It makes a change to see this great group of castellers, the oldest in Tarragona, training at their base, away from the squares filled with onlookers craning their necks to get a glimpse of the human tower building up.
Inside no1 Carrer Santa Anna there is a real buzz; children take turns at climbing up two parallel bars running vertically towards the ceiling, man and women jetting out the changing rooms rolling in to long shawls which are fastened around the hips to keep the central core in place. When everyone is more or less ready the training begins, shoes come off, silence and concentration descend over the hall and the Cap de Colla calls out names and positions. Everyone locks in like a human puzzle, hands gripping on the arm in front till the base is solid like a rock. And then the second layer climbs up, strong men built like boulders clenching the tip of their shirt with their teeth to get the perfect posture. Upon them climb the others, every layer made of lighter built, women, girls, children, till the castell is completed.
There is a great sense of achievement when a formation is completed and then seamlessly dismantled but the physical effort is enormous; those twenty seconds when the last goes up are the slowest, most painfully intense of the whole exercise. If you are in the core, locked in by a hundred people pushing from all sides is must be almost unbearable and your breath stops.
The Xiquets of Tarragona number almost 500 people of all ages and sizes and that’s just the beauty of it; it’s an effort without prejudice of race, creed, sex of physical ability. Everyone has a function, whether you are pushing, compacting at the base, supporting others on your shoulders or climbing on the top. There is a sense of purpose, of place and an incredible pride for being part of all this.
Visitors are welcome to watch these rehearsals which take place Tuesday and Friday from 21:30 till midnight.