Marta Almirall Elizalde

Director, La Mercè
interviewed 6 September 2016 in Barcelona —

Not many festivals can trace their origins back as far as 1871, but La Mercè is an event with a long history. Terming itself a 'festival of festivals', it celebrates the cultural and folkloric traditions of the city and of Catalan culture while also producing a vast international programme of contemporary performing arts and music. Over the course of one week, events take place across the city and mostly outdoors (and anything outdoors is always free). The signature of the festival has always been its collaboration with local organisations and the citizenry of Barcelona: every year more than 200 associations are involved in the organising of the festival, tapping into deeply interwoven community networks. In recent years the festival has also developed an interest in supporting performances that are particularly creative in their use of technology (which they've subsequently found appeals to audiences in the 20-30 age bracket). The festival estimates that each year it reaches an audience of around 2 million people.

Key Ideas
The teenage audience

Marta names the 14-18 age bracket as being one of the most difficult to programme for, so she thinks in terms of companies rather than performances. Watching the audiences at each edition of La Mercè, she sees which groups attract a teenage following and makes sure to bring them back in the future. Canadian company Cirque Alfonse and the Australian group Circa are two that always go down well.

Venues + Festivals
Building Audiences
Programming a festival in a big city
Venues + Festivals
Building Audiences