Fira Mediterrània de Manresa is to describe the use of theatre and display pyrotechnics in Catalan-speaking areas at a symposium in Malta

The 13th International Symposium on Fireworks is the biggest professional event of its kind in the world

The 13th International Symposium on Fireworks is the biggest professional event of its kind in the world

Fira Mediterrània de Manresa Foundation will be in Malta to present a paper on the use of pyrotechnics in community festivals and street theatre in Catalan-speaking areas. The 13th International Symposium on Fireworks, held every year in a different country, is taking place this week in Malta. The event will be attended by 300 delegates from 37 countries and 45 paper presentations being presented as part of the programme. Catalonia and the Basque Country are the two regions on the Iberian peninsula invited by the organisers of this international event to make the Spanish State’s only contribution to the symposium. The Foundation has been invited alongside Pirotècnia Astondoa, a company based in Areatza, Bizkaia, in the Basque Country. The symposium is also the world’s biggest pyrotechnic trade fair, with a large area devoted to professional stands set up by some forty exhibitors. The stands area has its own programme of networking meetings.

The paper to be given by Fira is scheduled for Friday 27 April. It focuses on a journey through traditional uses of pyrotechnics. The Basque delegation will be describing pyrotechnic practice in Galicia, Asturias and the Basque Country, while the Catalan presenters will be talking about customs in Catalonia and Valencia. The session will also be touching on how street theatre companies such as the Catalan group Comediants and Valencians Xarxa Teatre have developed the artistic use of professional pyrotechnics. Most of the Catalan examples of street theatre pyrotechnics will be accompanied by live footage and are expected to include “Carretillada de l’Arboç” in the Penedés region; the “Vessant de Foc” in the “Blancs i Blaus” Annual Festival in Granollers, in the Vallès region; historic groups such as the dance of the devils in Sitges and Vilafranca del Penedès, plus the dragons from both these towns; the “guites” and “maces” (types of fireworks) featured in the Patum de Berga festival and the traditional “tronades” (bangers) used in Reus and Manresa. The presentation will also show traditional pyrotechnics in Valencia, including “cordaes”, “mascletaes” and “engraellats”. The description of the uses of pyrotechnics in northern Spain will feature small and large firework displays linked to religious festivals in Galicia; displays in Cangas del Narcea in Asturias; and firework “bulls” in the Basque Country (similar to the bestiaries seen in Mediterranean areas).

Film footage comes from the video library at the Centre for the Promotion of Catalan Folk Culture in the Catalan Government Department of Culture; from Granollers Town Council; the company Xarxa Teatre, guest artists at Fira Mediterrània 2008; the Valencian pyrotechnic company Ricardo Caballer; Euskal Telebista and Canal 9 television channels and Fundació Mediterrània. The 45 speakers come from a total of thirteen countries: Germany, Belgium, Canada, the Spanish State, the United States, France, Italy, Japan, Malta, Mexico, the United Kingdom and China.

Malta's pyrotechnic heritage

Malta is an island nation in the Mediterranean. The Maltese archipelago is formed by the two main islands of Malta and Gozo, plus other smaller islands, and is situated south ofSicily, separated by a strait. The capital is Valletta. Malta has been able to preserve an exceptionally rich pyrotechnic folk heritage. It has 33 firework factories, more than 120 non-profitmaking organisations linked to heritage firework events and 1,000 pyrotechnic experts. These are really extraordinary statistics for a country covering just 316 square kilometres and with a population of 470,000. Malta’s combination of professional and amateur pyrotechnics is precisely what enables comparisons to be drawn with Catalan-speaking areas, where professional companies coexist with amateur pyrotechnic groups. This has resulted in the Basque and Catalan delegation being invited to visit on several occasions to meet Maltese pyrotechnic practitioners and institutions. The symposium has drawn up a joint programme with the Malta International Fireworks Festival, in which local factories and companies from Austria, Canada, Croatia, Italy, Poland and the United Kingdom are expected to take part.