THE threat of cuts to fiesta programmes is now a reality. Pollensa town hall is considering scrapping the street party of the night of 1 August that runs on into the early hours of 2 August, the day of the Moors and Christians battle that is the climax to the town's Patrona festivities.

Mayor Tomeu Cifre has said that something has to give. If not the street party, then other things would have to go, one possibility being the “marxa fresca” (the white party) that is normally held on the night before the street party.

Why are there two parties? Both are, after all, held in the streets and squares of Pollensa. The marxa fresca is more an open-air disco in the Plaça Major, whereas the street party of 1 August involves three squares holding rock and dance music concerts. The cost alone of staging this street party, according to the mayor, is 40'000 euros; 40'000 euros the town hall simply hasn't got.

The funding crisis for cultural events in Pollensa nearly claimed this year's music festival. While the previous town hall administration was tardy, to blame it entirely for the disorganisation is unfair. The new tourism ministry has ridden to the music festival's rescue in providing emergency funds, the ministry of the last government having blocked funding.

The town hall was short of nearly two hundred thousand euros for the music festival. Though the new tourism authorities have assured their support for the music festival, they have also made it perfectly clear that an examination of grants to events from the government is going to be undertaken - in an as objective fashion as possible. In other words, there can be no guarantee that the music festival, along with any other recipient of government cash, will be helped out so generously in future, if at all.

In the case of the music festival, why has the tourism ministry been helping to fund it? I raised the question before. What does it really do for tourism? Well, come on, what does it do? Anyone able to give a firm answer? I would very much doubt it. If any ministry should be putting its hands into its pockets, then it should be that for culture.

In terms of the economic resources directed towards fiestas or festivals and of the direct economic benefits from tourism, funding in the name of tourism is not justifiable. And when it might be more justifiable, the funding is less.

In Pollensa the mayor has also said that the budget for this year's fiestas, well down in any event on what is needed, will see 30'000 euros directed towards the fiestas in Puerto Pollensa, both the recent “feria del mar” and the upcoming Virgen del Carmen.

The town hall has 130'000 euros in all at its disposal. Patrona in the old town gets the lion's share of the budget (100'000 euros), yet, with the exception of the Moors and Christians battle, Patrona doesn't necessarily attract huge numbers of tourists. The events in the port, on the other hand, do, for the very good reason that this is where most of the tourists are to be found.

This underlines the fact that, for all the talk of fiestas as traditional events which appeal to tourists, tourists are not the primary target. They are events for the local population; as is the case with the music festival as well.

There is nothing at all wrong with this, but, and despite the music festival being a different category of event to fiestas, the tourism ministry is absolutely right to be taking a hard look at grants.

If by doing so, he sends out a message to town halls that they need to apply greater realism, then he will have done a great service.
To come back to the street party, there is a further reason for its possibly being scrapped, and that is the problems it causes. Increasingly, it has become an excuse for an almighty great piss-up - a botellón - and the ambience is less than pleasant. Calls have been made, for instance, for people to desist from using the streets as toilets.

In Sa Pobla they dropped their own street party last year. Similar reasons were cited to those in Pollensa where there has been disquiet expressed as to the fact that the fiestas have lost their sense of tradition among young people and simply become the launch pad for drunkenness and misbehaviour. So, Pollensa town hall has more than one agenda when it comes to abandoning the street party, but overriding this is the fact that the fiestas have needed to be scrutinised more intensely. It's a great shame that economic crisis has necessitated this, but it is long overdue.


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