From sunny Málaga in the south to the Basque shores of the resort town San Sebastián, visitors to Spain are spoilt for choice this summer. Enjoy the mid-August Feria de Málaga on the Costa del Sol, get drenched in Valèncian tomato juice at the end of August or indulge your love of films at the San Sebastián Film Festival during the last week of September.
The Feria de Malaga (Malaga Fair) 12-19 August 2017
The Feria de Málaga has its roots in 15th century Spain, when much of the country was under Muslim rule. It commemorates the re-conquest of Málaga in 1487, during the reign of Isabella, Queen of Castile and her husband, Ferdinand, King of Aragon. They elevated Spain from obscurity to become the greatest European power of the day, and sponsored Christopher Columbus in his voyage of discovery to find the New World in 1492.
Today, Málaga, on the Costa del Sol, is a holiday mecca, and a draw-card for local and foreign visitors alike. The Feria de Málaga is a highlight, offering a fiesta of 24-hour entertainment. The Day Fair in the lavishly-decorated city centre, with cordoned-off pedestrian precincts, is a lively affair, featuring folk music, dancing in the streets and the sampling of many different kinds of food in the bars and restaurants of the downtown area.
At night, the festivities move to the specially-built Cortijo de Torres, a fairground located fairly close to the airport. Large crowds of people of all ages entertain themselves on the many rides and join in an extravaganza of music, food and fun at the Night Fair.
La Tomatino (Tomato Festival) 30 August 2017
This festival shows how one celebration can, quite unwittingly, spawn another of a completely different character. It began in 1945 as a result of a brawl during the parade of the Giants and the Big-Heads through the streets of Bun᷈ol, in València. The adversaries began pelting one another with tomatoes from a market stall, and a new kind of festival was born.
For a number of years, revellers clashed with police, and the festival was frequently cancelled or banned, but eventually the tomato-throwing festival established itself as a recognised event on the last Wednesday of August in the calendar of Spanish festivals.
Each year, thousands of participants and spectators converge on Bun᷈ol for what must be one of the messiest festivals in the world. It has become so popular that early booking is essential for those who wish to participate in the melée.
San Sebastián Film Festival 22-30 September 2017
Founded in 1952, the San Sebastián Film Festival, held annually in the city of Donostia-San Sebastián, has steadily grown in stature. Today it is an important event that showcases the work of directors from Basque and Spanish-speaking countries, as well as international film makers, in a wide range of categories.
The city is in the Basque country of Northern Spain, and visitors to the festival have the opportunity to experience the celebrated Basque cuisine in a range of venues, from simple bars to Michelin-starred restaurants, in between screenings and workshops. Bite-sized snacks known as pintxos are a popular feature of local food. Meals are leisurely, and follow the Spanish habit of starting fairly late at night, and extending into the small hours.
The festival is accommodated in venues that are within walking distance of one another, enabling visitors to sample a great deal of what is on offer each day.
Categories include: feature films not yet screened at other film festivals; short films; documentaries; adventure and action-sports films; and the work of new directors making their debuts. The category Pearls is just that: a selection of the best films that have already been screened at other international film festivals. A category known as Films in Progress is screened to members of the profession only, the aim being to offer assistance and advice to novice film-makers.
The list of A-list celebrities who have attended the festival reads like a Who’s Who of film of the last 60-odd years, including stars like Bette Davies, Gregory Peck, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Gere, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, and directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and Quentin Tarantino.