‘I know’, I said, ‘Let’s have an Open Weekend’, and so the madness began.
After completing a major, and I mean MAJOR, restoration project of Cortijo Las Salinas, it seemed only fitting to open our doors to everyone and anyone who wanted to come along and see what we had actually been doing for the past 4 years. The seed for ‘Puertas Abiertas’ had been sown and we could never have imagined how the idea would develop and grow. What had we done !
When I first saw Cortijo Las Salinas, I knew it was a magical place, my spiritual home and the place I want to be for a very long time and now after a lot of stress and hard work Steven and I decided it was time to put ourselves on the map and let the world in. The cortijo itself is full of history and stories’ being a very famous property in the local area and it has connected us with the locals who have accepted us fully and everyday we have a new and amazing experience.
On Saturday 11 September, the doors opened at 12 noon with a steady stream of people arriving by car, up the very bumpy track which leads to the cortijo. We had turned my studio into a gallery, as people arrived I was able to meet and greet them and introduce them to the other artists exhibiting with me: Fina Larom, a Spanish lady who has family connections to Las Salinas, an artist and a poet; Manolo Caba, a Forja, a sculptor who works in black metal; Bianca Gheoghe, my daughter in law, who was showing her work for the first time; Gaby Mariani, an amazing sculptor in bronze and wood; and the hand made jewellery of Ximena Walker.
People passed through my studio and the cocinon, through the patio, up past the swimming pool to the Caseta where Steven was in full control of the food and bar. As more people arrived and passed through, they naturally ended up in the bar area and so it continued, with very few people going home – we had advertised that food and drink, would be served along with live music, and this was what they wanted. In all over 300 people made their way up to the bar and expected food ! We had our neighbour, Domingo, cooking a paella for 150 people and Steven was cooking a Moroccan tagine for 100 or so. It was bedlam, and when food was announced to be served chaos erupted and it was every man for himself. A period of calm ensued as everyone sat down at the borrowed tables and chairs from our local bar owner, until Gotas Kaen picked up their guitars and began to play some heavy rock – I was expecting a nice gentle strum of the acoustic guitar, they were deafening.
I was called away from the craziness of the food and drink area, to the patio, where the setting up of the stage for Fina to recite her poetry and then Tom Hare and Countrymass to play their jazz was happening. As the light started to fade, and the people had eaten their food, they made their way to the patio, I made some announcements and the entertainment began. The emotion of the poetry brought the Spanish to tears and the excitement of the jazz brought everyone to their feet.
At last the evening was over – we saw the lights of the last cars to leave drive down the track and collapsed into bed, realising we had to do the same thing again the next day. An open weekend meant Saturday and Sunday, the Saturday was a great success, but could we do it all again on the Sunday?
Day 2 of the Open Weekend brought more surprises, along with hot sunshine, lots of people and a TV crew from Alcala la Real.
The day began at midday once again and a gentle stream of locals, friends and the curious started to arrive, the format being the same as the day before, starting at the gallery and ending at the bar, with more people using the pool – it was more of a family day.
Professional dancer, Janet Hare, arrived with her very large sound system and was all ready to take a jazz dance class, but it was hot, so very hot and there was hardly any shade at 3pm in the afternoon. The only shaded place was the Caseta where the bar was and food was being prepared. However the show must go on and there was no choice but to clear everything out of the Caseta and make space for the next event to take place. As the ladies practised their jazz dance, Domingo and the team cooked and prepared food around everyone with jamon passing through the dancers, potatoes being cooked to one side, drinks being served over the bar and general chaos commenced once again. I also had a raffle to draw, when the class had finished and whilst I had a captive audience, took the opportunity to call the winning names – the prizes, a piece of art all generously donated by the participating artists along with a weekend at our cortijo for 6 people.
Young Miguel put his hand into the ticket filled bucket as the crowd waited silently and patiently. The sculptor, Manolo Caba took the ticket from Miguel’s small hand and slowly unfolded it – he then handed it to me. I looked at the ticket and tried to read the small Spanish writing, whoever had bought this particular ticket had one first prize – a weekend at Cortijo Las Salinas for 6 people in the oldest and allegedly haunted, part of the cortijo – Villa Romana.
The ticket said ‘Jose from Cordoba’. My friend and fellow artist, Fina, jumped into the air shouting ‘José es mi primo’, or ‘José is my cousin’. Everyone clapped and cheered and Fina said she would tell him personally as José and his family had since gone home. The interesting twist to this is that José’s family have had previous connections with our cortijo, his parents had lived and worked here along with many other locals and family members.
It is quite extraordinary how fate brings one to a place or destiny is decided. I had only met Fina and her family just over a year ago and they have become quite central to many things that happen here at Cortijo Las Salinas, as well as having access to the most incredible history attached to our house.
Around 7pm it all started to calm down and we managed to sit down ourselves for half an hour and pat ourselves on the back for what we considered to be a very successful event. Sipping a glass of cava and looking out over the pool, down onto our track, a steady stream of cars coming our way came into focus. Just when we thought it was all over, another round of Spanish locals started to appear once again. Help ! I just wanted to sit down and put my feet up.
As it takes exactly 6 minutes to arrive at the cortijo from the beginning of the track, I savoured the precious minutes staying put until the final second when I was pulled out of my chair. I put on my biggest smile and it all began again, not finishing until around 11pm when the last visitors left and those remaining, the artists and the helpers, all collapsed into chairs in the Caseta and got drunk.
Cortijo Las Salinas first public event was a great success, and everyone has been asking if we can make it an annual event. We will definitely do it again next year, however maybe not for 2 days next time but just for one.