Sunday, March 10, 2013

Body Talk: Valent and the Pollensa Festival

Every picture tells a story. Every photo is loaded with body language. It's handy that it is. Without knowing precisely the verbal language, one relies on the visual language to tell the story.

The chaos surrounding this year's Pollensa Festival appears to be over. For appearance's sake, two of the main protagonists in this chaos were photographed side by side: Joan Valent, the mightily disgruntled director of last year's festival, next to Tomeu Cifre, Pollensa's mayor. Valent seems willing to accept an offer to be director for a further three years, a new report by the town hall seemingly having put an end to all the insinuations of "anomalies" that arose last year under Valent's directorship and which caused Valent, with good reason, to take considerable umbrage at suggestions, albeit they were only implied, that he had acted with less than total propriety.

Since the previous report was issued which raised these anomalies, the festival's organisation has been all but suspended. It appeared to be unlikely that Valent would return to the fold, so angry was he, and the town hall was saying that there would be a public tender for this year's festival management. For two months though, nothing had happened, until Friday.

Various opposition parties, including the two councillors who are no longer associated with any party, issued a joint statement criticising the inaction. It was perhaps curious to find that Malena Estrany, one of these two councillors, had put her name to this statement. It was, after all, she, as the town's councillor for culture, who had publicised the report which had alleged the anomalies.

Mayor Cifre, who has now taken on responsibility for so much in Pollensa that he is virtually running the town on his own (he has had to because he has been running out of councillors who support him), can't, as a consequence, be expected to do everything swiftly. One of the additional responsibilities that he has assumed is that for culture. Delay there may have been in sorting out the mess over the festival, but on the same day as the joint statement was issued, there was also a meeting at which the mess appeared to be sorted out.

But was everyone at the meeting really happy? Take a look at the photo of the meeting, and the body language speaks volumes. Mayor Cifre appears happy enough, but is this a genuinely happy smile or is it a pasted smile? No one else is smiling to the same extent that the mayor is. The mayor is also holding his wrist with one hand. Too much can of course be read into these things, but this can denote a sign of frustration. The mayor's smile looks as though he is trying too hard.

It is Valent and the member of his production team who really give the game away though. Valent is expressionless, his hand to his chin and mouth. Thoughtfulness combined with suppression. He is in the photo under sufferance, one fancies; there to be seen next to the mayor with the fixed smile. And what of the member of his production team? Arms folded, he doesn't look full of the joys of spring, and Friday was a lovely spring day.

The other three in the photo are Joan Mateu, who has no responsibility at the town hall, Martí Roca, who is now the mayor's right-hand man, and David Alonso, who looks after human resources and IT. Why are at least two of them there at all? Four against two. Mob-handed or safety in numbers or a display of contrition? Hard to say. But note also that Valent and his compatriot have no documents in front of them. They were not there to discuss the festival. They were probably not there to discuss anything, unless it was an apology.

The town hall needed Valent back on board. Its organisation was in a total mess without him. He had already gone some way down the line in contacting participants for events that are due to start in four months time. There could be no more delay.

The town hall has made a pig's ear of the Valent affair. A political climate that has suddenly made transparency, or the attempt at transparency, flavour of the month found Valent caught in the headlights. Wrongly caught. He was one of the last people who the town hall could afford to upset, but upset him is exactly what happened.

For the sake of the festival, one hopes that all is forgiven, but the photo suggests that it might not be. Valent will almost certainly resume his position, but the relationship may not be entirely harmonious.

* The photo can be seen with this article:

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