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10.12.2014

Cambridge: Jocs Florals Revival, 2014

Were it not for Catalonia's will to achieve full home rule, I wouldn't be here. Before you nod sagely - the Jocs Florals Revival has been organised by the England delegation of the Catalan National Assembly (ANC), the hugely successful grassroots movement whose tens of thousands of members agree that history shows (some have just reached this conclusion!) that independence is the only way for the Catalan people to have any hope at all of surviving as a people - let me put you aright. I wouldn't be here ... on this planet. 

But for Catalonia's will, intolerant Spain would not have risen in arms against Catalonia's limited level of self-government recovered in the 1930s, and tens of thousands of Catalan would not have had to flee over the border when the Catalan front collapsed early in 1939. Among them, my mother and her family. But for that war, she would not have come to England, for her father, doctor Josep Trueta, had become the world's top specialist in the treatment of war wounds, including thoudands of casualties of aerial bombing of cities, was almost dragged to London to lecture on this issue. This was because there was a growing conviction that Chamberlain's "Peace in Our Time" Munich agreement with Franco's powerful ally, Adolf Hitler, was a farce and that a war in Europe was imminent. And I wouldn't be here had my father, an undergraduate at "the other place", would not have broken off his degree course to enrol on September 3rd 1939 and to serve this country for six years, in the Royal Artillery, the Colonial Service and the Royal Air Force. Thus it was that my parents met at university after the war. My brother Tony and I owe our existence, therefore, to two abominable dictators. 

And of course, without Catalonia's continuing and growing will and drive to achieve our freedom, there would be no Assemblea Nacional Catalana, no Assemblea delegation in England... and no Revival event!

I started by talking about 'Catalonia's will' as if it were monolithic. But Catalonia is a multiethnic society and thus far from monolithic. The population more than doubled during the 20th century because of the arrival of over a million Spaniards, to work in Catalonia's thriving industrial economy. Their children and grandchildren are in most cases indistinguishable from 'native' Catalans in their values, knowledge of languages, habits... So the non-binding referendum planned for November 9 will allow us to measure the overall level of political integration as well. Indeed, most of the million people who moved into Catalonia since about 1995 from the third world will also be able to vote, so long as they register beforehand. 

Being able to see the world from two perspectives, I was relieved to reach the conclusion that the Catalan way of life and the English one are perfectly compatible (despite what Professor Josep Maria Solé i Sabaté has just told us!). Both are nations of shopkeeepers, as Napoleon apparently said ("une nation de boutiquiers"). Both are caring societies (though the way elections sometimes go  makes me wonder how true that is), that value personal initiative and effort. In feudal Cataloinia, laws allowed longstanding farming serfs to become freehold owners of the land they cultivated, and made it worthwhile for them to invest to improve their holdings as tenants. So did the fact that they had to pay fixed quantities of produce to their landlord, which meant the increase in productivity resulting from that investment was theirs to keep. (Castilian law did not envisage change in ownership, and tenants handed in a fixed proportion of their produce). Ironically, the only part of what is now Spain to have weathered well the economic crisis have been the two regions (Navarre and the Basque country) whose funding is agreed with Spain on the Catalan feudal model!

For me, personally, it is moving to have been invited here today, in this revival of the 1956 Jocs Florals, the Catalan poetry competition, held by exiles in the dark days of the Franco regime. Unbeknownst to the organisers, when they invited me, my mother, Amelia Trueta, was the Queen of the Jocs Florals, and dressed as a bride, with bridesmaids. Josepa has just reminded us! They have done a great job with the gallery of photographs of my family, and particularly of my grandfather, professor Josep Trueta. And I'm sure that this tribute is also partly due to his role in founding the organisation that made the 1956 event possible, the still-active Anglo-Catalan Society

For me it is doubly moving to be back in Ox...bridge. It seems like yesterday (well, the day before yesterday!) that I was an undergraduate, cycling from my College to the Departament just like people around me today, eying the groups of young ladies, enjoying the still-warm autumn sun. But in fact it was a long time ago (I was only seven when I accompanied my family to the Cambridge Jocs Florals!). So please, those of you who are young, please take my word for it, and enjoy life to the full, every single day! And nan excellent to do this will be to attend all the sessions of this cultural event: poetry readings, music, round table, even (excellent!) food!


So, back to this Revival, which is not a competiton this time, but a true festival. 
Thanks to the Cambridge Union for having let us use their magnificent premises.
Thanks to all the team that has organised the event, on behalf of those who, like me, have been invited here, and I'm sure, on behalf of all of you here now. 

And on behalf of the organising team, a special note of thanks, in Catalan: 
Volem agrair molt particularment el nostre companya -que ara s'ha convertit en amic!- la gran feinada que ha fet perquè aquests Jocs Florals fossin possibles. Sense la seva dedicació -amb tota l'energia i il·lusió-, des que el projecte ve començar a gestar fa un any, no hauríem aconseguit el cartell que tenim. 

Ell és l'artífex que, en un marc on els catalans i els anglesos sempre hem tingut uns llaços molt estrets com són, en definitiva, la nostra llengua i les nostres arrels, els Jocs Florals que emulen els passats Jocs de 1956, tornin a ser una realitat. Gràcies, Marc Morera!


*  Vegeu article de Matthew Tree: www.elpuntavui.cat/noticia/article/7-vista/8-articles/784329-originals.html

Selection of papers, mostly by M. Strubell, on Catalan independence process):   http://cv.uoc.edu/~grc0_003638_web/150205_Selection.pdf 

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