaen. It was a real eye-opener for me, and fascinating to see the journey from branch to bottle. Those olives were of the picual variety, and I’ve been a convert to this strong, spicy oil with a (natural) brilliant green colour ever since.


olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Freshly-foraged fungi in the Sierra de Grazalema.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

A very tasty dish of freshly-picked wild braised mushrooms.

olive, olives, aceituna, aceitunas

Mushroom tapa route in the Cadiz hilltown of Cortes de la Frontera.


For fungi fans, many towns around the Sierra de Aracena and Sierra de Grazalema offer mushroom-hunting expeditions, and special seasonal menus featuring foraged fungi. Always best to go with an expert, so that the meal cooked with your spoils is safe. One of the hotels in our new Special Hotel Collection, Hotel Castellar, is in prime mushroom-picking territory.

If you prefer just to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labour, restaurants in these hill towns, such as Aracena and Cortes de la Frontera, offer special mushroom menus and tapas routes.

Autumn in Andalucia is also the season for many other delicious natural produce, such as persimmons, figs and chestnuts, many of which have their own local fiestas.

These days it’s called agricultural tourism, but really it’s just learning about traditional techniques which Andalucians have been using for centuries, to gather and prepare their natural bounty for the table.

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Spain NOW!

October 3, 2014 – 2:51 pm
See the best of Spain's contemporary cultural scene this autumn in London.

See the best of Spain's contemporary cultural scene this autumn in London.

From next Thursday 9 October until Tuesday 25 November, you can see the best of Spanish creative talent in London, in the sixth annnual season of Spain NOW! – Contemporary Spanish Art and Culture.

The season, which first took place in 2009,  showcases cutting-edge Spanish arts: visual art, architecture, literature and dance at venues including the Barbican Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Maddox Arts, and 12 Star Gallery, with the creative hub at Hanmi Gallery in Ftizrovia.

These are some of the highlights:


14-24 October Photography exhibition by Ricky Davila at the 12 Star Gallery, Westminster, in conjunction with PhotoEspaña festival. Ricky has won the Best American Picture Prize and FotoPress Award.


23 October El Edificio, Screening of Victor Moreno’s documentary about the iconic Madrid building Edificio España, and talk afterwards, by Brendan Cormier, lead curator of 20th Century Design at the V&A.

This year's programme features art, film, literature and dance - the best of Spanish vanguard culture.

This year's programme features art, film, literature and dance - the best of Spanish vanguard culture.


7-9 November Open Studios Weekend – Spanish artists open their studios in various locations around London to the public


24-25 November Dance Performance at Lilian Bayliss Studio, Sadler’s Wells


For more information, see the Spain NOW! website.

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Special Hotel Collection

September 30, 2014 – 10:20 am
Our new Special Hotel collection only features the finest establishments which we recommend personally.

Our new Special Hotel collection only features the finest establishments which we recommend personally.

When you’re booking your holiday in Andalucia, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best hotel in the best location.
With such a vast array of places available, how do you know which hotel to select?

We’ve just made it easier for you, by selecting an exclusive group of luxury hotels which we recommend as being among the most exceptional in Andalucia, and have visited personally to ensure they have the high standards we expect from a hotel in terms of outstanding style and service, and all in unparalleled locations.

Corral del Rey is an exquisite boutique hotel in Seville.

Corral del Rey is an exquisite boutique hotel in Seville.

Currently the Special Hotel Collection, which has just been launched, has three hotels: Corral del Rey, a boutique hotel in the historic centre of Seville, with gorgeous interiors mixing Moroccan and Asian influences in a 17th-century Sevillano house with patio; its sister hotel, Hacienda San Rafael, a converted 18th-century olive farm midway between Seville and Jerez, with a garden bursting with colourful bouganvillea and oleander, three swimming pools and endless romantic corners; and Hotel Castellar, an elegant spa hotel on the doorstep of the Grazalema National Park, Europe’s largest cork-oak forest.

Hotel Castellar offers luxury in beautiful natural surroundings.

Hotel Castellar offers luxury in beautiful natural surroundings.

So when you’re looking for somewhere special to stay in Andalucia, perhaps for a birthday, anniversary or other family celebration, or even just a much-deserved break, you know where to find the most individual, superbly-located and delightful hotels, for an unforgettable experience:’s Special Hotel Collection.

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La Vendimia – the grape harvest

September 17, 2014 – 4:05 pm
Manilva´s grape harvest takes place every year and is known as the ´Feria de Vendimia. Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

Manilva´s grape harvest takes place every year and is known as the ´Feria de Vendimia. Photo by Michelle Chaplow.

The calendar here in Andalucia is very much in tune with nature – marked by harvests of seasonal fruits, vegetables and other crops grown all around this fertile and highly productive area, from the lowlands with their rice, to the mushrooms in woodlands, and the rolling hills of olive trees.

One of the most important of these agricultural celebrations is the autumn vendimia, or grape harvest. Wine is made throughout Andalucia, but two of the most important regions are Jerez, where sherry is produced, and Malaga, home to the Malaga sweet wine, or moscatel as it’s made from sweet white muscatel grapes. This traditional event takes place on the Saturday closest to 8 September.

Even the smallest towns in Andalucia make their own wine – for example Manilva, a hilltop village in Malaga province, just inland from the coast, where a vendimia ceremony starts off with the grapes being blessed, as tradition dictates. The relationship between farming and religion in Andalucia is a close one; many consider the Virgin Mary to have qualities in common with a pagan “Earth Mother”. Manilva is known as Andalucia’s greenest village in summer, because of the abundance of verdant foliage in its terraced vineyards.

Then the grapes are ceremonially trodden – though don’t get the idea that this is just for fun: the grape-treaders may practise for up to a week to make sure that their rhythm of stamping is perfect. As they get tired from their highly aerobic grape-treading, the crowds will cheer on the treaders, encouraging them to continue with their labour. The first drink of this unfermented, foot-pressed grape juice is considered lucky, while as part of the vendimia festival the vineyard owner with the largest racimo (bunch) of grapes will often be awarded a special prize – and enjoy the higher status which this accolade brings.

Young, unfermented wine which costs less than 2 euros per litre.

Young, unfermented wine which costs less than 2 euros per litre. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.


Bodegas Salado in Umbrete produces 300,000 litres of mosto every year. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.

Bodegas Salado in Umbrete produces 300,000 litres of mosto every year. Photo by Fiona Flores Watson.

Mosto, or very young unfermented wine (must, as in musty), is available from October, and is best drunk within a few months. The mosto of Umbrete, an even smaller town in the Aljarafe región west of Seville city, is a local speciality, and townsfolk come to the Salado bodega, a family-run winery which dates from the 19th century, to fill and refill their plastic containers with the grapey liquid.

Such wines as Rioja, cava and sherry are already widely appreciated, but now more Spanish wines are finally being recognised for their superb quality, and excellent value for money. The Spanish wine industry is on the up, so the vendimia is a big reason to celebrate los vinos españoles!

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A fantastic choice of tours in Seville

September 7, 2014 – 1:28 pm
Seville's catedral is one of the city's most famous monuments which you can see on a guided tour. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

Seville's cathedral is one of the city's most famous monuments which you can see on a guided tour. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

If you’re visiting a historic city like Seville on holiday, and you only have a limited amount of time to see the highlights, a good option is to take an organised tour. The cathedral, Alcazar (Royal Palace), Santa Cruz former Jewish district, Maria Luisa Park and Expo 29 site – all Seville’s most important monuments can be visited with an expert to bring the city’s history to life.

A huge choice of ways to explore the city with a qualified guide is available, from open-top buses, enjoyable when the weather is reliably sunny most of the year, to boats and on foot.

You can take a Guided Tour around Seville, visiting the bullring, Santa Cruz, and the UNESCO World Heritage sites of the cathedral and Alcazar, finishing up with a glass of wine; or for those who prefer to see the city from the confort of their own seat Panoramic Sightseeing Tour, with a view of the bullring and Expo 29 pavilions from an open-top doublé-decker bus.

Another historical gem you can see on a tour of Seville is Plaza España.

Another historical gem you can see on a tour of Seville is Plaza España. Photo by Sophie Carefull.

If you prefer, you can go on foot to see the Torre del Oro, a medieval Riverside tower, and the 100-year-old Maria Luisa Park with its Plaza de España, centrepiece of the Expo 29, on the Walking Tour; or the Monumental Walking Tour, visiting the main monuments in the city – the cathedral and Giralda, and Alcazar. Or take a walking tour which includes a visit to the exquisite Mudéjar Alcazar: Historic Walking Tour and the Alcazar.

You can also take the hop-on hop-off bus around the old centre, and a Guadalquivir River Cruise to see the city from another perspective – the river Guadalquivir. For a bird’s eye view, go up to the Rooftop Walking Tour.

For a memorable evening out in Seville, the Night Tour with Flamenco Show - takes you around the city when the sun has gone down, and watch the most famous Spanish dance of all at a traditional tablao: flamenco, accompanied by traditional Sevillano tapas. Or you can see a Flamenco Show at one of the city’s top venues, accompanied either by a drink, tapas, or dinner.

If you’re coming with children, an excellent option is a day out at Isla Magica theme park, with rides and attractions galore, as well as a 4D cinema, boat rides and horse shows.

But you don’t have to be staying in Seville to explore this romantic city – there are also day trips from the Costa del Sol, which include return bus trip and lunch.

Whatever you want to see in beautiful Seville, whenever and however you want to see it, by day or night, from the road or river, there is a tour for you. Enjoy!

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New Kitesurfing World Record set in Tarifa on Sunday

August 29, 2014 – 9:26 am

The Kitesurfing Armada Spain in Tarifa yesterday - Sunday 31 August.

On Sunday more than 350 kitesurfers broke the world record on Playa de los Lances.

On Sunday 352 kitesurfers broke the world record in Tarifa, on Playa de los Lances.

    Yesterday, Sunday 31 August, kitesurfers in Tarifa broke the world record for the most kitesurfers sailing together at one time.

    A new Guinness World Record was set, of 352 kiters, breaking the previous one of 318 set in Hayling Island, UK, last year.

    A precursor to the PKRA World Kitesurfing Championship, which takes place in Andalucia’s “Capital of Windsurfing” from 30 August to 7 September, the attempt was hosted by 10-times World Champion Gisela Pulido, who won the Masters of Kiteboarding in Tarifa in June. Sadly Sir Richard Branson, whose global company Virgin sponsors the PKRA and is himself a keen kiter and serial record-breaker, setting a world record for oldest person to kitesurf across the English Channel in 2012, was unable to attend.

    The “parade” of kitesurfers sailed on their downwinder in a 3.5km-long area located 1km off Playa de los Lances, towards Valdevaqueros, starting from the Best Pro Center at km81.5 on the N340. All 352 of them had to be surfing at the same time within a stretch of one mile.

    Part of the proceeds from entry fees went to Virgin Unite, the company’s charity arm.

    For more information about the event, see Virgin Kitesurfing Armada.

Watch a video about last year’s Virgin Kitesurfing Armada event on Hayling Island, Hampshire. Branson himself took part in breaking the world record.

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Musing on an expat’s sojourn

August 27, 2014 – 8:53 am

Like many expats – indeed, most of the ones I know, especially those with young children – I’m coming to the end of my summer sojourn in England.

As always – this is my ninth August spent here, I’ve only missed one, during my first pregnancy, and never again – my thoughts turn to what I like and miss most about the two countries, my birth home (England) and my adoptive home (Spain).

I’ve now spent as many years living in or near Seville as I did living in London. Two different cities, two different experiences – one fast-paced, stimulating, stressful but with a certain monotony; the other slower, less pressured, more varied, and infinitely more fulfilling. Nine-to-five office job (with perks of lunches, parties and press trips), versus the freedom of freelance, with its crazy, unpredictable hours. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to make the change will appreciate the variation in financial stability, but also the increased “quality of life”.

So what do I miss about Spain when I’m spending a few weeks in England? My son’s willingness to chat to strangers – people in shops, in the pub, in the street – so normal and welcome in Spain, causes some consternation here in more closed England. People with dogs will usually chat, but others look confused and embarrassed by a small boy they don’t know talking to them. The friendliness of Andalucians is priceless.

The weather, obviously – it’s one extreme (we’ve had torrential downpours, electrical storms, hail and 2 degrees at night since we’ve been here) to the other (upper 30s, 40 in Seville today). But England when it’s warm and sunny, and you’re outside in the garden, sitting on the lawn, watching your kids run around playing hide and seek – that takes some beating. The fierce heat of the summer in southern Spain is what sends adoptive Andalucians back north in July and August, but the warmth of the sun is also what draws many of us there.

The food – sheer variety, fads – is as mind-boggling as ever – the new things, after cupcakes and macaroons, seem to be flavoured popcorn and salted caramel everything – even Tesco has this fashionable savoury-sweet flavour now. Chorizo is still in everything, from squid stew to chicken casserole to paella. Spain has its food trends too: burgers are big currently, as is unusually flavoured (non-tomato) salmorejo - beetroot, strawberry, watermelon.

The anniversary of the First World War, in 1914, has filled the TV schedules and book stores, and monuments have marked the occasion – the Tower of London has an installation with thousands of blood-red poppies. I tried to explain to my kids about all the young men who sacrificed their lives in unimaginable conditions, but it’s hard for them to grasp such a foreign concept. The pictures are from another world.

I love medieval fairs in Spain, but they are usually commercial rather than educational, even if in appropriate dress and with period food. Historical recreations sound dull and ditch-water, but we went to a marvellous Tudor Day at a local Elizabethan manor, Kentwell Hall, where actors dress up in costume, speak in English of the day, and explain about their craft – fletchers, felters, alchemists. I would dearly love to go to a similar event in Spain to find out what life was like in the time of the early Bourbon empire.

Do you visit your home country in the summer? What do you enjoy most while you’re there?

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La Bienal de Flamenco 2014 – A Preview

August 18, 2014 – 10:58 am
The Bienal de Flamenco draws the finest talent to Seville every two years.

The Bienal de Flamenco draws the finest talent to Seville every two years.

This autumn, flamenco fans shouldn’t miss a major event taking place in Seville: the Bienal.

Every second year, the finest performers and companies – singers, musicians, dancers – bring their shows to the city for three weeks of mesmerising performances of this striking art form, with its raw emotion, intricate rhythms, and astonishing footwork.

This year, some of the star attractions showing between 12 September and 5 October include:

12 September: The opening night gala at Teatro la Maestranza – a tribute to the great singer Enrique Morente, featuring his children, Estrella, Soleá and Jose Enrique; as well as Carmen Linares, El Pele, Arcángel, and dancer Israel Galván.

15 September: Farruquito in his brand new show Pinacenda at Teatro La Maestranza. The unfeasibly attractive dancer is always accompanied by his family entourage of singers, musicians and other performers.

19 September: Tomatito at the Alcazar – the guitarist is always one of the Bienal’s most popular performers.

20 September: El Baile de la Frontera at Hotel Triana. A group of performers from Moron de la Frontera, renowned for the excellence of its flamenco talent. The line-up includes Pepe Torres, Jairo Barrull, Carmen Lozano (invited artist), David el Galli, Juan José Amador; guitarists Dani de Morón, Eugenio Iglesias
and Paco Iglesias, with the special collaboration of Diego de Morón and Antonio Ruiz “el Carpintero”.

21 September: Manuela Carrasco with Naturaleza Gitana: Gitana Morena, a homage to Lorca, at La Maestranza.

28 September: Patricia Guerrero at the Teatro Central with her new show Latidos de Agua, which recalls the Polinario, a legendary place in the Alhambra.

29 September: Ariadna Castellanos plays at the Espacio Santa Clara – the young pianist won a scholarship to the Guildhall School of Music in London, and has played with Paco de Lucia.

1 October: Jeromo Segura at the Espacio Santa Clara. This up-and-coming star, who won the coveted Lampara Minera award in 2013, will sing in this intimate space.

5 October: This year’s flashmob will take place on the final day of the festival at 12 midday in plaza Nueva. Pastora Galvan has prepared the choreography of bulerias trianeras for this 3.5 minute group performance, which anyone is welcome to participate in. If you want to be in this flashmob, get your dancing shoes on now and start practising!

If you can’t wait till then to see some top-class flamenco, then go to the Alcazar on 30 August, to see Jeromo Segura sing as part of the outdoor summer concert season. Hearing any music at night in the gardens of this palace is an unforgettable experience, but the passion and spine-tingling emotion of flamenco adds an extra dimension.

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Rock ‘n’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (but talking in Seville is)

August 10, 2014 – 11:06 am
A bar in Plaza San Francisco, a flashpoint for night-time noise in Seville. Photo credit: Michelle Chaplow

A bar in Plaza San Francisco, a flashpoint for outdoor night-time noise in Seville. Photo credit: Michelle Chaplow

When you come to beautiful, historic Seville, whether for a brief visit, a medium-length stay, or to live permanently, you will have certain preconceptions about this vibrant city. Its atmosphere, its colour, its buzz. In short, its noise.

In the warm, welcoming climate of southern Spain, you expect life to take place en la calle – people sitting outside in cafes eating tapas on balmy evenings, drinking cañas of chilled Cruzcampo beer, but above all, chatting animatedly until the small hours, possibly even breaking spontaneously into song. Having said that, when I lived in the centre, I do remember being kept awake by groups singing in the street – merrily making their way from one bar to another.

This street life is what makes Andalucia its charming, inimitable self, and is one of the reasons why I personally love it so much, after years of living in (mostly) cold, dark London, and why expats fleeing from the cloudy skies of Britain and northern Europe still flock here in droves. All Sevillanos love to be out, watching life, being seen, meeting friends, talking about the weather, the beach, the Feria, the children. In the street, literally, the lively, human, in-your-face intensity that is a city of energy, colour and excitement.

Which is why, when I first read about the city’s new anti-noise law, I honestly thought it had to be a wind-up. Sevillanos, being told not to make noise outdoors at night? That’s like telling Parisians to be scruffy, or Italians to be subdued. Ain’t gonna happen, not in their culture. In their genes. In their nature. But a petition of 4,000 Seville residents (out of a total 700,000) last year demanded action be taken against excessive noise levels in the street, in the city centre. Some native, or adoptive, Sevillanos can’t take the late-night ruido which prevent them from sleeping any more – El Arenal and Alfalfa are two top areas for wee hours disturbance.

As I scanned through the initial parts of the news reports – which mentioned games of dominoes and dice being banned, as they’re so notoriously rowdy, and so is eating or drinking while standing up while outside a bar – I thought the heat had got to the Mayor and his delegados. But when I reached the part about TVs outside bars being turned up too loud, then I started to believe it could actually be serious. Anyone who’s tried to have a drink in a bar when a football match is on will know what I’m talking about.

Under the new law, anyone having an “excessively loud” conversation on the street can now be fined, as can bar owners who set up televisions on their terraces or who serve patrons who are standing up outside.

Other activities which are prohibited include playing loud music while driving, having a car alarm that goes off for more than three minutes, or revving car engines unnecessarily. Fines for those caught transgressing the law, in all its intricacies of exact noise level and time of day, could be fined from €300 to €300,000, as well as – in the case of bars – the closure, either temporary or permanent, of the establishment. From boy racers to old men to friends chatting, it is as randomly sprawling as it is, in this writer’s opinion, ill-conceived.

Further evidence of its ad-hoc nature is that those charged with imposing the fines at night, a small number of police officers, will not carry technical equipment with which to measure the noise levels. Doesn’t exactly inspire confidence, does it?

So why? What’s behind this new law (since there’s always a motive)? There are several theories – in a dire economic situation such as we have currently, filling the coffers is always a priority for politicians. Any new infringement of the law, any means of relieving the public of some desperately-needed euros, will be seen as a legitimate means of extra income. One gallery owner, who often holds events in his city-centre space, told me it was about so-called “quality tourism” – too many terraces, to meet tourists’ demands to eat and drink outside.

Personally it strikes me that there are many, many more Seville residents who want the freedom to  go out at night and enjoy a beer, a tapa and a chat outside (the temperature here in summer doesn’t dip below 30 degrees until after 10pm), than those who are bothered by such activities.

The Feria will not have to curb its exuberant noise levels for the new law in Seville, unlike bars and cafes with outdoor terraces.

The Feria will not have to curb its exuberant noise levels for the new law in Seville, unlike bars with outdoor terraces.

One notable omission to which many have drawn attention is the fact that religious processions and festivals, such as Semana Santa , El Rocio, and the many other Virgin Mary outings which take place throughout the year, with their loud boom-boom bands and deafening early-morning rocket explosions, are exempt from this law, as are karaoke bars and nightclubs, where people often gather outside to smoke, chatting loudly in the street.

Neither is there mention of botellones, the street parties where hundreds of young people gather in an open public space; drink all night, shouting and singing, naturally; relieve themselves where they fancy; and then leave all their rubbish behind. Nice. Another glaring gap is the Feria, where music plays and high spirits keep the party going till 4 or 5am every night for a week in April.

Such anomalies makes a laughing stock of the law, as no one in a position of power in Seville would ever restrict the city’s most popular, traditional – and noisiest – events. Why? Because those are their preferred celebrations. Normal people can’t enjoy themselves outdoors in a bar, but We, those who govern, will continue with our regular revelries. Perish the thought anyone would try to prevent us from doing so. Double standards.

It seems to me there a vast, difference, nay chasm, between a crowded square packed with people talking at the tops of their voices, which is obviously going to disturb those living around, and a few people having tapas at a table in the street. How on earth will the police be able to keep track, decide whom to target with fines and even closures, implementing this wide-ranging, illogical law?

What do you think? Should people be banned from eating and drinking while standing up on a bar terrace? Does it seem reasonable that the right of those living nearby to sleep should be protected? Or is it draconian and over-the-top to protect people’s wellbeing when it impinges on the enjoyment of others?



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