Monday, May 22, 2017

Tourism and positioning: new challenges

Last week, we held the first meeting of the new Council of Tourism Sitges. It is a new body promoted by the City Council, and has the presence and participation of all public and private entities charged with managing and planning local tourism. There are representatives of hotels, restaurants and bars; also representatives of campsites and apartments; the services of the beaches or marinas as well as the Heritage Association and the Garraf Park, among many others. The new Council compositions plural and multifaceted, because tourism today is transversal and needs planning from different areas, both public and private, including associations.

The Council of Tourism's mission is to plan the promotion policy of the city of Sitges and detail the actions and the line that interests the whole municipality, both from a global perspective as in specific sector-wise actions. In this regard, the Council will have working groups in different areas and among its objectives has conducted an ongoing dialogue with the public to obtain their concerns and proposals.

The triangle composed by public sector - private sector – community (residents of the municipality) is one of the foundations of the new Council of Tourism. The bilateral work that has distinguished tourism planning policies in recent decades has been replaced the new trilateral policies. In this sense, the new Council of Tourism was already designed from the very beginning along this line to adapt to new challenges. One of the first actions will be the Public hearing to present the Quality Tourism Plan 2017-2021, which will on 5 June. In this event, the public hearing will submit a strategic plan for tourism, for which we want a consensus among governments, private sector and citizens.

Tourism is the industry of Sitges. For over fifty years the town has been living from tourism, and during more than twenty tourism is the breadwinner for all year round, thanks to conferences and conventions, that allowed to break the seasonality that had prevailed decades ago. For this reason, the City Council has among its priorities promoting, planning and implementing structural actions to support this type of economy.

In this regard, the City Hall is implementing several actions, some properly oriented to tourism and other that do benefit tourism itself. On the first point, in recent years we have implemented actions such as the moratorium on the licensing to tourist apartments, minimarkets and other businesses that do not fit into the image that Sitges needs.; the regeneration of beaches (both bringing sand every summer as the stabilizer project in which we are working with the Ministry); promoting festivals to provide activities throughout the year (some organized directly with municipal participation, such as the brand new Gardens of Terramar, Sitges Next for advertising, or the Jazz and also Cinema, which this year celebrates its fiftieth edition); or the design and implementation of actions that have a direct impact on tourism (promotion campaign Sitges Viu ·Sitges Lives·, Salt Road, wine tourism ...).

For its part, the actions carried out by the municipal government that have a direct impact on tourism is the project of the  Usage Plan, to finish in the coming months; actions to reduce illegal street vendors; premier cultural actions such as holding the exhibition Ramon Casas- that contribute to position Sitges as a cultural reference point and the new Architectural Heritage Plan, which aims to protect buildings that mark our uniqueness and identity.

Much remains to be done, but we are moving in the right direction, according to reports and evaluations prepared by experts who point that Sitges maintains its leading brand in the whole country. Employment data, organizations of events and initiatives that reach Sitges have multiplied in recent years and illustrate our potential and attraction we have in this moment. However, Sitges needs to be constantly in motion, generate new initiatives and act as a laboratory of ideas and proposals that mark tourism in the XXI century. And the brand new Council of Tourism is an excellent tool for making this possible.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Closing of the exhibition Ramon Casas in Sitges

Speech on the occasion of the presentation of the facsimile edition of Desde El Molino and the closing of the exhibition Ramon Casas, modernity desired, we organized Maricel Museum from 16 November 2016 and 19 February 2017.

From El Molí gather different chronicles from Paris that Rusiñol wrote for La Vanguardia to explain the vital experiences of artists at Montmartre, leaving no details for the imagination. No matter if it's just a portrait of Catalan artist that used to visit the Moulin de la Galette, as the shadows plays at Cabaret Chat Noir, or night like at Montmartre, tavern songs or the can-can dance. One of such chronicles, written and drawn in first person, today would be call self-fiction. They are, as explained in the presentation text, the self-biography of the bohemian life of Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas.

Rusiñol describes his experiences in Paris with a style that describes the work of both friends, in a direct, real and we could say sentimental. Ramon Casas illustrated with a drawing pulse and will that approaches photojounalism, a very swift and expressive style. Written between 1890 and 1892, corresponding to the years that culminate the aesthetic complicity of both artists.

Between 1890 and 1892, something important happens also in the life of Rusiñol and also for us, because he and Casas in Paris are making incursions in Barcelona to present their new pictures both at exhibition halls and all sorts of cultural happenings. This was the reason why Casas came to paint in Sitges during the fall of 1891, he was curious about the patis that Casas commented to him, and at the same time he was going to Vilanova to watch the Greco at the Museum of Victor Balaguer.

This is why From the Mill also has references to Sitges. Specifically, in the tenth chapter, entitled "Impressions of an arrival", one arrival after discovering our town, Because Rusiñol writes that "when (....? you leave those beaches in Sitges (...) when you leave that eternal sweetness in the ambiance with not fakeness whatsoever and you have breathed and inspired it, when you leave a land that apart from being our land, it's also because it's good land (....) you can truly complain and use it as pretext to warm your spirits." And that January 1892 is now exactly 125 years in our past. Not a long while ago Rusiñol pronounced his first speech in Sitges, saying good bye to all those that received him so warmly:

" " My friend, I was a man that was walking around the world, following trails and jumping streams and dales when I met a land that was more sunny than the rest, were the sky was bluer, the sea was bluer and also the houses were white and with no snow and everything was green and blossoming, and I decided to stop. (...) But I will say aloud what my pictures won't say so everybody can hear me, and I will say with my breast full of enthusiasm. That France could have many millions, but they could never buy a land like this, were the wine is malaria, the coast is gold, the sky is light, women are fire and everything swims in an atmosphere of life and friendship.

Also during his first stay he wrote an article about the nostalgia of two homelands, in which deeply affected by the emigration of people from Sitges to America, he places yearning for you homeland in first person, already divided between the attraction to sun and the light of Sitges and the grey mist from Paris representing modernity that he still wants to assimilate, but that he will drop to build a house that will be also be an atelier and a museum in Sitges.

Meanwhile, we must take time to savor his Parisian chronicles, this grey Paris covered by fog but so attractive for the fight for art and freedom in which, as well as Rusiñol, both end wining, importing it as the legacy of modernity to the Catalonia of their times.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Budget: more social measures, greater economic revitalization and increased investment

A few weeks ago, the Municipal Council carried out the initial approval of the budget for City of Sitges 2017. It took only six votes against 21 of the full house, in a clear sign that shows that it was a mainstream document that shared a wide political consensus and the willingness to negotiate of government and almost all municipal groups that in one way or another, reached  agreements that have been reflected on the budget. In early March, the Full House must agree on the final approval of the budget that will come into force automatically.

The budget for 2017 is over 42 million € and involves an increase of 2% compared to last year. The items that recorded this increase were those of Social Welfare, Culture, Sports, Education and Public Roads. The increase in these items is designed to implement the planned action in the Mandate Plan, prepared by the two local groups that currently make up the government of the City (PDeCAT and DC, on one hand, and ERC on the other).

Among the actions contained in the budget are the beginning of long-awaited projects, such as the construction of school Agnès de Sitges, which is possible thanks to an agreement between the City Council and the Catalan Government, which specifies that the new building will be built between the 2017 and 2019. The budget also includes other important investments, such as a new rugby field, which will give a definitive answer to the situation of temporary facilities that characterized this sport in Sitges since its inception 25 years ago. Also, there are other important activities, such as the necessary reform of the different sections of the Promenade, the reform of the Town Hall, improvements in the field of Aiguadolç municipal football field, the new civic center of Les Botigues or improving access to Garraf, among other projects aimed at improving infrastructure facilities and the map of the town.

The budget also includes a social action plan aimed at preventive actions on the most disadvantaged groups, but also to intervene in situations of greatest need. These are actions that are part of our program silos people, which last year brought 600,000 extra enabling social services. This year, we increased investments and the number of professionals working in this field. Objective: people.

Meanwhile, the budget foresees an increase in investments in public roads, perfectly aware of the problem we have in this area, especially during the summer months. Last year, we increased items for cleaning services almost half a million Euros, this year we envisaged a special endowment for gardening services to improve green areas of the municipality.

There is very relevant budget item in 2017: municipal spending per inhabitant in Sitges amounted to 1419.53 Euros, well above the national average in the municipalities having between 25,000 and 30,000 inhabitants which are 1098.32 Euros. The investment per inhabitant in Sitges amounts to 86.21 Euros, while the national average is 61.20 Euros.

And all this increase in budgetary resources does not increase debt, just the opposite. In 2017 we will reduce the debt of the City Hall placing it significantly below the national average, despite the difficult scenario of municipal finances in 2011 when debt level was excessive.

It is a good budget and to make it really effective, the challenge we have now is to improve processes and municipal management. If we succeed, we would have been able to reverse in a few years a very severe situation to a moderately favorable one.

Monday, November 28, 2016

2017: the year of cultural facilities

Authorities, creators, cultural managers, scholars, representatives of associations and groups, ladies and gentlemen, good evening everyone.
First of all, let me congratulate the winners of the various awards, recognitions and prizes received. The faces of satisfaction clearly expose your joy, absolutely justified:
  • To journalist Joan Sella, for his documented and tasty reports that he publishes regularly at L'Eco.
  • To painter Carles Castellvi and sculptor Jordi Gich for the magic show of his works,  exhibited in Miramar along with other selected pieces from Sanvisens and Pere Jou competitions.
  • To Natalia Carmona for his willingness to research and study.
  • To Francesc Barnés, posthumously, for his kindness, service capacity and intuitive and privileged view through the eye of the camera.
  • To the photography section of the Grup d'Estudis (Study Group) for the enthusiastic efforts to spread the value of the photographic image to the public.
  • And to the musician Ramon Mirabet for taking the name of Sitges everywhere he goes, accompanied by a career that achieves a success after the other.
To all: congratulations!

I would also like to thank the people who made these awards possible. To all the people that make up institutions, associations and other groups of different sign that among their purposes is the noble and necessary task to recognize good work, talent and careers. Congratulations, because you are a driving engine. And the driving engine is an essential part of any dynamic operation: from a vehicle to a collective organization or community. No project works without a driving force. It is not possible to start up. Congratulations and thanks you for your work.

Note that I referred to two of the major pillars of the basic structure of a cultural system: creators and organizers or promoters of political and cultural action. The first (the creators) are the talent and the basis of any cultural event. They make art. Either with a brush, a keyboard, a guitar, a camera or their hands. Art as a form of expression, knowledge or evasion.

But if alongside creators or behind them there were no agents promoting the pipeline, dissemination or funding, no matter how limited, art, creation would be doomed. Associations, institutions, foundations or other groups increase the dimension and body size of culture and are as essential as are the creators themselves.

Santiago Rusiñol arrived in Sitges and transformed the town in one of the most important stages and showcases of the arts in the late nineteenth century. But if Rusiñol had not found an active society in movement, he could hardly have articulated his Temple of Modernism and transform Sitges into a cultural capital. The town of Sitges found by Rusiñol was a very active town. El Retiro and El Prado were just born, and more recently, L'Eco de Sitges.

And while talking about Santiago Rusiñol and L'Eco, let me add a few words in memory of two sitgetans with a long, strong and noble trajectory who have died in recent days: Genis Muntané and Josep Manuel Soler, "en Josep de L'Eco. Genis and Josep represented throughout their life this Sitges that today we are recognizing and rewarding. They were an example of dedication, service and "sitgetanisme."

Creators and associations are the two pillars that sustain culture. And the third are facilities. The expression of culture needs platforms and scenarios to channel their journey, and those platforms must be at the service of creators and dinamizers. And this is one of the challenges of the roadmap of our  Municipal Government regarding cultural facilities.

In this regard, I wish to emphasize that 2017 will be the year of cultural facilities in Sitges. Our culture went through dire straits due to the crisis and budget cuts, but the new environment will generate renewed optimism. Recent years brough about sacrifices, probably in some cases quite excessive, but the good economic management and institutional understanding now allow us to promote projects and facilities are of paramount importance.
  • A few days ago, the Councillor for Culture, Traditions and Celebrations, Rosa Tubau, agreed with the President of El Retiro, Elena Farré, the use of the facility that the City-Hall has in this building for cultural uses. It is a hall that the City-Hall acquired at the end of the 90 but has not had a specific use since. Now the aim is to put this space at the service of cultural institutions and thus respond to a demand that we have received from several associations.
  • Just two weeks ago, I announced accompanied by the Deputy Chairman of the Provincial Council of Barcelona, Jaume Ciurana, the transfer of the Miramar building and its annexes to the City-Hall of Sitges for 20 years, renewable for 30 years; ie up to 50 years of assignment. El Miramar is owned by the Provincial Council of Barcelona and now, thanks to this agreement, will continue under municipal management, with the commitment to extend its use as a cultural space. 
  • During the summer of 2017 will open the Romantic Museum - Can Llopis - once again, once they have completed the work of reform, adaptation and internal reorganization of collections.
  • Also in 2017, we will be about to finish the work of refurbishment of Can Falç. Last spring ended the adaptation of part of ground floor. In 2018 Can Falç is expected to open as a new museum and a center for cultural heritage.
  • And more museums. Because this is the condition that will have the Stämpfli Foundation, once finished the work of expansion of the facilities that the Stämpflis are carrying out a new act of infinite generosity to Sitges and art. With the extension that they will make at the street d'en Bosc, The Foundation will have more than 1,300 square meters dedicated to contemporary art. With Can Falç and extended Stämpfli Foundation, Sitges will have five museums.
  • During 2017, the refurbishment works of Palau Maricel are planned to start. We have already received a grant from the Provincial Government of Barcelona. The reform will be a structural reform and will increase the levels of protection and conservation of one of the most emblematic buildings in Sitges.
  • As previously stated by Councillor Rosa Tubau, during 2017 we will open the Library Santiago Rusiñol, once reformed and refurbished; we will finish the much expected roof works of the theater hall of the Casino Prado and we will continue the struggle to acquire the building of the former Patronato at Parellades street.
  • Heritage conservation will also be the basis a project of recuperation that today we will anounce here, the chapel and the masia (Catalan rural house) of Santa Barbara, also scheduled for action in 2017. We want to allocate the chapel and the house for public use.
The municipal facility at El Retiro, Miramar, museums, the library, Can Falç, the chapel of Santa Barbara ... As you can see, next year comes loaded with remarkable projects to draw a map of cultural facilities with more consistency and more protection. Most of these areas have a precious heritage value for us, their conservation and protection are a priority. But also their access and adaptation to the cultural needs of Sitges today.

Two weeks ago, the president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, inaugurated the central exhibition of the Year Ramon Casas. The fact that Sitges organizes, promotes and exports an event of this type, which next year will travel Madrid and Palma de Majorca,is the recognition of the strong commitment of Sitges as cultural capital.

The exhibition Ramon Casas puts us in the center of the cultural universe of Catalonia, the same feat achieved by some of our festivals and other cultural events organized from Sitges that are national or even international. Right now, the Department of Culture is working on a new festival to expand our event map: Music Festival to celebrate the Gardens of Terramar next summer.

Great exhibitions, festivals and events that focus attention in Sitges and transform Sitges in stage, generator and projector of culture. But at the same time, our cultural system requires local culture and fostering local talent. And this is one of pillars in which works the Department of Culture, through its stable exhibition program, regular editions and activities of organizations of different format. But also accompanying organizations and artists in their projects to the maximum extent of our ability.

Culture is active and generates return when is bidirectional. That is, when all parties contribute with their effort. The City Hall -and all the organizations in which we participate, such as the Heritage Consortium and the Film Festival, among others, are there to promote large projects and tune facilities and renovation of buildings. And you, creators and associations, are here to promote your projects, which are also major projects for Sitges that we all feel as our own projects. Because a Sitges that would only live out of  major cultural events would be a lame Sitges, a boring Sitges. For this reason, your contribution is not only useful and necessary, but it is essential.

Culture is a pillar of the welfare state, as are education, health, housing and social services. And so, we must provide the content, funding, dialogue and two-way action. And 2017 is destined to be a particularly important year in which we will strenghten our map of cultural facilities. And, therefore, continue weaving our status as a cultural capital.

Thank you and good evening to everyone.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Opening ceremony of the exhibition of Ramon Casas

Almost two years ago, we gathered right in this same spot,  "Racó de la Calma" or “Quiet Corner”,  to inaugurate the reopening of the Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum after an intense and thorough reform process. Already at that time, just on the threshold of Christmas. we recited a good verse J.V Foix I am exalted by everything new, I'm in love with everything old to define what we were offered by some museums that were able to recover the essence of their legacy adapting it to current needs and future.
Today -in the opening of this wonderful exhibition about Ramon Casas, his world and his time- we will reaffirm the commitment of our museums as an excellent showcase of all the heritage contained in their collections. But at the same time, just for being an active dynamizer of the vibrant cultural life of Sitges nowadays.

This exhibition that opened today confirms it clearly. Ramon Casas, a much longed modernity is the desired central exhibition of the Year Ramon Casas, a rich and suggestive walk through the work of the genius of modernism which interacts with other artists who influenced him or whom he influenced. An exhibition of first level, which allowed taking to Sitges paintings from some of the most prestigious European galleries.

The fact that the main event of the Year Ramon Casas takes place in Sitges is no accident. 
  • First, because our museums accumulate a complete collection of his work: Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum have 100 pieces of Ramon Casas, including oil paintings, drawings and posters. Undoubtedly, this is a significant collection, which offers a full scale of art from the turn of the century in our country.
  • Second point, because Ramon Casas played a role in the cultural history of Sitges, near Santiago Rusiñol and Charles Deering. Casas was the owner of Can Rocamora, the building now integrated in the ensemble of Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum, and made continuous trips to our town, more or less regularly.
  • But in addition to historical coherence reasons, the central exhibition of the Year Ramon Casas in Sitges is possible because our town now has a museum displaying the artistic past as it was, but doing so in the most demanding conditions of rigor, quality and positioning.
The organization of an exhibition of this magnitude would not have been possible without the strategic vision and work capacity of the Heritage Consortium of Sitges. Neither would have been possible without some installations perfectly equipped from a point of view of conservation, security and accessibility. We are referring to Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum.

Almost two years since reopening, Cau Ferrat and Maricel Museum have more than fulfilled its main mission as art museums that hold collections of significant heritage value. But at the same time, they have also become a channel of cultural revitalization of Sitges of extraordinary value ... quantitative but especially qualitative.

In a town like ours that lives on tourism statistics are important. And for this reason, during the last 22 and half months, the Cau Ferrat and the Maricel Museum have received 68,000 visitors and 1,500 groups. A matter of satisfaction that illustrates attraction capacity.

At the same time, in a town like ours, who actually lives from tourism but which boasts its status as capital of the arts, statistics are not all. The organization of this exhibition allows us to locate Sitges at the forefront of the national cultural scene. We do it with satisfaction and enthusiasm, but also with the conviction that culture is the best face that Sitges has offer to the world. We did it over a hundred years at the time of Casas and Rusiñol, and we make it now with the legacy that we inherited for the service of the city and the arts.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Tribute to President Lluis Companys 2016

We gather another year in front of the monolith erected in memory of President Lluís Companys i Jover, on the anniversary of his execution by Franco's fascist regime. We want to praise the memory of our President that suffered a martyr's death. I want to pay homage to President Companys, but also to all the victims of the Spanish Civil War and Franco's repression. A year ago, on 8 September 2015, the Catalonian Self-Government  (Generalitat of Catalonia) proclaimed October 15 as National Day in memory of the victims of the Civil War and the repression of Franco’s dictatorship.

The date coincided with the 75th anniversary of the execution of President Companys, maximum institutional representative of the citizens of this country and the only democratically elected president of Western Europe that has been executed by fascism. This National Day, and this act held in Sitges, takes into account the existence of a plurality of memories that we want to be recognized with no hard feelings and in a constructive manner, and the various initiatives that have been launched for the clarification of truth and moral and symbolic reparation for all victims and survivors.
We can all contribute. Also from the municipal world.

Therefore, we are pleased to assist in the recovery of historical memory. As is the case being investigated by Jordi Milà, a historian from Sitges, on the brutal murder of seven young militiamen from Sitges the morning of 11 October 1936 (80 years ago) on the Aragon front during Civil war. A tragic event that will be part of the work being prepared by Jordi Milà titled "Stories of a quiet village," published by the City Hall of Sitges to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. 

Individual stories of Sitges, private memories of many Catalans... Probably everyone in Catalonia could explain stories related to the Civil War and Franco's repression. Family stories that are part of our collective history, our collective memory as a people, as a nation. This is the memory that we remember and render tribute. The memory of the President that died as a Martyr, but we also render homage to a silenced town that never bent his head in front of those who wanted to snatch its dignity, rights and freedom.

Therefore, we cannot shut up and do as if nothing happened when faced with those that even today deny or trivialize Fascism and all that it meant. Whether they do it as casual talk, on social networks or using a microphone at the plenary hall. To the memory of many people who suffered repression, persecution, imprisonment, concentration camps, torture and death during the worst crimes against humanity committed in the twentieth century... Trivializing Nazism and Fascism cannot be tolerated!

And even more. It is insulting to trivialize Nazism and Fascism and to try to demonize the sovereign process going on in Catalonia. Because the process of national emancipation of Catalonia is a peaceful, democratic, tolerant and civil process. And so it will remain. The men and women of this country will freely decide what should be their political future. They will do it from the noble conviction of democracy and plurality of ideas, backgrounds, languages... Because this has always been a country of inclusion, diversity, tolerance and respect. The Catalonia in 2016 is just like that. And the Catalonia of new generations will also be like that, possibly better, with more equality and social justice.

Let's consider then the republican values ​​of a just and egalitarian society without discrimination, the backbone of the new Catalonian State. Values defended by our great-grandparents, grandparents and parents. But, let's do it thinking about us and our children and grandchildren.

Honor and glory to President Companys. Honor to all democrats of all time. Without forgetting the words of Lluís Companys before being killed barefoot on Catalan soil: "I will die for Catalonia and the Republic. I am happy to die for Catalonia and what I regret the most is that I will not be able to do anything more for my ideals. Those remaining must preserve their courage, hope and strength. Long live Catalonia! ".

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Welcome to the world’s fantastic film festival

Feature films, shorts, filmgoers, fans, directors, actors and actresses, producers, industry, sponsors, institutions, organizers, volunteers, businesses, schools, zombies… The Sitges-International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia is a face with many expressions, where everyone plays a key role to finally put together a unique and special Festival. At the threshold of its 50th anniversary, taking place next year, the Festival maintains its genuine character as a true manifestation of genre cinema –with a very relevant role on behalf of the fans– while at the same time making a commitment to the most innovative tendencies from the audiovisual world.

Sitges 2016 opens the doors to virtual reality, making it possible to show the new productions in this format, which are here to stay. This year’s Festival confirms last year’s commitment to becoming an industry magnet: the Sitges Pitchbox piques the interest of both talents and industry, the Blood Red Carpet attracts promising actors and actresses who see Sitges as an excellent platform, and this year the village created to complement the activities offered to the general public is expanding its benefits, services and interest on behalf of different companies to be present there. All of this data confirms that the Sitges Film Festival –along with the growing attendance of genre movie producers to screen their films and see presentations of new movies– is prepared to be a magnet for the film industry, allowing the Festival to grow.

Sitges is a town that’s especially festival-oriented. We have them of all different types, profiles and content and recently added an advertising and new communication festival. And all of them with the Film Festival as the undisputed benchmark and model to follow. Since 1968 when Sitges created what was then the International Fantastic Film Week, which soon afterwards would focus a large part of its attention on the field of horror (in Sitges there are still people who call it the “Horror Movie” Festival), the Festival has played a crucial role in the town’s dynamics. For a long time, the Festival closed out the tourist season and now it is the most outstanding repercussive manifestation the town has. Businesses, restaurants, hotels and the entire town experience the Festival as ten intense days when everything takes place differently, authentically and genuinely, as is fitting for the number one fantastic film festival in the world.

Welcome one and all to Sitges: enjoy our town and its services and, especially, everything the Festival has to offer you, which is more and more year after year.