The gateway to the La Mercè festivities: human towers, retinues, giants, stick dancing and animal figures.

Barcelonians are getting ready for the La Mercè festivities, which take place from 20 to 24 September, featuring some sixty traditional events, centred on Barcelona’s popular culture. There will be a series of events beforehand, however, acting as a gateway to the big annual festival.

50th anniversary of the Castellers de Barcelona

Thursday, 12 September marks the official opening, in the Orfeó Martinenc’s Sala Foyer, of an exhibition entitled ‘Two hundred years of human towers in Barcelona, 50 years holding together’. It represents a historical journey through the city’s last two centuries of human-tower making, pausing at the birth, half a century ago this year, of Barcelona’s oldest human-tower group. The exhibition also features the first document to mention human towers in Barcelona; dating back to 1807 and never seen by the public before, it comes from the Santa Maria del Pi’s parish archives.

The exhibition, which will tour the country, signals the Castellers de Barcelona‘s continuing fiftieth-anniversary celebrations, which will culminate in two human-tower-making days during this year’s La Mercè. The exhibition is on until Monday, 30 September, open every day from 5 pm to 9 pm.

The Communal retinue comes to Barcelona’s City Hall

As of this Saturday, 14 September, you’ll be able to visit the Seguici Popular [Communal Retinue] at the City Hall’s Galeria Gòtica. The Palau de la Virreina is undergoing alteration work this year, so the Retinue will be on display at the City Hall instead. There you will find the City’s Giants, the Cavallets Cotoners [hobby horses], the Eagle, the Lion, the Mule, the Ox, the She-Dragon, the Dragon, the Serene Dragon and the giants known as the Gegants del Pi and the Gegants Santa Maria del Mar. They’ll all be waiting for you, decked out for dancing outside during the annual festival.

Street rehearsal

The festival will already start to arrive at squares this Sunday, 15 September. At 11.30 am, the Gegants del Pi will be making their way from the City Hall to a public rehearsal at Plaça del Rei, where there will be dancing featuring the Lion, the Mule, the child giants, Perot the Thief and normal giants and the small Gigants del Pi, who are celebrating their 350th anniversary this year.

First outside appearance of the Gegants de la Ciutat

The Gegants de la Ciutat, the city’s top giant representatives, will be attending the official opening of the Barcelona Giants’ Exhibition, on Sunday afternoon, 15 September, at the Manning Courtyard at the Casa de Caritat (Montalegre, 7). This is a ‘Cap a la Festa!’ event, whose guests this year will be the Gegants Vells de la Casa de Caritat o del Carnestoltes, celebrating their 160 anniversary.

The two couples – accompanied by the Capgrossos Macers big-head figures – will come out of the City Hall at 5 pm, dancing all the way to the Casa de Caritat where they will be performing more dancing from around 6.30 pm.

The first giant with a disability

Thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign, Normag is now a reality. He’s the first giant in Catalonia with a disability; he belongs to the ASPASIM association and was created by Dolors Sans. His first public appearance will be at the Giants’ Exhibition on Sunday, 15 September, at 6.30 pm at the Manning Courtyard, under the watchful gaze of all Barcelona’s other giants. There will also be more giants taking part that have been adapted so they can be carried by people with disabilities: Frida Kahlo de Tarragona, Martí de Premià de Mar and the Ocellaire de l’Eixample, a gender-free figure. The latter will be one of Normag’s godparents, along with the little giant Joana de Sarrià.

The world of festival animal figures

The city’s fire beasts will go on display at the Born CCM on Tuesday, 17 September. They will be performing two of the exhibition’s complementary activities there. The first will be a ‘Popular culture and children’ roundtable on Tuesday, 17 September, at 7 pm, and the second a ‘40 years of Fire Runs’ talk on Wednesday, 18 September, at 7 pm.

Stick dancing and human towers and other constructions

Following the ‘Fire Devils’, ‘Communal Retinue’, ‘Animal Figures’ and ‘Giants and big heads’ (I and II), the “Barcelona Festival Groups” collection will be expanded to include ‘Stick dancers, human towers and other human constructions’. Published by Cep i la Nansa, the book covers the city’s first fourteen stick-dancing groups. The second part deals with the city’s seven human-tower groups. It rounds off with an account on the Falcons and the Moixiganga, two festival elements playing a central role in the city’s human construction groups.

The book will be presented on Thursday, 19 September, at 7.30 pm at Espai 4 at the Palau de la Virreina.