Fantastic flamenco: Edinburgh’s Hispanic Festival

Maria Conte. Pic: Jon Savage
Maria Conte. Pic: Jon Savage
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WE may not share the weather, but according to the organiser of Edinburgh’s Hispanic ­Festival, the Capital has a lot of similarities with Spain.

And the connections ­between the two cultures will be celebrated in style – and with a lot of flamenco – at this year’s event.

Now in its tenth year, the Hispanic Festival has a lot to celebrate, and organisers are keen to get local people revved up and ready to party.

One of the highlights will be the Edinburgh Flamenco Flashmob, which will see a spectacular choreographed performance in the ­gallery of the National Museum of Scotland.

“Everything is special this year,” says festival ­director Maria Conte. “It’s our tenth year so we want to celebrate that.

“The Edinburgh Flamenco Flashmob will be fantastic. The museum has very kindly agreed to let us do it there and the space is very dramatic.

“Last year we did it on The Mound and it was really well received so this year we wanted to get the community involved a lot more. We have

been working in partnership with Capability Scotland in a project supported by the Big Lottery Communities 2014. We are working with people who are disabled and their carers and they have been doing a lot of workshops to prepare for it. They’ve had lots of fun and it’s been great for us as we’ve never worked with disabled groups before.”

The flamenco flashmob, which is free and open to all, takes place on October 10 at 1pm.

This year, for the first time, the festival will be venturing into Wester Hailes, where it will host a workshop and ­performance by Venezuelan artist Saras Feijoo.

The Searching for the Wishing Line project, funded through Homecoming Scotland, will be based within Whale Arts, and is an installation piece for children and families. For free tickets call 0131-458 3267 or e-mail ­

Maria says she is excited to be taking the festival to other communities in the Capital.

“We want to reach out to different areas of Edinburgh. It’s a privilege to be able to take this into Wester Hailes, it means we have more friends everywhere. There’s lots of young local artists taking part in the festival too, we have opened it up to everyone. It’s for people who enjoy Hispanic culture. A lot of people who have studied in America or Spain tend to enjoy it, and take the opportunity to speak Spanish to each other. We just want to show people in Scotland that this is our culture and we want to share it.”

Other highlights of the Hispanic Festival include art ­exhibitions at Gayfield Creative Spaces by award-winning visual artists Julio Campos and Antonio Castro, which both open on October 14.

Castro’s collection, Spanish in Edinburgh, is a unique project showing the experiences of the many Spaniards who moved to the Capital as a result of the difficult financial situation they were facing back home.

“A lot of Spanish people come here because of the economy in Spain,” explains Maria. “But another reason is also because Scotland is a fantastic country and Edinburgh is a beautiful city and people are so welcoming and friendly.

“Obviously we don’t have the same weather, but there are so many things the same. We feel very culturally similar and we have a lot of things that we share. Scotland and Spain are such beautiful places.”

She adds: “If you’re walking through Edinburgh you can speak Spanish quite a lot. The figures do vary, but there’s more than ever at the moment. According to the Spanish Consulate there’s 30,000 Spanish people in Scotland. In Edinburgh there’s 10,000 minimum.”

The Hispanic Festival has been such a hit in Edinburgh that this year it is also taking some events to Aberdeen.

“The first one was in 2004 and we have been moving on and on over the years,” says Maria. “We have struggled with funding cuts and sometimes we don’t have enough sponsorship or supporters, but we just have to move on and work so we make sure it can go ahead. It’s very challenging but the festival is run by family and friends so we have a lot of support.”

Chris Purnell, director of Edinburgh Mela, adds: “Edinburgh has a significant Hispanic community. It’s important diverse communities express their ambition and see their work on an equal footing with other backgrounds.”