Segovia chases culture capital status as it opens music festival

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The Castilian city’s opening of Segovia International Festival last weekend is expected to push forward its bid to be European City of Culture in 2016.

24 July 2008

SEGOVIA - The race is on to become the European Capital of Culture in 2016, and Segovia last weekend sent out a reminder that it is a strong contender through a number of events, including a street "happening" involving hundreds of people.

Choreographed by Ouka Leele, a Spanish photographer best known for being part of Madrid's Movida - the cultural revolution that also included filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar - the performance involved 400 volunteers dressed in white, including city Mayor Pedro Arahuetes, holding candles in the middle of the night to recreate the moon's reflection on water.

The performance, called El agua de la luna (The water of the moon), was just one of 48 activities packed into last Saturday and Sunday to support Segovia's bid to be Europe's Culture Capital eight years from now.

The Castilian city is competing with Córdoba, in Andalusia, and the winner stands to receive EU subsidies to help organise cultural events throughout the year.

Fast readers
First thought up in 1985, when Athens was European Culture Capital for a year, the initiative has gained substantial momentum and since the early 21st century two or more cities in different countries have often shared capital status.

In Spain, Madrid, Salamanca and Santiago de Compostela have so far been granted that designation, which usually leads to increased tourism to the area and a boost to local coffers.

Another well-attended activity in support of Segovia's bid was a street race in which each participant carried a book in their hand as a sign that sport and culture can go together.

Thousands of people took part in the non-competitive race, while the Alcázar, one of the city's landmarks along with its famous Roman aqueduct, played host to a light show that projected images onto the medieval stone walls.

The weekend activities coincided with the opening of the Segovia International Festival, a performing arts event featuring US folk singer Joan Baez, Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires, Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballé, Lebanese violinist Ara Malikian and French pianist Jacques Loussier, among others. The festival, now in its 33rd year, is also intended to push the city's bid forward.

"This festival will surely contribute to making Segovia the European Capital of Culture in 2016 because, incredible as it may seem, a small city of just over 50,000 inhabitants can draw hundreds of thousands of people to its festivals," said Mayor Arahuetes.

The entire city of Segovia, just northwest of Madrid, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Spain's most visited locations.

Besides the Alcázar and the aqueduct, visitors flock to the 16th century cathedral and, to a lesser degree, to the Church of the Vera Cruz, a circular building in Templar style that is owned by the Knights of Malta.

The city has also hosted the Hay literary festival.

[El Pais / Aurelio Martin / Expatica]

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