It’s funny how you can get so accustomed to seeing something that it no longer seems unusual. All around Catalonia you may well see giants in the streets or freakish people with enormous heads. Every time a barrio has a fiesta these creatures come out and liven up the streets. Once a year you can see a large collection of them together in Badalona, just to the north of Barcelona. This year’s festival of the Giants and Big Heads takes place on 5 November.
The Spanish call them gigantes y cabezudos but nowadays you are more likely to hear the Catalan version: gegants i capgrossos. In either language it sounds better than the English translation though. In this part of Spain, many people use the nickname Capgrosso to describe somebody from the city of Mataró. A friend told me that once, during the run up to a fiesta, that they created a head so big that it wouldn’t fit through the door. Is it an urban myth? Who knows, but it’s not a bad story to tell!
Anyway, I visited Badalona when the town was holding a festival paying homage to these wondrous creations. It’s easy to get there on the train from anywhere in the Barcelona area. Have a wander round the streets before making your way to La Rambla to see various stalls where children can see how the heads are made and have a go at designing one themselves. Everyone has a lot of fun there.
You may even see a storyteller entertaining a large group of children sitting around a some gegants. Suddenly there is a lot of activity and everyone gets ready for the “Dance of the Big Heads”. It is interesting to see just how young some of the capgrossos are. They start to perform at about five years old and the heads and costumes get gradually bigger as the performers get older.
Adults do this too. The devils and the clowns are always particularly active around the kids. Most of the adult figures represent local historical figures and they dance with a poise and elegance that shows many years of practice. They are usually accompanied by their own small bands of drummers and something akin to a clarinet. The sound they produce is an acquired taste but it somehow fits perfectly with the spectacle. Here is a short video of the 2016 festival.