When it comes down to cultural-based neighbourhood revitalization a fascinating, strange limbo appears time to time among the Valencian Municipality and the public, that has brought radical changes in local urban vision and appraisal.
The most known story relates to the river Túria; about 60 years ago due to a deadly flood, the city council made plans to divert the remarkable sized river; create a new river-bed, and turn the old one into a multi-lane highway that ‘finally’ could have given direct connection to the seaport. Protestors claimed the river bed to theirs and they wanted it green! After lengthy arguments, the municipality gave in, and invested major chunks of money into the creation of a green community park. By adding the City of Arts and Sciences, an entertainment-based cultural and architectural complex designed by Santiago Calatrava and Félix Candela, the sleepy, anti-tourist Spanish town peremptorily got its place on the World’s cultural map.
Some would think lessons were well learnt and history doesn’t repeat itself, but Valencian Municipality almost took on the role of a repeated offender, with clear intentions of cementing a highway through the city to the coast. This time Cabanyal neighbourhood would have fallen as a pray, if there is no community collaboration. The fisherman’s quarter of the Valencia, throughout the years belonged to the working class, and grew its reputation as a deviant, dangerous neighbourhood, so much, that Valencians rather left for other town’s beaches. The neighbourhood’s charm on the other hand is given by the narrow streets, the so-called fisherman’s cabins and elegant two- or three-storey townhouses, covered by brightly coloured tiles, and religious mosaics. The locals had such a strong identity, that residents would say "going to Valencia", if they left for downtown. So, we are speaking of a very particular area, cheap, with amazing coastal location and with a lot going that naturally attracted intellectuals and artist as well. So when bulldozers arrived to make a whole throughout, civils, artists and locals stood up together and took serious efforts to save the area.
Firstly, they aimed to show Cabanyal’s beauty, historic values, and diverse community and make it safer for all. Cabanyal Intim was launched, by which La Collectiva team turned the quarter’s bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and terraces to temporary showrooms, and galleries of contemporary exhibitions or performances. Besides official steps got done to save the area, this initiation raised the public’s attention as it brought unconventional performances to exceptional, and threatened spaces. In 2018, the 8th edition was celebrated, and sold-out. This story-telling based festival reflects on a number of social issues and adversities affecting the quarter, gives opportunities for professionals, and amateur artists to perform, and creates synergies between public institutions, private companies, cultural and social associations. By 2015 the municipality officially gave up on demolishing the area and again turned to be one of the contributors of the initiation. In addition to saving the quarter, one major inherent is that La Collectiva made culture popular, engaging and affordable for the locals of all ages.
These two organic, bottom-up cultural-based revitalization are milestones in Valencia’s livability, curious though how the city and the public will adapt to the new kind of beasts that seems to made its way through , the mass-tourism in the historic downtown and connecting green river area and the gentrification and the housing situation, that has begun to unfold in Cabanyal.
More on 8th edition of Cabanyal Intim Festival: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlN4SyAyIEU