About Ada Castells


The date

Five more minutes. And if she does turn up, will I recognise her right away, or will I not realise who she is initially and then have to cover it up with a “Silvia, you haven’t changed a bit”? These are the exact same words I am muttering to myself as I see her push through the main door.

© Lluïsa Jover

© Lluïsa Jover

I am sure we had arranged to meet in the Zurich bar on September 18, at noon; in other words, today. It’s one o clock and she still hasn’t deigned to make an appearance through the door, or any of the doors for that matter. Her only excuse is that we made the date twenty years ago, one afternoon when we were swapping history notes and were so bored we got to thinking about the future.

–Do you think we’ll ever finish Uni? she said, somewhat desperately.

–Of course we will. There are only three weeks to go and then it’s goodbye exams!

–And what will we do then?

–You’ll do the civil service exams and land a job in a high school within a radius of fifteen kilometres and then get down to having babies with your boring boyfriend, and I’ll take off round the word and will end up in some university in the United States doing my PhD on the habits of the new urban society and generational interrelation.

–Screw that! It’s me who will set the world on fire.

And her following utterance was what eventually led me to be waiting for her, now an hour overdue, in the city’s most central bar:

–We’ll meet back here in twenty years’ time, at this same table, 12 noon, and we’ll see who was right.

And off I went to challenge my destiny, although it turned out that I did not actually take the world by storm. I am still up to my eyeballs in exams, but now I am correcting them. I go to the exact same school, I wear the same size trousers, live in my parents’ flat (they’re no longer around), and my favourite dish is still the paella they do in the Set Portes restaurant. I can’t really say I have changed much; even the Zurich has changed more than I have. When they demolished it to build the new Triangle building, a grey mass equalled in unsightliness only by the Corte Inglés, I thought they would never open it again and even worried that our date would be dashed, but now it is almost exactly the same, revamped even, as if it had been given a facelift.

Maybe it is precisely my methodical lifestyle that made me remember our date, while she didn’t. I got married, naturally, to a nice girl, but we parted ways almost immediately, and I went back to my former habits. Now that I think of it, all my changes have been very short-lived. I have never committed to anything, as if I couldn’t be bothered to accept them on this date, which is becoming like a recap of my life, a date that I now realise she hasn’t even remembered. The other changes in my nondescript timeline were totally involuntary: I have lost my hair, agility, memory, energy and now I am losing my patience. An hour and a quarter is fair enough time to wait for a date made two decades ago. Another five minutes and I’m out of here.

Being stood up had never crossed my mind. It’s funny. I had been speculating about her life for days, wondering whether I would like the forty-year-old Silvia, whether we would be able to recover that closeness that had bound us together through our university life, but the possibility of not even seeing her this afternoon had never remotely entered my mind.

She was a very formal person. In fact, we were the perfect foil for each other. I was always dreaming while she was totally down to earth. The only thing that irked me about this combination was that her formal nature meant that she had sort of steady boyfriends who she went out with for about three or four years, and to whom she was obsessively faithful. Thanks to that, there was never anything between us, barring the almost classic booze-induced snog that we laughed off later.

Applying one of those laws you tend to make up while waiting in a bar, it is funny how the irresponsible one, yours truly, had ended up as an employee at the same university where he’d studied, whereas the responsible one, Silvia I mean, was living in sub-Saharan Africa, studying languages spoken by a only couple of people, and falling in love with a different satrap every day. With an outlook like this it is no wonder that Silvia had forgotten me.

Five more minutes. Not one second more. And if she does turn up, will I recognise her right away, or will I not realise who she is initially and then have to cover it up with a “Silvia, you haven’t changed a bit”? These are the exact same words I am muttering to myself as I see her push through the main door, euphoric, radiant.

–Pep, you remembered!

–Yes, at twelve, in the Zurich – underlining the last word without making it sound like a reproach.

–No, I was waiting for you where the Núria used to be, which is now a bloody Burger King! I came into the Zurich by chance. I hadn’t been back to Barcelona for years and I was told that it had been totally revamped.

–So is it true that you live in sub-Saharan Africa studying languages spoken only by a couple of people and that every day…? Oh just forget it.

–What are you on about?

–I’ll tell you later. We’ve been waiting for each other for twenty years and an hour and a half. We’ll have to divide our lives into topics, sub-topics and annexes. Fancy a beer?

–Of course! That’s one thing that hasn’t changed! Not like the Zurich, which instead of getting older looks newer than ever. What do bars do, make covenants with the devil?

–Don’t go all Faustian on me. They are called reforms, but they run the risk of losing their essence, not like us… I would say that we haven’t changed.


–Because I still dream of setting the world on fire…

–I remember you predicted that I would pass my civil service exams and have loads of kids.


– I am a civil servant in Brussels and have five children. Fancy another beer?

–Make that five please! Such predictability bugs me!

BarcelonaActua: experiencing solidarity

Visita guiada gratuïta organitzada per BarcelonaActua a l’exposició “Ferran Adrià i elBulli. Risc, llibertat i creativitat”, al Palau Robert fins al febrer del 2013.

© BarcelonaActua
Free guided tour, courtesy of BarcelonaActua, of the exhibition “Ferran Adrià and El Bulli: Risk, Freedom and Creativity”, at the Palau Robert until February 2013

If there’s one benefit of wiki communities, it’s that they can start up with a tiny budget and grow spectacularly in a very short time. It’s all about having a good idea and carrying it through at the right moment. Economist Laia Serrano (born in Barcelona in 1973) had one: to set up a solidarity network in which the people of Barcelona could give their time, work, activities and objects they no longer used.

We’ve met up with her to hear her story. “It all started in late December 2010 when, on a RAC1 radio programme, the show’s host Jordi Basté posed the question: what would we not be doing that Christmas because of the recession?” says Serrano. Lots of people rang in with moving stories about losing their jobs, about the lack of presents and about loneliness, until one woman rang offering someone her home. That made me think that we all have a latent sense of solidarity and when it’s made easy for us, we bring it out. I could see that it would be a good idea to connect the new enlightened poor – in other words, all of us – through new technologies.”

And that’s how BarcelonaActua came about, officially launched on 30 October 2011. From the outset, Laia Serrano (who spent 11 years working in Codorniu’s marketing department and four months as a volunteer in Cali, Colombia) was very clear that the keystone to all this was to link up the world of solidarity with the world of communications. Thus, she built the BarcelonaActua platform on three pillars: putting people with needs and people with something to offer in touch with each other; creating a community that is not only virtual but also face-to-face; and raising awareness of our social reality.

Since then, the platform has been creating contacts between people who have basic needs that must be covered, charitable people and lonely people, and every city has many of those. “We’re all in the same boat and we can all go through any of these three situations at different times in our lives. There are no beneficiaries or volunteers; whoever gives now may receive tomorrow and vice versa,” explains Serrano. And she has plenty of examples to illustrate this: “One girl donated a piano that ended up in a school in the Besòs district; it was really touching to see how happy the children were to get it. We were also contacted by a guy who helped out with homeless people and he got 42 sleeping bags and 15 blankets in record time, just as the cold snap arrived. People really want to help, but they must be asked for very specific things and it needs to be made easy for them.”

Laia Serrano knows that the key is to generate trust, and this is one of the reasons behind the face-to-face meetings, such as the ones held in the Raval or when members met up to swap clothing in the garage of one of the BarcelonaActua activists, a widow who was alone and looking to meet other ladies like herself. “It has changed her life and now they’re a tireless group of women,” says Serrano. “I believe that proximity is essential for shifting the virtual world into the real world. That’s why we’ve restricted ourselves to Barcelona. We’ve been in touch with the people at the Banc del Temps [Time Bank], who are even more on top of the issue of proximity because they are organised by district, so that way we can also spread their initiatives.”

The website is very user-friendly and it takes just a few seconds to sign up. You then have to select your area of interest: work, leisure, household goods, clothing, teaching, company, advice, arts, electronics and others. Serrano believes that the arts area is very important because it helps members to get involved with a range of activities that they themselves suggest. The day this article was being penned, Agustí had discovered an Irish pub near the Sagrada Família where they had live music and he suggested a visit. Within a few days, he had willing companions. Meanwhile, Susanna was offering tablets to strengthen fingernails and hair “to someone who really needs it” and Jordi proposed swapping clothes for shoes, while Xavier looked for a cheap rental flat because he was out of a job.

Bearing all this in mind, of course, there is one question that must be asked of Laia Serrano: how do you earn a living? “I don’t. We’re in the initial stages. We’ve made it. And now we have to go and get funding, with all these successful experiences that we have behind us. There are Catalan companies out there that have strong links with Barcelona and that want to demonstrate their social responsibility.” The platform’s slogan is Tots per tots a la ciutat (All for all in the city). There’s no doubt that through this network, this “all” that we all wish for is gradually becoming a reality.

Lost & Found

Imatge del mercat de segona mà, Lost & Found, de Barcelona.

© Salva López
The fair is held in outdoor or indoor venues depending on the time of year. Alongside, last March’s edition in Estació de França. On the previous page, summer edition on Barceloneta beach.

Lost & Found is a fair that promotes contact between people who don’t know each other. Max Porta, one of the driving forces behind the project, together with his colleague Diego Albanell, explains that the idea flowered from conversations around the coffee machine: “We had seen similar initiatives outside Barcelona and we felt that the city lacked interactive public spaces where people could sell or swap household objects.” It is a quarterly fair, providing private individuals with a space where they can display and sell domestic items, from clothes to books and anything else that could be given a new lease of life in someone else’s hands. The purpose of Lost & Found is to give unused, basic objects a second chance; objects we don’t want to throw away but that we’d be happy to know someone else is putting to good use.

If we look for similar types of markets in other countries, we can find the garage sales so popular in the US and in the Netherlands. Queen’s Day in Amsterdam is one of the events that inspired this project: once a year, people stake out a piece of land and put their name on it and the next day they occupy the space for selling. With these different examples in mind, Porta and Albanell created their own model.

Lost & Found is an event that was born and has grown under the umbrella of social networks. The spirit of collaboration that permeates its modus operandi simply consists of translating relationships that began as virtual contacts into reality.

Cartell del mercat de segona mà Lost and Found, edició estiu 17 de juny de 2012.

Poster for this summer’s edition of the Lost &
Found fair.

Eight events have already been held since 2007. It took time to hit on the right model, but in the end they did so thanks to the internet. “The internet helped a lot of people get in touch with us, because we couldn’t create a conventional advertising campaign. The turning point came when we got on to Facebook, where we now have more than 5,000 friends and fans,” explains Max Porta.Dissemination through networks allowed them to expand their base of contacts. They began with 60 stalls the first year and they are predicting 350 for June of this year, and that’s only because there simply is not room for more. The sale is held on the concourse of the Estació de França train station in winter and on the beach at Barceloneta in the summer.

“People have to sign up to the website. You fill in a registra­tion form and reserve a market stall for 30 euros. Each stall is four square metres. There is self-selection. You have to offer something that sets you apart.”

Lost & Found is a market for private individuals. Shops are not permitted. “Before allocating a stall, we ask for a description of the objects that will be brought. Arts and crafts are not permitted, because then we would be competing with the craft markets in the area. Otherwise, this would just be full of craft stalls,” points out Diego Albanell.

 “The ideology of this market for private individuals can be summarised by the three Rs: reusing objects, reducing consumption and recycling”

However, Lost & Found is not just a newfangled version of a flea market. The project has several different facets to it. The first and most obvious is the market, held every three months to create a Sunday meeting place, with a party, music and dancing, widening the range of entertainment on offer in the city on a Sunday. The fun aspect is inseparable from the commercial side. The DJ group 2nd Hand Deejays provides an eclectic repertoire of music: Jamaican, jazz, soul, styles that in some way are a musical reflection of the types of product found in the market.

One of the aims of Lost & Found is to promote a sustainable way of acquiring material goods. Its philosophy can be summarised as the three Rs: reuse objects, reduce consumption and recycle. Lost & Found has gradually forged its own identity, based on a vintage feel that is evident in its posters, designed by Guillem Pericay: they ooze a kind of festive humour. The founders of this quarterly get-together are very aware that vintage is cool and attracts people. They also know that vintage is still associated with glamour, but soon enough it will serve to disguise the poverty that may be just around the corner. We’ll be recycling old things and calling them antique.

Wikiartmap: putting art on the map

Imatge d'un usuari del Wikiartmap que consulta el servei a la seva tauleta digital a l’entorn del CaixaForum.

© Albert Armengol
A Wikiartmap user consults the service on his digital tablet in the area near CaixaForum.

Maite Oliva, the driving force behind Wikiartmap, tells us that it all began three years ago when she was curating a series of open-air photography exhibitions and realised that there was no tool for disseminating the creative work that is shown in public spaces. That tool is now the newly-launched Wikiartmap. But it is more than that. “It’s a global platform where people can advise and enter content to put on the map any information relating to art, creativity and historic and cultural heritage that is accessible and outdoors,” explains Oliva.

This young lady from Figueres has taken Wikipedia and Google as her reference points “because of their vision when creating new tools that other people can then use to develop other applications”. That is precisely what she has done, using Google maps and texts from the free online encyclopaedia.

Her project was always intended to be global. “If the tools allow it, why limit it? There were already maps for specific organisations, but this project wants to go much further, with an international reach and dynamic content.” The platform will soon be accessible in six languages: Catalan, Spanish, French, English, Italian and Portuguese.

Oliva is well aware that this is a collective effort and she emphasises that she and her team have only laid the first stone of a project that will grow through everyone’s contributions. “I think it will be useful for helping artists to spread their work. We also provide statistics that can be useful to various organisations and players on the arts scene. It will also help to spread heritage. All the tools can be freely used by any user.”

Wikiartmap is on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and it will also work on its own social network to allow users to share and follow content or to illustrate their own blogs with maps. Everyone is invited to take part in constructing this art dictionary: the developers point out that “it doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s about wanting to describe our cultural heritage that is there for everyone”. However, neutrality is advised, although we all know that in this domain “what is crucial for some is questionable for others”.

Oliva was always very clear about this aspect of free use of her project and she insists that “the authorities must support open content”. Wikiartmap is a tool that is operated under a Creative Commons licence and incorporates and ­restructures existing content from Wikipedia and its Catalan language version, Viquipèdia. It also allows users to add new content, referencing them on the map and cross-referencing them. To make the tool a really good source of information, a mechanism has been created to review the content suggested by users.

Various categories have been created to help navigate all this information, and they give an idea of the project’s scale: architecture, sculpture, wallcovering, sketch, sound creation, festivals, urban exhibitions, etc. The contents are located on the map and the user can search by place, genre or keyword. The map always displays 100 entries ordered by popularity, never by any quality criteria. The information files open up on the map itself so that the user never loses the location.

Captura de pantalla amb una de les pàgines de WikiArtMap sobre el Museu Picasso.

@ Albert Armengol
Screenshot with one of the pages on the Picasso Museum.

To give an example: if you want to know where all of Gaudí’s works in Barcelona and its surrounding areas are, you can either click on the map, enter the architect’s surname or type in modernisme. The information that comes up will be pictures and texts that already exist online, but you will have come to it via a different route. In other words, this is not an encyclopaedia compiled for specialists; its basic purpose is to disseminate and provide access to these contents. Its dynamic structure also makes it a useful tool for finding out about the latest artistic events, even if they are ephemeral, like exhibitions or happenings.

The initiative was publicised this spring at the Santa Mònica Arts Centre in Barcelona and is supported by the Spanish Ministry of Culture, Girona Provincial Government, the Girona Costa Brava Tourist Board, Figueres Town Council and the Pyrenees-Mediterranean Euroregion. In order to continue to move forward it is working to secure the support of private partners who see opportunities in the tourism and arts industry.

Verkami: tailor-made creativity

Imatge de la poeta Sílvia Bel amb el llibre que ha editat gràcies al suport econòmic obtingut amb Verkami.

© Albert Armengol
Poet Sílvia Bel with the book she has published thanks to financial support received through Verkami.

In December 2010 the Sala family received the gift of a good idea: to create a platform to provide financial support for artistic creativity. Joan, a trained biologist, and his two sons –  Jonàs, a physicist, and Adrià, an art historian – pooled their varied knowledge and rolled up their sleeves. They were united by one thing: all three are passionate about creativity.

And thus Verkami was born, inspired by the Kickstarter platform that was developed in the United States a year and a half previously. The Sala family’s idea was to transport this initiative. “There was nothing similar in Europe or in South America, and it all started with our own desire to shoot a short film for which we needed funding,” recalls the elder of the sons, Jonàs Sala.

At the time of writing, 280 projects have been funded, with a 72% success rate, and Verkami’s home page proclaims an ambitious initiative: to fund the newspaper El Público with 30,000 euros. A sum of 14,000 euros has already been secured with 25 days remaining for making donations. That is how it works: people pitch their project and have a 40-day deadline to get the money they need from user donations. The creator has to come up with a way of giving them something in return and this is where the most original ideas emerge: “One group even offered to play at your wedding if you gave them a sum of money to fund their first record,” says Jonàs Sala.

For the initiative to be successful, the elder of the Salas believes that it is essential to “know how to get your idea across and address your potential audience, bearing in mind that they are not moneyed people who do it for philanthropic reasons; they are consumers like us, who want to see works that interest them. People don’t pay more for a DVD or for a book, especially if they haven’t been made yet. You have to know how to convey trust and understand that, because you are cutting out the middlemen, you can offer your products at a better price.” Another piece of good advice is to pay attention to the communication aspect and to use every possible channel, both social networking and blogs. “Crowd-funding is a good tool, but it demands a bit more from creators, and that is dissemination. Some of them are not used to it,” says Sala.

Imatge del músic lleidatà Jordi Gasion tocant en l'obertura del 4t Festival de Músiques des d’un Balcó, a la plaça del Comerç de Sant Andreu, el desembre del 2011, una edició finançada a través de Verkami.

© Pere Virgili
Lleida-born musician Jordi Gasion launched the fourth Music from a Balcony Festival on Plaça del Comerç, Sant Andreu, in December 2011. This edition of the festival was funded via Verkami.

Someone who is used to it is the poet Sílvia Bel, who has just published her new book with funds secured through Verkami. She is full of praise for the experience. “I wanted to bring out my second book of poems accompanied by the music of Clara Peya, but including a CD in a book makes it very expensive. The publishers couldn’t cover the cost. In the end, I found a way: by putting it in QR codes. But of course the expensive part was the recording. And it was then that I decided to use Verkami to pay the whole multimedia part of the project. The whole experience was very enriching and it really made the project grow, above all because it was a way of beginning to disseminate the book. Day by day you can see how the donations from sponsors continue to grow – I call them my angels – and it is very stimulating to feel that they believe in it, are excited about it and want to support it.”

“The strength of micropatronage lies in the fact that participants help the artist directly”

But Bel has also been very conscious of the work involved. “Getting people excited about a project like this also carries a great responsibility and commitment. I now feel like I’m engaged to be married to 80 little angels. It is they who have given me wings. They and the publishing house, whom I thank for the freedom and absolute trust they have given me to carry out the musical and videoclip part. I think I’ve put in nearly a hundred acknowledgements to different people in the book. I hope I haven’t left anyone out!”

This poet now has direct experience of the world of crowd-funding and warns that “the Ministry of Culture wants to regulate micro patronage. I think they’re mistaken. The strength of micro patronage lies in the fact that whoever does it feels that they are directly helping the artist, without any middlemen or regulations to follow. I don’t know how long this system will last. Obviously, people cannot and should not have to finance every project that comes up ad infinitum, especially because we pay taxes. All I hope is that it doesn’t end up becoming a political tool. If we reach a ceiling, we’ll find a way of turning it into something else! I think that artists have led the way.”

Because of this, the multimedia book Fila índia enfora (Outside Single File), along with hundreds of other initiatives, is now a reality.

Fònics 2.0: united by music

Fònics 2.0 describes itself as a dynamic music group that selects its performers through the internet. Its first project was to stage Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, a concert that was held on 20 February last year at the Palau Falguera in Sant Feliu de Llobregat, with a choir of 18 young women selected in auditions publicised on the internet. The initiative was developed by the current director of Fònics 2.0, Lluís Vilamajó, who works with his other team members, Alba Carbó, Mireia Font and Laia Santanach.

Saló del Tinell

© Fònics 2.0The Saló del Tinell was the rehearsal venue for a project focusing on music from the Spanish Renaissance and Italian Baroque, organised by Fònics. The concert took place on 11 February at Pedralbes Monastery.

The platform secures the resources it needs for its projects through exchanges. Neither Fònics 2.0, nor the members of the organisation, nor the participating musicians get any financial gain from the activities. For example, for one project relating to the Spanish Renaissance and Italian Baroque, an agreement was reached with the Museu d’Història de Barcelona (Museum of History of Barcelona, or MUHBA) by which Fònics 2.0 would offer a concert in the museum if MUHBA provided a rehearsal space for the programme.

Santanach explains what prompted them to start up an initiative that has no equivalent anywhere else. “We wanted to make music in a group, but not just any old way. We wanted to work with people who were 100% involved, who would come to rehearsals with an in-depth knowledge of the repertoire and want to really engage with the group performance work. It is very difficult to create a group of musicians with this level of commitment; that’s why we looked at different ways of achieving it. We decided to go for projects that use the internet to put out the call for musicians. The internet notification lets everyone know what is expected of them, what the repertoire is and the dates, so everyone can decide whether or not to take part. At the auditions, the director can see if the musicians have taken the commitment seriously and can observe their attitudes and aptitudes.”

The cost of a wiki-based initiative does not tend to be very high, but it does require considerable drive and many hours. Santanach recalls how, once they had decided on the idea, the real work began of turning it into a reality. “It’s normally a case of ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’. If you want free rein over the what, where, when and how, you are either wealthy and you pay for it yourself or you decide that no-one pays, which is what we’ve done. We work on a quid pro quo basis and that gives us a lot of freedom.” For Santanach, the most exciting project to date was the Britten one, because it was the first and they had no idea what response to expect. They got the pianist Josep Surinyac onboard and “more people signed up for the auditions than we expected; people of very high quality,” he says. “Everyone got very involved in the process and the atmosphere was amazing. The musicians that took part valued the experience very highly and the concert was highly acclaimed by audiences.”

This success was repeated with a project based on music of the Spanish Renaissance and Italian Baroque last February. “For me, it was a big step forward in two ways. Firstly, because of the collaboration and level of understanding with the people at MUHBA, who let us rehearse and give a concert in some of the city’s most incredible spaces, like the medieval Saló del Tinell, the Picasso Museum and the Monastery of Pedralbes. Secondly, because of the huge number of people involved: from the 90 people who signed up for the auditions to cover 27 places, to all the private individuals who have offered spaces in which to carry out the projects, and the big audiences that have come to see us.”

As with any project based on cooperation, there are many ways of getting involved. Santanach mentions that some people “loaned their dining rooms for small-group rehearsals”. Others have helped with historical research, with photographs and with publicity. The performer explains that these exchanges and working with the people involved in the different projects have taught her a great deal about many different subjects.

The fact that Fònics 2.0 is an internet-based project is one of the key factors in its success: “Information technology allows a small group like ours to organise projects, coordinate them, put out a call for people, promote exchanges and develop word-of-mouth communication very quickly. Otherwise, we would have to invest much more time and energy in each project and it would take us a lot longer to get Fònics known by potential participants.” We look forward to the next production.