The number of towns taking part in the “fallas” has been increasing for a few years now, especially since 2015, when the “Fallas, Haros and Brandons” were declared Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO. In some cases, the holding of the “fallas” has been preceded by the finding of a document or witness according to which “fallas” have been held in the town at some point in the past, without many further details or contributions. These are readings and interpretations, some possibly self-serving, that have led to the recovery of the solstice celebration that concerns us here, and which could end up harming both the festival itself and the discipline of history.
We understand that the study of the past of the “fallas”, like any other aspect or field relating to the past, presupposes working with the scientific rigour that is assumed as a given in historiography. The more one knows the history and society in general of a given place, the smaller the spectrum of interpretation; the more one knows the history, the easier it is to explain the expressions in each town and its evolution in order to be maintained.
In any case, for a large region in the Pyrenees the “fallas” have today become a top-level element of identity, which can be used to create synergies and improve relations and future expectations for the towns in this territory. But not only that, but these fire festivals have become a fundamental basis for tourism in many of the towns, so much so that in many cases they have ended up being converted into the main activity at the respective annual town festivals.
How have the “fallas” evolved to become what they are now? How have they gone from being an eminently local event to becoming a global reference point for fire festivals? From our point of view, our research needs to help us to identify the themes/axes around which a society revolves and evolves and, therefore, also the festival as a form of expression of a community. The research is also full of historical content and gives the festival a contrasting, firm and stable story from which the various breaks and links between past and present can be established. In fact, it is the tool that allows us to show the evolution of the festival and to introduce, where necessary, modifications without these becoming detached from the sense and meaning of the essence of the festival and its tradition.
Thus, in this area, we are interested in reflecting on all these transformations inherent in the festivals through historical and ethnographic research that has studied some of these changes, whether in a more local or global way.
Area 2 suggests we reflect on the organisation and management of the festival through the words of some of the participants in different parts of the Pyrenees. In order to learn about their experience, it has been proposed to hold a round table on some of the challenges inherent in the preparation of these events today. From our point of view, some of these challenges are: firstly, the various figures involved in the organisation of the festival (town halls, associations, festival committees, informal groups, confraternities, etc.) and the festival protocols (if any); secondly, the increase in visitors and possible strategies for their regulation (creation of car parks, road closures, new accesses to the town, etc.); thirdly, the preparation of the characteristic festival-related materials (types of materials, sourcing of materials, availability of materials, etc.) and the celebration space (squares, open spaces, mountain, etc.); and finally, the administrative procedures that need be carried out for the holding of the festival (insurance, fire permit, financial aid, etc.). All these issues should allow us to open a space for debate on the future of the management of these festivals, in which we reflect on the new uses that the festival adopts today and in what way, according to the organisers, they may or may not be assumed.
The participatory transmission, awareness-raising and dissemination between the tradition-bearing communities and the institutions are central actions in the Operational Directives (2018) for the application of the Convention for the Safeguarding of the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). In the case of the Fire Festivals of the Pyrenees, the collaboration between PCI bearers with educational, cultural and scientific institutions (schools, museums, archives, universities etc.) is generating multiple safeguard actions: educational proposals in schools, applied research, safeguard plans, exhibitions, museums, publications of books and stories, use of new technologies, virtuality, among others. In this area we intend to analyse these actions of transmission, awareness and dissemination of the Solstice Fire Festivals of the Pyrenees, as well as experiences of safeguarding other expressions of the Intangible Cultural Heritage at the international level.
What has been the effect of the pandemic and the lockdown on the fire festivals of the Pyrenees? The pandemic has affected the holding of festivals, making it impossible to observe them in the usual way. The reactions of the communities to their observance have been diverse: they have gone from cancelling them, to holding them in a reduced format or only for the residents of the town itself, or even virtual formats. This cancellation has led to a certain emptiness in the local dynamics, as many towns have felt abandoned by these cancellations. In any case, this year has highlighted more clearly than ever the importance of the festival for our communities.
After their resumption, in 2021, several questions will be explored regarding the future of festivals. Will the experience of this year change the ways in which we celebrate them? What can we learn from it with a view to the future? How can we hold festivals in more sustainable ways? We need to rethink some aspects of the holding of the festival (tourism, growth of the festival, participation of communities, etc.).