Historically, Barcelona has looked inside itself and relegated the Besòs River to a role as its backyard, the periphery that would welcome ring roads, working-class neighbourhoods and immigration. Nevertheless, near the river, diverse cities have popped up with their own personality, moulded, in large part, by the intangible border that the Catalan capital created over the past century.
Therefore, Leve Projects put a twist the proposal from the Besòs Consortium and Barcelona Regional Council to hold a metropolitan festival, breaking from the logic of large producers to look at the reality of their cities. Through field work that sought to identify important social players in day-to-day life, they detected the sociological idiosyncrasies that combine traditional Catalan culture with all kinds of things from other countries and cultures, such as cricket and brotherhoods. All this plus an urban culture typical of dense cities, featuring activities like hip-hop or parkour.
The project could have turned towards a cultural programme spread out over the year, a documentary, an exhibition or, as was chosen in the end, a festive gathering. The challenge was to make an area over seven kilometres long feel destined for a party that strives to reclaim it. Therefore, based on the field work, we took advantage of the river channel and its surroundings for activities normally associated with a festival, like the food area and other activities that are part of the Besòs culture, such as a ring –there are many wrestling gyms in the cities of the area– or an urban crossfit course.
But a great festival consists not only of gathering and celebrating what we have in common. The revellers also have to get there. So, based on the location of the places where the main activities were being held, ten paths were designed to act as tributaries, connecting these spaces to the area chosen for the celebration, in the centre of the Besòs district. This can also be moved, however, for any similar celebrations that may be held in the future.
This turns the celebration into a pilot programme, or dress rehearsal, to see how the pedestrian route works, running through “hazards”, such as bridges, narrow roads, etc. Ensuring that, for one day, all the roads that connect the Besòs River, in a broad sense, to the festival entrance are routes that can be taken on foot puts the city to the test, radically changing its streets for a few hours.
As the Besòs River is what ties the whole thing together, it must be the centre of the celebration and become a space that is venerated. It should also be the centre of the closing of the party, and therefore be lit up and have giant screens playing a visual show, at nightfall, that is a reminder of the collective memory of the territory, making the festival not only a celebration but also recognition of the changes it has undergone over the past hundred years.