The oldest annual of their kind in Barcelona, the Sant Roc de la Plaça Nova festivities take place this year from 14 to 17 August. They were first held in 1589, 430 years ago (although they were not always held every year, as a result of wars and epidemics). They boast a whole host of features stretching back hundreds of years and which you won’t find anywhere else, such as la cucanya [a slippery bean challenge], the gegants vells [“old giants”], the Globus del Capità Munyon [hot air balloon], the porró llarg [drinking pitcher with a long spout] and the panellets [cakes].
We offer you the highlights of this year’s programme:
Wednesday 14 August
Cu-cut riding a donkey. As with many other local festivals, the Sant Roc de la Plaça Nova festivities will kick off with a music procession, and a truly special one in this case, seeing as it is headed by the Cu-cut big-head figure riding on a donkey! The group’s other big-head figures as well as the nan Cu-cut [dwarf giant figure] and the La Pessigolla grallers [chanter-playing] group will round off the retinue. At 6.15 pm at Plaça Nova.
Hoisting of the heraldic Sant Roc flag. The Sant Roc de la Plaça Nova Festivities are officially opened, not by a speech, but with the hoisting of the Sant Roc heraldic flag. This year’s hoisting will be carried out by female local residents of Carrer d’en Roca, which is joining in as a festival space. At 7.15 pm at Plaça Nova.
Sardana dancing. The sardana is a well-established dance throughout the country which has been performed for many years now during the Sant Roc Festivities. The music will be played by the Ciutat de Granollers cobla [traditional Catalan music ensemble] featuring key pieces for the festival, including maestro Josep Maria Boix’s “Plaça Nova” and other works typical of a big annual festival, such as Ricard Viladesau’s “Festeig”, David Estanyol’s “Punt i contradansa” and Joaquim Serra’s “Els gegants de Castellterçol”. At 7.15 pm at Plaça Nova.
Thursday 15 August
38th Giants’ Get-together at Plaça Nova. The brand-new giants of Plaça Nova, Roc and Eulàlia, will be hosting the giants’ get-together during the big annual festival. But they won’t be alone as they’ll be accompanied by the whole Plaça Nova family of giants: the child giant figures Pippo and Gal·la and the dwarf figure Cu-cut. There will also be a large number of guest groups: the Gegants Petits del Pi, del Raval, de la Barceloneta, del Casc Antic, de Sant Pere de les Puel·les, de Sant Jaume, del carrer de la Princesa and the Gegants de l’Espluga de Francolí. At 5.30 pm at Plaça Nova.
Falcons [acrobatic human-tower group]. Despite their recent origins, the Falcons de Barcelona are already fully fledged participants in the city’s festivities. As in many other Barcelona festa majors or big annual festivals, they will be performing on their patron-saint’s day at the Sant Roc Festivities this year . At 6.15 pm at Plaça Nova.
Traditional dancing. The Esbart Català de Dansaires, the doyen of groups promoting Catalonia’s tradition dances, will be offering performances during the festivities for another year. The event will be divided into two parts, with dances from all around the region, including the Dansa d’Alpens, the Bolangera de Moja, the Cadrilh de Les, the Polça Piqué de Vielha, the Ball de Punts de Tiana, the Contrapàs de Pineda, the Ball de Cercolets de Sitges and the Ball de Cosses de Gósol. With music performed by the Cobla Ciutat de Cornellà. At 7.15 pm at Plaça Nova.
Habanera singing. Any seamen and fisherman songs will be “habaneras”. Typical of beach villages, we can enjoy a few every year at the Sant Roc Festivities. Performed by the Arjau group. Halfway through lashings of “rom cremat” [“burnt rum”] will be served. At 10 pm at Plaça Nova.
Friday, 16 August, is the saint’s day known as Sant Roc
Sant Roc Retinue. Sant Roc’s day will kick off early with the the “seguici” or entourage’s setting off for mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria del Pi. It will be led by the Diable de Sant Roc, a diabolical figure seen only once a year, and made up of the neighbourhood’s popular-culture associations: The ball de bastons de l’Esbart Català de Dansaires [stick dancers], the Àliga [eagle figure], Lleó de Barcelona [lion figure], the nan Cu-cut [dwarf giant], the child giant figures Pippo and Gal·la and the Gegants Centenaris de Sant Roc de la plaça Nova… The neighbourhood’s local residents will close the procession with the traditional green flag. Set-off at 9.30 am at Plaça Nova.
Renewal of the vow. Sant Roc has been venerated in Plaça Nova ever since 1589, when he protected the neighbourhood from the plague. As a result, a solemn festival mass is held for the local festival every year, with “goigs” [sung poetry], the veneration of the remains and blessings of the famous “panellets”. At 10.30 am at the Basílica del Pi.
Dancing at the Catedral and the Bishopric. When the ceremony ends, the entire retinue will move off to the Catedral [Cathedral] where the last couple of years have see the Àliga [eagle figure] dancing opposite the Sant Roc chapel. It will be followed by a visit to the Palau Episcopal. Dances of honour will be performed there, in the courtyard. and the commission’s green flag hoisted on the main balcony, a privilege for the festivities. The mass and visit to the Palau Episcopal will be following by the laying of a wreath at the image of Sant Roc located in the old gateway in the Roman walls, just where Plaça Nova had been.
Gegants Centenaris and sardana dancing. This will then be followed by hundred-year old giant figures performing a dance and there will also be a small series of sardana dancing from the Ciutat de Cornellà dance group. Around 12.30 noon at Plaça Nova.
El porró llarg. Fancy trying your hand at drinking from a pitcher with a 55cm spout? As in previous events held since 1830, the “porró llarg”, a drinking pitcher with a long spout, will be filled with wine and left in the square so that anyone able to lift its long spout can drink from it. From 1 pm on, at Plaça Nova.
Children’s festival. Children’s festivals are one of the staple events of any big annual festival, but the Plaça Nova offers one particular special feature: the Capità Munyon hot air balloon. This is a small, home-made, hot air balloon in the shape fashioned to look like a character chosen each year for their negative image. In addition, there will also be puppets, magic and traditional games, such as sack, egg and spoon races as well as “trencar l’olla” [a Catalan equivalent to breaking the “piñata”] and the popular “cucanya” [climbing the greasy pole]. From 6 pm on, at Plaça Nova.
Saturday, 17 August
Cercavila de l’Arpella [music procession]. This year’s new feature will see the Arpella del Barri Gòtic [marine eagle figure] take central place in the festivities as it make its debut. A procession that will visit the festival’s new space: Carrer d’en Roca! At 12 noon at Plaça Nova.
La festa del gos. Legend has it that Sant Roc and his dog were inseparable. Which is why animals also play a part in the festivities. There will be dog-handling displays and the traditional canine salute to Sant Roc. This is a ceremony where every dog from the neighbourhood passes in front of an image of the saint to ask him for protection. At 5.30 pm at Plaça Nova.
Foc a dojo. Saturday afternoon will kick off with a child devils’ workshop (7 pm) and continue with the “Va tocada” with the Percúdium percussion group (10 pm). The festival correfoc or “fire run” will start at 10.10 pm, with the Ball de Diables de Caldes de Montbui, the Diables del Barri Gòtic, the Mulassa [giant-mule figure] and the Víbria [she-dragon figure] taking part.
Castell de focs [fireworks display]. The festival will be rounded off with a castell de focs, a fireworks display, run by Pirotècnia Estadella. At 11.20 pm at Plaça Nova.