|My host in Mollet, Bori, who is part of the base in Mollet's castell association|
Bori's association, or 'colla', was not active the weekend I visited him in Mollet, north of Barcelona, so he took me to nearby Terrassa, where three associations were cooperating (and not competing) to build towers from their members. The plaza in Terrassa is well known among castell colles as the place where a record-breaking ten level tower was built by Minyons de Terrassa. Another Terrassa colla, 'Castellers de Terrassa', was joined on the day I was there by an association from Barcelona (Vila de Grácia) and one from Tarragona, which is where I saw my first castell with my friend Nikki.
While walking from the car to the plaza I asked Bori some questions regarding the safety of building castells; those who reach the highest levels of a human tower are tiny children, usually girls. Bori said that there have been accidents; an elderly man was killed at the base of one castell not so long ago when others fell on him, and a little girl was killed a few years ago after a fall. But, according to Bori, statistics show that participating in a castell is no more dangerous than playing a sport like football, where injuries and, on rare occasions, even deaths occur. He also said that the highest three levels of a castell, usually made up of girls, must now wear special helmets to protect them and others if they should fall; the helmets are made of a material hard enough to protect the wearer but not so hard that they will injure someone else.There is also extensive training involved in building a castell to prevent accidents.
I did notice that whatever dangers may be inherent in castell building, no one seems to notice them, least of all the kids who are still playing and laughing even as the castell begins to rise before them.
Before the castell is built, members survey a written plan that tells them where their position is in the castell, then the largest part of the tower begins to form. This is the base, which gives the higher and more impressive levels of the castell stability. Members from other castells often help to form the base, and even bystanders (myself included) are welcome to join in. According to Bori, the exception to this mutual aid is when two rival groups are competing; then each group is on its own.
Meanwhile, as the castell goes up, the band plays. I was amazed at how fast the tower is built, there is no pause; as one level is being formed the next level is already on its way up. This is not just a matter of aesthetics; those in the middle levels of a castell are under intense pressure to keep
|Silvia, a friend of Bori, and also a member of a castell association|
And these associations present an interesting study in sociology; the highest levels of a castell are formed by the smallest children, mostly girls. As they age, they move lower in the castell; the biggest and strongest men are at the lowest positions. The veterans who unremarkably form the base are however also the teachers and the foundation for those who climb higher than they do.
|Castell members often go through generations as members|
|The amateur with the stocking cap? Yes, it's me.|
|The castells comprising levels of two are less stable and more difficult to build|
|The heroes celebrate|
|The first 3 X 10 castell was done in Terrassa by 'Minyons de Terrassa'|