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In the centre of the town. AMS
Ortigueira: The summer epicentre of Celtic culture... in the north of Spain
Traditions

Ortigueira: The summer epicentre of Celtic culture... in the north of Spain

Along with Galician and Asturian musicians, Celtic music performers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany will take part in the international festival from 11 to 14 July

Alekk M. Saanders

Galicia

Tuesday, 9 July 2024, 12:42

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The International Celtic Festival of Ortigueira (Galician: Festival Internacional do Mundo Celta de Ortigueira) is dedicated to the folk music of Celtic countries. This, one of the most popular and well-known folk music events, in Spain takes place in the open air in Ortigueira, a small town located near a marvellous estuary and marshes on the northern coast of A Coruña province.

A proud Celtic region

The story of the Celtic festival began 46 years ago. When the spirit of freedom came to Spain after Franco's death, local politicians began to develop the principles of Galician self-rule. In 1978, the Ortigueira School of Bagpipers succeeded in establishing a festival reflecting the Galician identity.

In 2003, the festival received the National Tourist Interest Award, and two years later it was included in a select group of events of international tourist interest. In addition, the festival's recognition is confirmed by the nearly 80,000 spectators who have attended in recent years.

Ortigueira harbour in the estuary; the main square of the town; a poster. A.M.S.
Imagen principal - Ortigueira harbour in the estuary; the main square of the town; a poster.
Imagen secundaria 1 - Ortigueira harbour in the estuary; the main square of the town; a poster.
Imagen secundaria 2 - Ortigueira harbour in the estuary; the main square of the town; a poster.

Every summer, on the second weekend of July, Ortigueira becomes the centre of the Celtic world for four days. As well as Celtic music, other styles of folk and traditional music can be heard on various stages in Ortigueira. Importantly, this festival attracts both experienced acts and emerging artists from all Celtic countries.

"Importantly, this festival attracts both experienced acts and emerging artists from all Celtic countries"

D. Perez Dopico

Everything here is dedicated not only to music, but also to Celtic culture. The festival is successfully complemented by parallel events, including photo exhibitions, craft markets, and dance masterclasses. During the festival, everyone can learn Irish, Scottish and Galician dances, as well as craft something traditional. "Marching bands and street music are integral parts of the festival," Diego Pérez Dopico, councillor for culture at the Ortigueira town hall, told SUR in English.

Diego Pérez Dopico with last year's poster. SUR

Galician music is characterised by the use of bagpipes, as is the case with other Celtic peoples. This points to Galicia's distinctive Celtic heritage, which stretches back to 600 BC. Proof of this can be seen in the pre-Roman fortified settlements. The so-called "castros" were built by the Celts and are partially preserved in the hills today. Life-size stone figures guarded the settlements. According to one legend, the modern city of Lugo in Galicia is named after Luga, a figure from Irish mythology.

"We are proud of our Celtic identity and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to emphasise our Celtic roots. Over the centuries, Galicians have managed to maintain this identity even after the Roman conquest, preserving pagan customs and links with the Celts in the British Isles. Although modern Galician is a Romance language related to Portuguese, it contains dozens of Celtic words, mostly related to fire, which played an important role in rituals and customs, as well as words describing the night and the stars. The symbol of the festival is a red dragon, similar to the Welsh dragon. However, our legend says that Ortigueira managed to escape the pursuit of a monster spawned by the waters after he asked Heaven for help," explained Diego Pérez Dopico.

Free experience

Talking to the locals, you start to believe that there is still a dragon living in the mouth of Ortigueira, which comes out of the sea every summer to play, sing and dance during the festival. Indeed, Celtic music soloists and internationally renowned bands come to Ortigueira to perform and make people sing and dance along with them.

On the stage. SUR

From 11 to 14 July, along with Galician and Asturian musicians, Celtic music performers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany will take part in the festival. (Incidentally, last year Andalucía was represented as well. The folk band Rubén Díaz Trío from Seville played the traditional music with Celtic influence.)

Ireland's entries: 11 July - Buioch, Cuig. 12 July - Backwest, and deep into the night the Green Lads take to the stage, playing classical and electronic instruments. On 13 July one of the most creative and influential bands, Dervish, will perform traditional Irish songs, carefully revived over more than three decades.

As usual, the festival will feature several artists from the United Kingdom. Nogood Boyo from Wales and Capercaillie, Kinnaris Quintet, Peoples Ford Boghall & Bathgate Caledonia Pipe Band from Scotland. The so-called Scottish Fish band will come from the USA. The Galician festival also includes artists from Brittany, France.

The uniqueness of the festival lies in its main principle - everyone is free. Free buses, free secure parking and free entry to the concerts are available to everyone. Ortigueira, as a small town of around 6,000 people, is clearly unable to accommodate thousands of guests. For those who have not pre-booked one of the hostels in the town or a rural house in the surrounding area, the town offers free camping. The campsites are located in a pine forest on Morouzos beach.

One of possibilities to stay near Ortigueira. AMS

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