San Sebastián, European Capital of Culture 2016, gets set for a festival of the sea …

Awards, Events, Exhibitions, Maritime History and Museums, People and Places — By on November 12, 2015 at 5:03 PM
Pablo Berástegui of San Sebastián 2016, and mayor Eneko Goia.

Pablo Berástegui of San Sebastián 2016, and mayor Eneko Goia.

San Sebastián, European Capital of Culture 2016, gets set for a festival of the sea – and 399 other festivities

By James Brewer

A festival of the sea will be a feature of the celebrations of the northern Spanish city of San Sebastián as one of the two European Capitals of Culture 2016.

The city, renowned for its magnificent site looking out on one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and called Donostia in the Basque tongue, has announced that it will offer more than 400 cultural projects right through from January to December.

Bay of La Concha. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

Bay of La Concha. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

“We have decided to make co-existence the theme, ” said Eneko Goia, mayor of the city. This will involve fostering understanding and tolerance between peoples of different backgrounds, orientations and religious faiths.

Amid this aim of “living with those with whom we might believe we have little in common, ” the city seeks to spread understanding of the Basque language and culture, said Pablo Berástegui, chief executive of the project, adding: “In 2016 citizens´ participation will be essential to draw a new horizon beyond San Sebastián.”

One of the events most accessible to the public will be as the Itsasfest, on August 27. Itsaso is the Basque word for sea. Mr Berástegui told a press conference during World Travel Market 2015 in London: “The goal is to promote the relationship with the sea.”

“Ondarreta Beach will be the backdrop for a large festival that aims to bring the environment closer to the public, ” states the city’s Cultural Capital programme.

Entry to the port of San Sebastián. Image provided under licence from Basquetour

Entry to the port of San Sebastián. Image provided under licence from Basquetour

Ondarreta Beach is half as long, but wider, than the resort’s best-known beach, La Concha.

The sea festival will include workshops and games and the sale of food, to a background of music. Before that, there will be ‘geowalks’ along the coast and a coastguard display to get the public more closely involved in protecting the sea.

“All of this encourages us to develop a more sustainable relationship with the natural environment, ” says the official programme.

Mr Berástegui said that the festival would run in co-operation with the city’s shipping museum, and the Basque contribution to sailing and fishing would be celebrated. A centrepiece would be a replica of the 16th centuryNao San Juan, a whaling ship that was being constructed in Albaola, a museum known as “the Sea Factory of the Basques” near San Sebastián. Thousands of Basque seafarers went out into the Atlantic each year on ships like the San Juan. That particular ship, built in the same port where the replica is being constructed in the Bay of Pasaia, was wrecked in Red Bay off Canada in 1565. It was one of the first transoceanic ships that set sail from the Basque Country to Newfoundland.

The wreck was located in 1978 and the replica project has been backed by the Canadian government. The construction process involves “a beech-wood keel almost 15 m long; 200 oak trees selected with specific shapes for structure; 20 fir trees for the masts and foresails; 560 sq m of cloth and 6 km of hemp rope.” The ship is 28 m long, with a 7.5 m beam, and measures 30 m to the highest mast.

San Sebastián. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

San Sebastián. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

“Shipbuilding, the international boatbuilding school, the ship modeling workshop, the club of the young sailors, the Theatre of the Sea programme of performing arts and the Auzolan volunteer group make up this creative universe that aims at making Basque Country’s maritime past known to the general public, ” the Factory museum explains.

Mr Goia said that the city, on the Bay of Biscay and 20 km from the border with France, is part of the region which has the third largest foreign investment in Spain.

San Sebastián, population 186, 000, shares the European Capital of Culture 2016 title with Wrocław, Poland.

Mr Berástegui promised “366 days of activities – because we have an extra day next year, as a leap year.”

There would be exhibitions, concerts, theatre, dance, literature, and gastronomy, in a programme featuring more than 500 artists.

The inauguration show, entitled Waves of Energy, from January 18-24 will be designed by artist Hansel Cereza (formerly of the group Fura dels Baus, which created the 1992 Barcelona Olympics opening ceremony) who is a collaborator of Cirque du Soleil. His concept is the transforming power of culture, and will make use of several bridges that cross the River Urumea in the city centre near the new Tabakalera International Culture Centre.

Other highlights will include a multilingual version, including Basque, of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night´s Dream,  premiering on June 21, the day of the year on which the play is set, performed in city woodland, and with a banquet prepared by the Basque International Culinary Centre.

San Sebastián old town. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

San Sebastián old town. Image provided under licence from Basquetour.

A huge exhibition Peace through History will run in several venues around the Basque Country on both the Spanish and French sides of the Pyrenees, featuring loans from international institutions of the stature of the Louvre and Museo del Prado, including pieces by Goya, Rubens, Murillo,

Zurbarán, Ribera, Picasso, Le Corbusier, Cézanne, Nancy Spero, Hans Haake, Alice Creischer, Elena Asins and Sophie Ristelhueber.

A stage presentation What about You? will use the Brazilian ‘teatro del oprimido’ method, and feature episodes from the era of violent conflict familiar to Basque society, after which the audience is asked to suggest how the story might continue, or perform an ending to the play. This is to encourage people to walk in the shoes of men and women with different opinions, and thereby understand past actions and modify future behaviours.

San Sebastián 2016 is divided into three themed ‘lighthouses’ (Peace, Life and Voices). Its organisers are following their London World Travel Market appearance by going to other locations in Europe to explain the project. Presentations will be in cities including Barcelona, Mons, Brussels, Bordeaux, Pilsen, Madrid, Wroclaw and Berlin.

Mr Goia said that the one thing that sets San Sebastián – and indeed the whole Basque Country – apart from other cities and territories “is its language and its culture – in short, its identity.”

Mr Berástegui said that prestigious international festivals like the San Sebastián Film Festival, Heineken Jazzaldia and the Musical Fortnight “make San Sebastián a cultural reference point not to be missed in 2016.”

Website is www.dss2016.eu

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