Interview with Maria Bota, director of Salisbury International Arts Festival
Ageas Salisbury International Arts Festival will be showcasing an exciting range of events from the 24th of May to the 8th of June. Catalunya is its international partner this year and the festival features a programme organised in collaboration with the Institut Ramon Llull. The Festival will feature over 25 events to celebrate the vibrant arts of Catalunya, through Catalan theatre, film, dance, music, workshops, talks and food. To talk about it we have interviewed Maria Bota, direcotr of The Festival.
Last editions of Salisbury Festival have focused in countries like China, India and Russia, which are very different to western culture. This year, however, the program focuses on Catalonia. Why did you choose our culture?
We are an international festival in a medieval heritage setting and our audiences love to discover arts and culture from around the world. In 2012 I completed a four year focus on the BRIC countries, beginning with India, then Russia, China and Brazil, enabling audiences to look up, out and well beyond our region. For 2013, which is my final festival in Salisbury, I chose Catalonia. I have been experiencing the inspirational arts and culture of Catalonia for many years and knew that the audiences here would love the mix of original and contemporary work, so we are bringing the Cobla Sant Jordi and Castellers of Vilafranca and also contemporary theatre, circus, dance, film and music of Carles Santos, Los Galindos, Nats Nus Dansa, La Troba Kung-Fu, Fenix 11:23 and much more besides.
Your father is from Catalonia and you have said you really like our culture. How exactly is your relationship with your Catalan origins?
Some of my earliest and most vivid memories are of visiting my family in Tordera. From the farm on which my grandfather and father were born, you can see the farm on which my grandmother grew up and the silhouette of Montseny in the background. I’ve experienced the Festa Major and Correfoc in Tordera and have a lovely family there with my grandmother, aunts, uncles and cousins with whom I can practice my Catalan. In the last fifteen years especially, I’ve visited Catalonia a lot and experienced some brilliant traditional and contemporary work – the Merce, Sonar, the Music Mercat at Vic, the Forum and much more besides. I feel very privileged to be able to able to present such fine Catalan artists on a UK platform here in Salisbury.
How do you value the penetration of Catalan culture in the UK? What role play initiatives such as the Salisbury Festival?
We promote the Festival on many platforms, including our media partner The Telegraph. The Festival has been running for 41 years and has a strong following locally, regionally, nationally and attracts visitors from overseas too. The Festival presents all art forms so it is a great opportunity to share the rich range of brilliant work that is taking place in Catalonia today.
You grew up and lived many years in the UK, so you know culture and people of this country in depth. Which exhibitions of Catalan culture do you think that most impress the British public?
I know Salisbury will love the traditional elements of the Castellers and Cobla, but that they will also really enjoy the circus, contemporary dance and vibrant mix of music we have coming, ranging from Jordi Savall to Astrio and La Troba Kung-Fu. The film programme, which includes the UK premiere of Fenix 11:23, is proving very popular and we are delighted to have the directors of the film and Eric Bertran himself coming to the Festival to talk about the film. Audiences will also love seeing the stylish flower installations from Girona’s Temps de Flors adorning Salisbury’s historic buildings.
Besides the Catalan focus, what are the strong points of the festival?
We enjoy commissioning new work from artists. This year, we have seven new pieces from English street theatre artists including Tilted, Rag and Bone, Motionhouse, Oxford Contemporary Music, Les Enfants Terribles and Bad Taste Company. We are also presenting a new string quartet by Alec Roth which will be available to view on our website the day after its premiere on 4 June. We love transforming people and places. For example, we are bringing the Australian circus company Circa together with vocal ensemble I Fagiolini to present their piece called How Like an Angel in Salisbury Cathedral; an extraordinary piece that will transform the space, with performers suspended at times above the audience. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is presenting King Lear with the crumbling ruins of Old Wardour Castle as the backdrop. Above all, we love bringing international artists to the setting here in Salisbury and we are especially proud of the Catalan programme.
"I have been experiencing the inspirational arts and culture of Catalonia for many years and knew that the audiences here would love the mix of original and contemporary work"
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