Ellas Crean is celebrating its fifteenth anniversary and, once again, from 5 to 31 March, Madrid will be buzzing with women’s creativity. This festival, an offshoot of 8 March, International Women’s Day, is a great cultural event that stands firm to its initial purpose: to give visibility to the work of women artists and creators in the world of culture, an area that still needs an extra effort because inequality persists. Organised by the Institute for Women and Equal Opportunities, it has received support from the Madrid Region and from various public institutions, ministries and municipal councils.

From the start, Ellas Crean has been a multidisciplinary, plural festival. Over the last fifteen years, it has featured over 500 artists, with over 1,000 activities and more than 100,000 spectators. Ellas Crean has participated in some very special historic events, such as the anniversary of the Beijing World Conference or the 1st Congress of African and Spanish Women. It also represented Spain in the European Year of Intercultural Dialogue and formed part of the official programme during the Spanish Presidency of the European Union.

In addition to the great institutional support it has enjoyed, Ellas Crean forms part of the movement of associations for women in culture which has become consolidated in Spain over recent years, making joint proposals and demands. Over the years, both well-known and promising new artists have participated in the festival. New projects have received encouragement and it has been a pleasure to see how some artistic careers that started out in different editions of the festival have taken off. For these reasons, in this fifteenth edition, some of the artists that we have seen in the past have been invited back. Examples include the well-established figure of María Pagés, holder of the National Award for Dance, and a theatrical company set up by young women called Teatro en Vilo, which was able to spread its wings through Ellas Crean.

Music, theatre, poetry, cinema …

Special emphasis is to be placed on young artists. In the case of music, by including familiar styles that have a ready audience among the young through the proposal made by Women in the Music Industry. Some of the names are Agoraphobia, Nuu and Monterrosa, or Brisa Fenoy with her songs calling for equality. But Ellas Crean has always aimed to offer something for everyone and to cover all styles so there will also be women composers in the concert to be offered by the Women in Music association and centred on compositions by Doina and Diana Rotaru, at the Reina Sofía Museum. Renaissance music will be represented by the prestigious international group Sollazzo Ensemble, on its first visit to Spain. The classical music section will also include Isabel Villanueva on the viola and María Parra at the piano in a concert of compositions by Clara Schumann, on the anniversary of her birth.

Flamenco and jazz have also always been present in Ellas Crean, and the programme aims above all to break down stereotypes. So we will be able to listen to female instrumentalists who also lead their own groups, such as Andrea Motis, María Toro, Susana Raya and Andrea Salcedo, the latter from Mexico, who plays flamenco guitar accompanied by singer María Mezcle. And we also present a synthesis between flamenco, rap and pop by the duo Shica & Gutman. The sounds of folk music will come from the unchallengeable Galician singer Uxía, and soul and R&B from Deva Mahal, daughter of the legendary Taj Mahal. And, linking music with poetry will be Angeles Mora, National Poetry Award winner, accompanied by Cristina Mora with Moisés P. Sánchez on the piano.

In theatre, in collaboration with the Teatro Paco Rabal, Ellas Crean will feature women writers and directors who make a stand for diversity, with works such as Elisa and Marcela by the Galician group A Panadaria; others who delve into the topic of identity, such as Mujeres de Paciencia Salvaje by Up-A-tree Theatre, or who question the reality of young people’s lives today, such as Generación Why by Teatro en Vilo. And the theatre section will also travel to other parts thanks to collaboration with the Institut Français, Casa Sefarad and Teatros Luchana. The latter, in their programme for the month of March, dedicated to creation by women and entitled Mujeres en la Escena, will help expand the theatrical section of the festival. Similarly, the Filmoteca Española will offer a series celebrating women film-makers, and in the Palacio de la Prensa cinema there will be a special showing of the recent Goya award-winning film, Carmen y Lola, followed by a debate with its director, Arantxa Echevarría.

Dance in museums

But if there is one form of art that has a special place in this anniversary celebration, it is dance, a discipline that this festival has been supporting avidly over recent editions. With the backing of the Department of Museums of the Ministry of Culture, an unusual programme has been devised for nine museums in Madrid: Museo del Traje, Museo de Antropología, Museo Thyssen, Museo Arqueológico Nacional, Museo Cerralbo, Museo del Romanticismo, Museo Lázaro Galdiano, Museo de América and Museo de Artes Decorativas. This special focus on dance was considered appropriate for this edition because of the festival’s commitment to this discipline and bearing in mind the rare opportunities for women choreographers in cultural programming.

So, museums full of dance will be the main feature of this 15th anniversary of Ellas Crean. Coordinated by Mey-Ling Bisogno, young women choreographers, some of whom are successfully developing their careers in foreign countries such as Avatâra Ayuso, will join others from different parts of Spain such as Asun Noales, Matxalen Bilbao, Carmen Larraz and Judith Argomaniz, and from other countries such as Natalia Fernandes, Lucía Marote, Ravid Abarbanel and Poliana Lima. Also present will be the expert in improvisation Cristiane Boullosa and one of our great flamenco dancers, María Pagés who, with her performance entitled Las Damas de la Memoria, will be casting her magic in Room 12 of the Museo Arqueológico Nacional.

The festival maintains its collaboration with the main cultural institutions based in Madrid. In addition to the state-owned museums, they include the Biblioteca Nacional, Filmoteca Española, Institut Français, Instituto Goethe, Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Casa Árabe, Casa Sefarad, Cine Palacio de la Prensa, and the Asociación La Noche en Vivo. The latter represents most of the venues offering live music in Madrid, and will offer more than 70 performances in 24 of its venues.

And a final note, which could well be the first. The celebration of this exciting birthday of Ellas Crean will be made visible with an illustration designed for the occasion by artist Ana Juan, holder of the National Award for Illustration 2010, gold medallist of the Society of Newspaper Design and a regular illustrator for The New Yorker.

So, Ellas Crean is presenting this special edition with the same enthusiasm as always and in the hope that we can achieve a fairer world of culture to which men and women can contribute on equal terms. Enjoy it.

Ana Juan

The commemorative poster for the 15th anniversary of Ellas Crean was designed by ANA JUAN, who is committed to women’s rights and is one of Spain’s most international artists. She holds the National Award for Illustration 2010, the gold medal of the Society of Newspaper Design and is a regular illustrator for The New Yorker.