• John Mayall at last year's Black Music Festival in Girona (by ACN)

    Girona’s Black Music Festival brings together more than 50 local and international artists for its 14th edition

    In 2002, the ‘Black Music Festival’ was born when the ‘La Mirona’ concert room was created in Salt, a small city next to Girona. The festival wanted to become a shop window for both local and international artists of black music styles that have evolved from their original soul music source. This weekend it will kick off its 14th edition, which brings together almost 50 artists from English-speaking countries such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Jazz greats Maceo Parker and Richard Bona will be the stars of the 2015 edition but other great soul, blues, funk, hip hop and reggae musicians such as Myles Sanko – a soul revelation artist from the UK – and The Coup – a controversial hip hop and soul band from the USA – will complete the lineup of the festival, which ends on 21 March. 

A rehearsal of the Yunnan Acrobatic Troupe of China before the festival's opening (by A. Recolons)

4th edition of Figueres Circus Festival to break participation record

The 2015 edition of the Figueres Circus Festival, in the north-eastern part of Catalonia near the French border, will break all records. The festival will be held from Thursday, 26 February to Monday, 2 March. This edition will feature 24 previously unseen performances in Europe by more than 80 artists from 17 different countries, thanks to the incorporation of new countries such as Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Uzbekistan. Another novelty is the inclusion of air performances, so the event will use a big top without columns for the first time, allowing the public to enjoy a 360º view. One of the main air shows will be offered by the North Korean Pyongyang National Circus. Some 30,000 tickets have gone on sale, but the event will offer some free cultural activities too.

Spain's Constitutional Court, based in Madrid (by ACN)

Constitutional Court bans Catalan Law on Consultation Votes and call for original independence vote

Spain’s Constitutional Court has ruled against the Catalan Parliament’s Law on Consultation Votes, approved in September, and the President of the Catalan Government’s Decree calling for a consultation vote on independence on 9 November last. The Constitutional Court had already temporarily suspended both legal measures in October, but it still was yet to issue its definitive verdict. After the temporary suspension, the Catalan Government promoted an alternative and symbolic vote on independence run by 40,000 volunteers, also on 9 November, in which 2.35 million people participated despite the Spanish authorities’ full opposition and even threats. The Catalan President, Artur Mas, stated that the Constitutional Court’s final decision “leaves 27 September [early elections] as the only way to consult the Catalan people” about their collective future. Meanwhile, the Spanish PM, Mariano Rajoy, highlighted that the Court’s decision “has been adopted unanimously” and that “governments have to honour laws”.

Catalan GDP grew by 1.3% in 2014 and will increase by 2.5% in 2015 (by ACN)

Catalonia’s economy to grow 2.5% in 2015, according to Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce

Catalan GDP grew by 1.3% in 2014 and will increase by 2.5% in 2015, claims Barcelona’s Chamber of Commerce. “The Catalan economy had a very good performance in 2014, even better than that of Spain as whole, and this acceleration will continue during 2015”, stated the President of the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, Miquel Valls, on Wednesday. The day before, the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, announced a revised economic forecast for 2015 and stated that Spain’s economy would grow by 2.4% in 2015. Valls highlighted that all the macroeconomic indicators show positive figures for the first time in the last 7 years, which makes him think that Catalonia’s “recovery from the crisis is a fact”. The industrial sector, exports, construction and job creation are the main reasons behind those predictions, which also benefit from external factors such as the fall in oil prices.

The Escolania de Montserrat Choir, singing in the Abbey's Basilica (by Abadia de Montserrat / ACN)

Children’s Choir of Montserrat on tour in China

The Children’s Choir of Montserrat is participating in a tour of China between 23 February and 10 March. Montserrat is home to one of the oldest boys’ choirs in Europe, dating back to 1223. Concerts will take place in China’s largest auditoriums in Beijing and Shanghai. Around the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the music school at Montserrat really began to grow in importance and recognition at international level and nowadays it is one of the world’s most important children’s choirs. The concert programme will be directed by Lawrence Castellon and include Catalan folk songs and some Chinese folk songs. The Chinese cultural manager invited the Choir of Montserrat following their success in the United States.

  • Judge Santiago Vidal on Thursday, minutes after the CGPJ's decision (by P. Solà)

    Judge who wrote draft of Catalan Constitution is expelled from judiciary by Spanish authorities

    Barcelona High Court judge Santiago Vidal, who has openly supported independence, has been expelled from the judiciary for a 3-year period by the Spain’s Judicial Power Council (CGPJ). The sanction is far from unanimous and has been adopted after an 9-hour-long debate among the CGPJ’s 21 members, since the liberal minority was against sanctioning the judge for having written a draft Constitution for an independent Catalonia. However, the conservative majority considered Vidal to have committed a grave mistake regarding his duty to respect the Spanish Constitution. Vidal has been arguing over the past few weeks that such a draft was written in his free time and is part of his freedom of expression and ideology. In addition, he defended himself by saying that when working as a judge, he has always followed the current Constitution and legal framework. After hearing the CGPJ’s decision, Vidal stated that the decision is “political” because he is “hostile to the regime”, “an expression from 40 years ago that I thought I would not hear in democracy”.

  • The Catalan President and CiU leader, Artur Mas (left), and the ERC leader, Oriol Junqueras (right), when they announced the agreement to call early elections and to develop state structures (by ACN)

    Catalan Council for Constitutional Guarantees criticises state structures included in 2015 budget

    The Catalan Government’s Budget for 2015 includes some “unconstitutional” measures, according to the Council for Constitutional Guarantees (CGE), which is an advisory body issuing non-binding reports. The CGE has criticised a number of bill amendments developing some state structures, but not all of them. The body has highlighted the way the budget bill is to develop Catalonia’s own tax administration and its own competition authority, finding it to be at odds with the Spanish Constitution. However, the CGE does consider the way in which Catalonia’s own Social Security system would be developed (by launching the Agency of Social Protection) to respect the Constitution. The governing centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU and the opposition left-wing Catalan independence party ERC have said they will modify the measures criticised and will develop the affected state structures in a similar way to the Social Security system.

  • Luís Suárez scored Barça's two goals against Manchester City (by FC Barcelona)

    Manchester City FC vs FC Barcelona: Suárez double stuns the Etihad (1-2)

    Two goals from the Uruguayan have set things up perfectly for FC Barcelona for the Champions League last-16-tie’s second leg at the Camp Nou on March 18 by repeating last year’s feat of winning at the Etihad. Kun Agüero pulled one goal back for Manchester City. This Tuesday’s game ended 2-1, with Joe Hart giving Man City a glimmer of hope by saving a Leo Messi penalty in the final minute of injury time. However, a 2-1 win at the Etihad Stadium, and playing such spectacular football, is nothing less than magnificent and the result leaves Barça with every right to feel confident about their chances of making it into the quarter finals.

Highlights

  • Mariano Rajoy on Tuesday at the Spanish Parliament (by Congreso de los Diputados)

    24.02.15 - 22:44

    Rajoy will “never” accept questioning of Spain’s unity and does not recognise a ‘de facto’ referendum in Catalonia

    In the annual Debate on the State of the Union in the Spanish Parliament, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy repeated that he will “never” accept putting Spain’s unity in question. He said that the next Catalan Parliament elections, scheduled for 27 September, are not a ‘de facto’ referendum on independence, as pro-independence parties are claiming. However, Rajoy said he is willing to talk but only if “the law...

  • Catalan companies at last year's Mobile World Congress (by ACN)

    24.02.15 - 21:36

    Two Catalan apps finalists at the Mobile Premier Awards recognising the world's best apps

    Cookbooth and dondeEsta Family are two of the sixteen apps which are finalists at the Mobile Premier Awards, which will be awarded at Barcelona's Sala Apolo on the 2nd of March, coinciding with the first day of the Mobile World Congress (MWC). The MWC is the world's largest event of the mobile and phone-related industry, which takes place each year in the Catalan capital at the end of February or in early March. The Best App...

  • Albert Serra (with sun glasses) at the movie set with some of his latest movie's actors (by ACN)

    24.02.15 - 21:17

    Catalan director Albert Serra to finish filming his latest film ‘Singularity’ in Lleida

    After having filmed in Ireland, Albert Serra has chosen Lleida to finish ‘Singularity’, his latest project. The Catalan filmmaker won the Golden Leopard – the top prize at the Locarno International Film Festival – in 2013 for ‘Story of my death’. His new film will be presented in a multi-screen format at the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia. The Ramon...

  • A factory near Girona (by ACN)

    24.02.15 - 17:42

    An independent Catalonia would be the world’s 38th most competitive country

    According to a recent study published by the Swiss research centre, IMD World Competitiveness Centre, Catalonia would be the 38th most competitive state in the world if it were independent. The list, headed by the United States, shows that an independent Catalonia would be 2 places above Spain, which currently occupies 40th position (including Catalonia). The report highlights the strengths of Catalonia such as...

  • Jordi Pujol Ferrusola at the Catalan Parliament's comission investigating fraud and corruption (by N. Julià)

    24.02.15 - 12:03

    Son of former Catalan President, Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, speaks about some of his businesses but not the Andorran money

    Jordi Pujol Ferrusola, the eldest son of former Catalan President Jordi Pujol, has testified before the Catalan Parliament’s commission investigating fraud and corruption. He did so after the testimonies of his father and mother, while all 3 have been indicted and are in the middle of judicial processes for alleged fraud. Unlike his parents, Pujol Jr answered most of the questions posed - except those related to money the family had...

  • Gerard Piqué at Manchester City's press room (by FC Barcelona)

    23.02.15 - 22:30

    Piqué sees Manchester City as top five in the world side

    In the press conference ahead of the first leg of the Champions League last 16 tie, Gerard Piqué has declared that he expects a “similar game” to the one last season. He also added that despite the defeat against Málaga in the Spanish League at the weekend, the Catalan team are in good form as well as highlighting Manchester City’s strengths. Piqué on the Champions League tie: “I think it will be...

  • Marta Ferrussola and Jordi Pujol after their parliamentary hearing (by B. Fuentes)

    23.02.15 - 22:21

    Former Catalan President Jordi Pujol insists on previous statements on fiscal fraud in parliamentary hearing

    Before the Catalan Parliament's commission investigating fraud and corruption, former President of the Catalan Government Jordi Pujol has testified in order to address his family's alleged fiscal fraud. Pujol was asked to talk before the parliamentary committee despite having been indicted by the judge and having already testified in front of her in January. Pujol, who ran the Executive between 1980 and 2003, did not add any new information...

  • Fernando Alonso had to be airlifted from the circuit (by Wayne O'Connor)

    23.02.15 - 18:23

    Fernando Alonso airlifted to hospital in F1 testing accident in Catalonia

    Former two time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso had to be kept in hospital last Sunday night after he was involved in a serious accident at the Circuit de Catalunya, in Greater Barcelona. The Spaniard suffered head injuries and concussion and had to be airlifted from the circuit to hospital via helicopter. Alonso was given the all clear after undergoing a series of scans and tests but was kept in hospital overnight for...

  • Dancing dragon waiting for the parade to start (by Marina Force Castells)

    23.02.15 - 17:27

    Colourful Chinese New Year parade in Barcelona joined by Catalan cultural groups

    The Chinese community welcomed the 'Year of the Goat' last week. The biggest New Year festivity took place this Saturday, when a parade of a thousand people filled the Barcelona streets with a trail of red dancing dragons and lions. This is the second year that Chinese organisations and Catalan folklore groups, such as Catalonia's traditional human tower builders (‘castellers’) and the traditional giant figures representing...

  • Neymar, at the end of the game against Málaga (by FC Barcelona)

    22.02.15 - 10:16

    FC Barcelona vs Málaga FC: Early lapse spells doom (0–1)

    All it took was one small mistake. A seemingly innocent back-pass from Dani Alves to Claudio Bravo in minute seven ran out of steam and was intercepted by a charging Juanmi, who beat Bravo to the ball and waltzed in all alone for the game’s only goal, stopping Barça’s 11-game winning streak dead in its tracks. The loss means that Barça, playing in front of a raucous home crowd, have missed an opportunity to become...

  • Oriol Junqueras (centre) and Artur Mas (right), on Wednesay at the Catalan Parliament (by B. Fuentes)

    18.02.15 - 22:26

    Left-wing independence party ERC asks to sit in Catalan Government to further develop state structures

    A day after the President of the Catalan Government and leader of the centre-right pro-Catalan State coalition CiU, Artur Mas, announced his plan to further develop the so-called state structures before the 27 September elections, the leader of the left-wing Catalan independence party ERC, Oriol Junqueras, has once again requested to be part of the Executive and sit in Cabinet. Junqueras justified his request in order “to guarantee...

  • The opening of last year's Animac (by ACN)

    18.02.15 - 22:01

    Lleida’s 19th Animac festival to pay tribute to handmade animation techniques

    The 19thedition of the International Animation Film Festival of Catalonia, Animac, is to be held in Lleida, western Catalonia, from the 19thto the 22nd of February. Over 170 films are to be showcased at this year’s event. With the growth of handmade products, this year’s programme focuses on the theme 'The hand of the artist' to recognise the role of artists in the digital animation process.The...

  • A Catalan company producing hams (by ACN)

    18.02.15 - 21:42

    Catalonia’s exports grew by 3.1% in 2014, above the Spanish and European averages

    Exports from Catalonia increased by 3.1% in 2014, reaching €60.2 billion, meaning that more than 30% of the Catalan GDP is sold outside of Spain. Furthermore, Catalan exports grew more than those of Spain as a whole, which increased by 2.5% last year, reaching €240 billion. This means that 25.1% of all Spain’s exports come from Catalonia’s economy, some way ahead of the Madrid region, which produces 11.7% of...

  • Tuesday's Carnival parade in Sitges (by G. Sánchez)

    18.02.15 - 21:36

    Sitges Carnival comes to a close after playing host to 300,000 visitors during its last parade

    Last night, the coastal town of Sitges located about 35 kilometres south of Barcelona, brought to a close its famous carnival. This event, known for its extravagance and huge number of visitors, is especially popular among the gay community. For a full week, the whole city is dedicated to the celebration of Carnival, dressing up and organising activities for both children and adults. Sunday and Tuesday’s parades filled Sitges’...

  • "Do not hide the Catalan [language]" can be read in eastern Aragon (by ACN)

    16.02.15 - 20:59

    Manifesto in defence of Catalan language in Aragon after regional government eliminates last legal trace

    The regional Government of Aragon, run by the People's Party (PP), has removed the last legal trace of the Catalan and Aragonese languages in the region. This action has provoked a civil and political movement in defence of both languages spoken by thousands of citizens in the Aragonese Pyrenees and in “la Franja” (the Strip), a narrow piece of land in the eastern part of the region, bordering Catalonia. Since 1999, the...

  • The meeting of CiU's National Executive Commission (by ACN)

    16.02.15 - 20:53

    Centre-right pro-Catalan State Coalition CiU heals wounds after last week's dispute

    On Monday, the National Executive Commission of the centre-right pro-Catalan State Coalition CiU, which is its leading committee, has explicitly referred to last week's crisis. Last Tuesday, the CiU MPs in the Spanish Parliament voted differently, showing a split within the coalition, coinciding with the two integrated parties: the Liberal and pro-independence force CDC (the largest one) on one side and the Christian-Democrat and...