Life in Culebrón

Friday 29 September 2017 - There's nowt on t' telly

I was just on the phone to my mum. She told me her news. And what have you been up to she asked. Nothing much I said, a bit of gardening, a bit of preparation for my classes. Oh, and I've seen four concerts and I've visited the largest quarry in Europe and been on a bodega tour. I could have listed the things that I've missed too.

When I went to see the Excitements at the Yecla Jazz Festival last night I could have gone to a homage to the poet Miguel Hernandez in Pinoso instead, When I went to see Viva Suecia last Friday I could have chosen to  stay in Pinoso and see the Catalan singer songwriter Cesk Freixas. Indeed just thinking about the events that we've been to in the past couple of weeks, not including going to the cinema a couple of times, we've been to a photo exhibition, missed another poetry event because of the torrential downpour, missed the dressage event at the local riding school plus some event featuring folk dancers and traditional Valencian instruments because we were away for the weekend in Altea. Mind you whilst we were away we saw the local Moors and Christians Festival, oh, and on the way back we stopped off to see the display of banners in Monóvar to celebrate the life and works of Azorín. For this weekend I've not got much in my diary - there's a Roman market all weekend in Petrer and another photo exhibition and, of course, the Yecla Jazz Festival is still on. Next week Maldita Nerea, another band that have regular hits in the top 40, are on, for free, in Petrer as part of their fiestas and down in Murcia there's the Big Up music festival. Just to show that it isn't all music in the rest of the month there's a whole series of talks about recent Spanish history, a couple of book launches, two theatre productions, a bit of lyric opera and a couple of events for Halloween including itinerant story tellers in Pinoso. Pinoso has a population of 8,000.

I wasn't writing the list to show off where we've been but more to stress the "cultural" offer that there is in our local towns. The truth is that I tend to be a bit of a collector of events. The Internet brings me news from all the local town halls and I follow up on the titbits of information I hear on the radio or see in the press but I miss more than I get to see. What suddenly struck me about all these things was how available they are.

We went with some chums to see the first of the Yecla Jazz concerts. They are staged in a lovely end of the Nineteenth Century theatre - all red brocade and gilt. The compere is a radio DJ from the national station Radio 3 and the musicians whilst not been exactly superstars are all well above the run of the mill. It can't be a cheap event to mount. Our pals were bowled over by the setting and by the fact that the concert was free. Also in Yecla, but this time as a part of the September Fair, we went to see Fangoria. The lead singer of the band is a woman called Alaska. She is Mexican by birth, I think, but she's been a star in Spain since the mid 1970s. Alaska and Fangoria will not be a cheap band. This isn't like seeing a band who are unknown to anyone who doesn't have wrinkles and grey, or no, hair.  It's more like seeing The Pet Shop Boys or Tom Jones - someone who has been around forever and who may be past their heyday but who are still big. Fangoria were free too. A few days later I went to see Viva Suecia; this lot are an indie band but they are a band tipped for greater success. The sort of band that, in the UK, would have got a lot of airplay on the late evening and nighttime Radio 1 shows when I lived in the UK but may well be on Radio 6 nowadays. Free again. In fact from all the list above the only paying events would be the cinema.

The cultural offer in Spain is wide and varied and, even when it's to be paid for, it is usually pretty inexpensive. The arts market took a bit of a pounding when the ruling PP party jacked up the VAT rate on cultural events but, as a bit of an example, I just looked how much the three day VIP ticket for the Low festival in Benidorm would be and the answer is 40€ though that is a special "you're paying ages in advance without knowing what the bands will be" ticket and last year the Low Festival didn't drag in many big name foreign bands though they did have 75 bands and lots of them were big on the Spanish scene. Down in Cartagena at el Batel if you want to go and see Sleeping Beauty by the Russian National Ballet the cheapest tickets are 18€ and the most expensive 30€. In Murcia, at the Teatro Romea the best seats for the regional orchestra doing Beethoven's 9th are a whopping 20€. It's not so cheap in Madrid; to see the Lion King for instance you'd pay 96€ for the best seats but that's still a bit cheaper than the £129.50 for the same show in London on the same day.

Not a bad offer though for anyone who's a bit bored with what's on the telly. New series of The Big Bang theory on Sunday though.

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Day to day life in the Spanish village of Culebrón in inland Alicante

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