As we are approaching the end of October, I find myself checking the website of Sadler’s Wells every other day. Even though I am signed up to their newsletter, and I would receive an email when the new program is announced, I am too excited to lose even a few hours when the announcement is made.
This is the time of the year Sadler’s Wells, THE dance theatre of London, announces the line up for next year’s Flamenco Festival, and tickets go on sale. The festival always takes place in February*, over the course of a week, with the majority of the shows on the main stage of Sadler’s Wells, and some of the smallest shows in the Lilian Baylis studio, right next to Sadler’s Wells.
Since 2013 I have been to the festival every single year to see all of the shows I was interested in and could afford. The two are never the same…
But what is the Flamenco Festival?
The Flamenco Festival is the initiative of a gentleman called Miguel Marín, who realised -while studying in New York around 2000 – that there was a lack of flamenco in town, when there would actually be interest. I heard him tell the story in one of the radio interviews he gave, when presenting that year’s program and the destinations where they bring the festival. Throughout the years, this initiative has expanded, and the festival got to several locations, on different continents even.
The very first Flamenco Festival was in New York, then it came to London in 2003, which means that this year, in 2018, they celebrated the 15-year-anniversary of the festival in the British capital. Then Japan and Brazil was added to the destinations for a few years, but on the long run, the US and UK festivals continue only. They incorporated in the tour different cities within these countries though: Miami in the US and Manchester in the UK.
I found it interesting listening to Miguel talk about the beginnings of something so big and established now, when it was just an idea of a flamenco aficionado roughly 20 years ago. How he started planning to bring the artists from Spain, to create a program, to get funding, to organise and manage logistics, accommodation, venues, fees etc. With the overall and long term objective in mind to bring flamenco – represented by contemporary artists – to different parts of the world.
Funnily, I also looked into the options of bringing flamenco artists to London, when I quit my job in the city (and was in the process of re-inventing myself), but I found it extremely difficult and complex. My idea was to bring less known and established artists, within the frame of something much smaller and rather intimate, possibly combining the shows with dance and clapping courses, Spanish lessons…
Although I am a big fan of the Flamenco Festival, I do think that it is a platform for rather established artists, who can fill up an entire theatre with the ticket sales. The organisers must have their reasons behind this, which I am not here to argue. It was nice to see that this year they already had their own production too (I believe for the very first time) : Carmen Linares, Arcángel and María Heredia singing together (and individually) in the The Tempo of Light. This was specifically created for the Flamenco Festival, and was most certainly an interesting idea. I like all three artists individually, but this collaboration was not quite my cup of tea.
In the past 5 years, I have enjoyed many concerts of the festival and I am grateful to the festival for bringing all these people to the February cold of London*. I have enjoyed the concerts of so many people! I have seen dance Eva, La Yerbabuena, Mercedes Ruiz, Farruquito, Manuel Liñán, Rocío Molina, Israel Galván, Isabel Bayón, Patricia Guerrero, Belén Maya and last, but not least, La Chana! I was lucky to hear El Lebrijano sing the year he died, I heard sing Miguel Poveda, Arcángel, Antonio Reyes, Estrella Morente, Esperanza Fernandez and I heard play Tomatito and Gerardo Núñez. This is just the list of artists I have seen, the list of artists performing at the festival is so much longer! Just to mention some: Olga Pericet, Jesús Carmona, Vicente Amigo, Ana Morales, Leonor Leal, Alba Molina, Marco Flores, Sara Baras, Antonio Canales, Rafaela Carrasco, Rocío Márquez, Ángel Muñoz, the Ballet Flamenco de Andalucía and so on.
The 2019 program is not published yet. I wish I could already share the shows that I will go to (and at the same time, give a shout out to all available baby sitters for those nights), but for now, I can only encourage all Londoners, to keep an eye out for the new program and the tickets!
*Correction of this article – published on the 30th of October 2018 – is required. I found out on the 11th of November 2018 that the date of the Flamenco Festival in London has been moved to the month of July as of 2019. This means that the program won’t be published and the tickets won’t go on sale until the spring of the same year. Flamencos, a bit more patience… We will get through winter somehow, and then bring on the hot summer London nights packed with flamenco! Olé!