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Brief history of Tarragona’s Concurs de Castells

Tarragona’s Concurs de Castells was born in 1932. Although there was a precedent –in 1902 there was a contest organized in Barcelona-, the birth of the Tarragona Concurs was linked to the fact that “castells” were enjoying at that point a new dynamic of expansion and effervescence, with a rise in the achievements and the appearance of new “colles” in Tarragona and El Vendrell, adding to the traditional Xiquets de Valls (teams from Valls). 

Furthermore, the Concurs is due to a proposal by Pau Casals, who was born in El Vendrell and was a “castells” enthusiast, and by then already a musician of international prestige. This meant that the Concurs, at its core, had the will to enhance the social and cultural consideration given to “castells”. Casals presided over the 1932 and 1933 editions that took place at Tarragona’s bullring. The next years the Concurs could not be repeated, partly because of the conflicting social and political situation.  

After the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the contests become a quite common feature in “castells”. For the next 30 years there were contests celebrated in Barcelona, Vilafranca del Penedès, Reus and Valls. Through this period, Tarragona also organized them again, with three editions between 1952 and 1956, keeping the bullring setting and establishing the biennial periodicity, but the call didn’t consolidate.  

1970 is the key year. The Municipal Board on “Castells”, just created, decides to restore the Concurs to guarantee that Tarragona stays as one of the key castells towns. The Board managed to involve the two current leading “colles”, which had not performed together for years. The bullring got crowded with fans and the event lived up to expectations and beyond with one tower (“dos de vuit amb folre”) achieved for the first time in the 20th century.  For all these reasons, the 1970 Concurs was named the “Concurs of the century”. 

From then onwards, the performance at the bullring is celebrated each even year, though between 1974 and 1978 it wasn’t scored or had a final league table. When in 1980 there is a return to the contest formula, the Tarragona Concurs stands as the only one celebrated across Catalonia. 

Over the following decades, the Concurs escorts the expansion of “castells”. So, in 1982 the Concurs sees the first nine floors tower; in 1996 the first “extra gamma” tower (the most difficult ones); and in 2000, the first ten-layer one. At the same time, the Concurs also gets more media attention: the first “castells” broadcast by the Catalan TV was the 1990’s Concurs. As a negative counterpoint, from 1996 on the Concurs –which had been created with the aim to gather all existing teams- had to limit participation to just the best eighteen “colles”, while their total number was increasing. 

The arrival of the XXIst century brought the consolidation and improvement of several of the Concurs aspects. First, from 2006 on, the organization is gradually professionalized to answer to new challenges, and it also opens itself to the whole “castells” collective with the creation of an Advisory Body. Second, between 2006 and 2010 the bullring is reformed and, while maintaining its iconic look, transformed into the Tarraco Arena Plaça, a modern and multipurpose venue with a cupola that covers it. Finally, in 2012 the Concurs grows to two days, and two years later a third one, in Torredembarra, is added. Thus, the number of participants increased to 42 and the idea that as many “colles” as possible take part is regained. 2012 is also the year that the Concurs de Castells Biennial starts as a frame to develop reflective and promotion activities around “castells” during the time between each of the Concurs editions.

?Table: Concurs’ winners

Year - Winning team | Best tower

1932 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  2d7

1933 - Colla Nova de Valls  |  4d8

1952 - Muixerra de Valls / Nens del Vendrell  |  4d8

1954 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  3d8 ©

1956 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  3d8 ©

1970 - Nens del Vendrell  |  2d8f

1972 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  3d8 ©

1980 - Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls  |  5d8 ©

1982 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  4d9f ©

1984 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  4d9f ©

1986 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  3d9f ©

1988 - Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls  |  3d9f ©

1990 - Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls  |  3d9f

1992 - Colla Joves Xiquets de Valls  |  3d9f

1994 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  3d9f 

1996 - Castellers de Vilafranca   |  2d9fm

1998 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  4d9fa

2000 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  3d10fm ©

2002 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  3d10fm ©

2004 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  2d8 ©

2006 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  2d8 ©

2008 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  2d8 ©

2010 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  4d9fa

2012 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  2de8

2014 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  3d10fm ©

2016 - Castellers de Vilafranca  |  4de10fm

2018 - Colla Vella dels Xiquets de Valls  |  2de8


F = folre; fm = folre i manilles; fa = folre i agulla; © = carregat