Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Honest Serving Men Of The Pollensa Festival

History cannot be defined purely by two points in time. Obsessing as to dates is an obsession with temporal factuality. An end date may denote a closing, as in someone dying, but it is never a true closing. The same is the case with a start date. One can apply only some of Kipling's six honest serving men to historical start and end points. Who, where, when and what can each apply. How and why, however, cannot be applied; they demand explanation.

Mallorca's history has been packaged into easily-digested nuggets that are in a constant state of regurgitation. These are small bags of mini-snackettes residing on an internet convenience-store shelf. They are history-lite for the searcher and surfer after factual-truth start, end or happened points in time that are of little more consequence than answers in a pub quiz. The honest serving men of who, where, when and what are not dishonest, but there is a dishonesty that stems from the all-too-often absence of the how and why honest serving men, the ones who reach beyond, behind and inside the polarities of the temporal factuality. 

We know, as examples, the happened points in time of the Romans coming and of King Jaume I coming. We therefore know the start and end points in time of Roman occupation and of Jaume's Mallorcan lineage. But what do we really know of the hows and whys? Or of the pre and post points in time?

The internet has given us these factoid nuggets. They are there for all to see on all sorts of sites. They are convenient and they are comfortable; comfortable because the surfer after factual truth can take comfort in a little knowledge not going very far. He doesn't really want any more. Normally.

I'll give another example, one that can be easily found, as it is so readily repeated in the web's convenience store. The Pollensa Festival. We know the where - Pollensa; we know the what - the festival; we know the when - September 1962; we know the who - Philip Newman. We know that Newman founded the festival and that its start point was September 1962. But then what? There are two missing questions. How did he come to found it and, more obviously, who the hell was Philip Newman?

There is a street in Pollensa town which bears Newman's name. Below the name of the street the sign reads "hijo adoptivo". Newman was an adoptive son of the town, thanks to the festival. But his adoption was the result of only a relatively short period in time. The pre point to the start point of the Pollensa Festival goes back only some months. The end point (where Newman was concerned) was a mere four years after the start point. He died in November 1966.

Newman was adopted because he became revered in Pollensa, and this reverence is reflected in the scant explanations that wrap themselves around the Newman-Festival factoid nugget. Oft repeated, they amount to little more than a declaration that he was a famous, esteemed, leading (choose whichever adjective you prefer) British violinist.

Newman was a leading violinist. Indeed, he has been described as having been one of the greatest of his time. But famous? Famous to whom? To the British? The answer is no. He was little known in his native country. His fame was cultivated primarily in Belgium (he was close to the royal family), then in Portugal and ultimately in Mallorca.

History is most definitely not the sterility of dates and points-in-time facts. But there is a semantic straightjacket in English which can bring about such sterility; the two separate words of history and story. The Spanish don't make a distinction. Nor, for instance, do the Germans. Stories are history, they are parts of the hows and whys. But of Newman, we know little of these as they apply to the Pollensa Festival.

It is important, beyond merely knowing more about this great man's founding of the festival, that there is an appreciation of the stories that have combined to make Pollensa the arts and cultural centre it has become. Important because the festival itself has widened its scope to embrace different elements of the arts. It is an international festival, and the cosmopolitan roots of the town's arts culture draw not just on a Briton, Newman, but also on artists from Argentina (Diehl and Cittadini).

This is all important because a tradition is threatened. The staggering ineptitude that has been displayed by some actors in the Pollensa Festival story could mean the curtain coming down once and for all. Were it to, then perhaps one might say that a definitive end point had been reached. It would be a fact of the when variety. But unlike the absence of how and why knowledge of Newman's founding of the festival, we will know only too well the hows and whys of its demise. And the whos.

Any comments to please.

Index for June 2013

Advertising words - 13 June 2013
Alcúdia's industrial estate - 6 June 2013
Alcúdia's mini-train - 2 June 2013, 8 June 2013
Balearics' green taxes' climbdown - 5 June 2013
Bild and Playa de Palma - 25 June 2013
Carlos Delgado and Radio Calvia affair - 29 June 2013
Catalan and 2015 elections - 3 June 2013
Cinema and illegal downloading - 24 June 2013
Education ministers - 23 June 2013
Espionage in the Balearics - 14 June 2013
Essex and Mallorca - 17 June 2013
Eurovegas and smoking - 1 June 2013
Haircuts on holiday - 10 June 2013
Hotel receptions' design - 26 June 2013
Hotels and illegal accommodation - 18 June 2013
Mallorca's safety and reliability - 28 June 2013
Management disrespect - 20 June 2013
Moors and Christians nominations - 19 June 2013
Party boats - 4 June 2013
Petitions - 22 June 2013
Philip Newman and the Pollensa Festival - 30 June 2013
Spain and the European Nations Cup - 15 June 2013 - 27 June 2013
Summer music - 12 June 2013
Super-reduced rate of IVA - 7 June 2013
Tenancy Act reform and holiday lets - 11 June 2013
Tourism history article - 16 June 2013
Tourism logos - 21 June 2013
Town hall reform - 9 June 2013

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