Sunday, 23 April 2017

Catalan culture fills London’s Borough Market on Sant Jordi

CNA / Sara Prim

London (CNA).- Sant Jordi is not only the patron saint of both Catalonia and England but also one of the Catalans’ most beloved traditions, which has gained international popularity and coincides with UNESCO World Book Day on the 23rd of April. This year, it was exported to a record 50 countries across the world but has in London one of its most well-established celebrations. For the last seven years, the iconic Borough Market, located in the center of the British capital, has welcomed Sant Jordi and adopted its stalls for selling books and roses. In addition, the celebration was enriched with the exhibition of Catalan culture such as gastronomy, traditional dance, and—one of the most applauded—traditional human towers performed by the local group, ‘Castellers of London’.

The Delegations of the Catalan Government abroad play a key role in exporting Sant Jordi around the world. The Institut Ramon Llull (IRL), a public institution in charge of promoting Catalan culture and language abroad, is also very active. According to the organizers, more than a thousand people enjoyed Sant Jordi at Borough Market this year and will probably mark the 23rd of April on their calendar for future occasions.

The Tourism Board and ‘Catalans UK’, which gathers together the Catalan community in the UK, also took part in the celebration, in addition to ANC England, the British branch of the pro-independence grassroots association, Catalan National Assembly.

“We try to have all the Catalan institutions represented here,” explained the Catalan Government Delegate to the UK and Ireland, Sergi Marcén. “Catalonia is going through a very important political moment, so it is important for the ANC to be here,” he said and added that all the other spheres of Catalan society are represented in the Sant Jordi celebration at the Borough Market.

“It is important to celebrate Sant Jordi, not only for the Catalan community abroad to feel at home even though they are not, but also to introduce our beloved tradition to the British,” said Jordi Giudici, President of ‘Catalans UK’.

Indeed, some of the British people who attended the celebration admitted that they knew about the tradition of exchanging books and roses in Catalonia but most of them didn’t relate it to the shared patron saint.

Sant Jordi Day is also an occasion to promote Catalan language and literature. Thus, the Catalan School of London decided to join the initiative by offering a storytelling session in Catalan. In addition, one of this year’s novelties was a literary contest for both children and adults.

Another attraction of this year’s celebration of Sant Jordi in London was the presence of the Catalan writer, Teresa Solana. The winner of the ‘Roc Boronat Prize 2017’ admitted she was “amazed” by the celebration in London. “It is like being in Barcelona,” she said. Solana signed books in Catalan but also in English, since part of her work is translated into this language. “It is a real honor, since it is a very important and loyal audience,” she added.

“I didn’t know that something like this could happen in London, it feels like home,” said Núria, a Catalan nurse living in the UK for more than six years now. “It is amazing: books, roses and these amazing human towers to put the icing on the cake,” Iain, a Scottish photographer told the CNA. “I will strongly recommend it to my friends,” he said, showing us his rose. 

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  • Stall selling books on Sant Jordi's Day with Joan Sales 'Uncertain Glory' on the foreground (by ACN)
  • Roses are one of Sant Jordi's key elements (by ACN)
  • Thousands attended Sant Jordi's festival at London's Borough Market (by ACN)

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