It can easily be argued that Catalonia's extraordinary artistic heritage is core to its identity AND economy, and yet, as in my native England, nowhere near enough is done to nurture it.
Capçanes, the peaceful Priorat village so close to our farm, was a beacon of contentment. Dusk had fallen on a still, blue day, and the nest of soft yellow street lights at the foot of the Sierra de Llaberia valley glowed with symbolic warmth. For this was early November, during the reliable little summer of St Marti, of olive nets and the last of the butterflies. There was time to breathe, so we waited in the shadows close to the defiant statue of the village's famous son and hero of Catalonia, el Carrasclet, the War of Succession guerrilla fighter Pere Joan Barceló.
We were heading for the community theatre to crowd in and watch a performance of Puss in Boots, the latest spectacle created by Josep Ahumada and the remarkable young people of La Corranda, the dance company he has dedicated a decade or so of his life to. What light it has brought to this comarca.
So, Josep, this is my huge thank you for everything, not only on behalf of my family – both of our children have been inspired and fulfilled and have grown so much by being part of La Corranda – but also the hundreds of people you have enlightened, performance after performance. La Corranda embodies the daring, commitment and sustenance which performance and the arts in general offer.
It has always been much more than entertainment, though that is reason enough. It is, as you yourself have said Josep, an education too, the instilling of dedication, belief and pride, an exaltation of the priceless value of the arts with the joyful reward of being part of beauty and accomplishment. At Capçanes and countless times before these rewards have been richly palpable.
After many years in the world of theatre and dance Josep set himself the goal of creating a company in The Priorat among a group of people who had not acted or danced before, a project that from the outset took the breath away. He writes, directs, makes costumes, teaches and dances, a person who in deed shows that all is possible if you set your mind and heart to it, and others have been inspired to do likewise.
For our children, Ella and Joe, who have journeyed from childhood to adulthood with La Corranda, it is the extraordinary positive example of friendship, energy and commitment of the company which will hold them in such good stead throughout their lives.
Such can be the priceless worth of the arts, be it music, dance, theatre, painting, sculpture, writing, design - all creativity. Hence, education systems that devalue the arts confound and anger me so deeply.
It can easily be argued that Catalonia's extraordinary artistic heritage is core to its identity AND economy, and yet, as in my native England, nowhere near enough is done to nurture it. In truth, the focus is fading when it should be growing.
This is equally about rounded lives and community, joys and fulfilments, personal and shared, and the core life lessons of endeavour and accomplishment. The arts offer every young person a door to a far greater fulfilment that much of a shallow modern life now offers. Just ask members of La Corranda and their Priorat audiences.
So thank you, Josep, and every person of your ilk who sees what others cannot see, who can create wonders where there were none, infuses other lives with a love of the arts and lights the touch-paper of creativity. Individually and socially we all desperately need this even if, in the numbing headlong rush of life, we may not know it.