ANC England: “From September to November, Catalonia is set to be the centre of attention worldwide”
Versió en CATALÀ disponible aquí.
GUIFRÉ JORDAN. The biggest Catalan National Assembly (ANC, the initials in Catalan) branch in the world outside Catalonia is the one in London. The human chain organised in London twelve months ago was the most successful among the 116 held around the world. CarminaMunté –ANC England coordinator-, LluísDíaz-Guerra and Mia Albertí –London group membres-, along with the rest of England-based volunteers, were the organisers of the human chain. Now they are working on the V-shaped demonstration to be held on Saturday 30th August at Greenwich Park, so as to repeat last year’s success.
How many demonstrators do you expect on Saturday? Will less than 800 be disappointing?
CarminaMunté (CM):We hope to be the same amount of people. So far 250 people have signed up, but most people make up their minds the last week. In fact, it’s already a success, because five cities within England and Wales will have one: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge and Cardiff, three more than last year.
Mia Albertí (MA):Bear in mind that last year some of the people who turned out hadn’t signed up, and what’s more, our assembly leads the ranking of registrations to the ‘V’ at the moment.
LluísDíaz-Guerra (LDG): This time a lot of people feel this is a demonstration and think there’s no point in registering.
CM:The same is happening in Catalonia: half of the people have signed up compared to last year, but the ‘V’ will definitely be a success. It’ll reach l’Hospitalet (the town next to Barcelona)!
Why did you go for Greenwich and not in a better-known landmark in London?
CM:It’s really hard to do it in London’s city centre, as a lot of room and council permission is required. What’s more, we need a higher place so as to see the shape from a better viewpoint. And at the end of the day, Greenwich is very symbolic because of the meridian, that’s why we’ve come up with the motto ‘Zero degrees from freedom’.
What’s the main aim of the international ‘V’ and the foreign assemblies? Is it giving the opportunity for Catalan expats to have a say or raising awareness and lobbying to English society and politicians?
CM:Lobbying is superhard, as we’d need more volunteers and means, apart from press in our side. Anyhow, one of ANC’s main goals is raising awareness of our cause around the world, so this is one of the main events organised abroad to spread our claims. In fact, we’ll unfold a giant banner already shown in Vic warning British PM David Cameron that we’ll vote on the 9th November.
LDG: On the other hand, the 11th September (National Catalan Day, when the V is to be held in Catalonia) isn’t a bank holiday here, so organising it on a Saturday is a good opportunity for us to gather, celebrate and also protest.
MA: The massive demo in Catalonia makes expats think ‘I’m missing it’ and ‘I also want to be involved’, so the V in Barcelona helps Catalans worldwide organise themselves.
Can ANC England claim any victory in the internationalisation of the Catalan claims?
LDG: Above all, London has become an icon for the other ANC abroad. The Catalan Way’s success and the amount of volunteers taking part in it has pushed others cities with not so many Catalans to get started.
CM: We are the Assembly branch having most members and most events done: besides the Way, we made a 250-people human ‘estelada’ (Catalan pro-independence flag), we’ve held presentations outside London, the ‘Signa un Vot’ campaign on Saint George’s Day, we’ve been key to make the international human towers day work here and this autumn is expected to be busy as well.
How do you coordinate your work in London and in the whole England?
MA:We are in touch by email with members and by word-of-mouth and above all by social networking. Facebook and Twitter are the main ways to recruit new members, apart from our events.
CM: We set a meeting once a month or two with the other groups in England and Wales, but we all work pretty independently. We all coordinators worldwide meet once a month.
Finding enough funding doesn’t look easy…
CM: Definitely not. So far, we’ve funded the project with our own money. Our members’ fees have always stayed in Catalonia. We’ve just agreed with a new way of funding ANC England, which allows our members to switch their fees to a UK-based bank account, so as to manage autonomously our money. It’s not easy, though.
LDG: We’ve also got donations from the people who have joined some of our activities to at least fund the main events.
Do you think that the pro-independence feeling soars or decreases when someone lives abroad?
MA:When you are abroad you notice the difference between the Catalan and Spanish communities more easily. Moreover, you analyse everything objectively and with no interferences, and you go more radical. When you watch a video of an outrageous interview or you are told about some quotes against Catalonia, it hurts. It doesn’t get mixed up with commercials or other programmes, you only get this input, and you wonder: “Is this really still happening?”
LDG: If you are in Catalonia, you have no alternative, you aren’t aware of the situation somewhere else. But if you live here, you have something which to compare it with. You realise things can be done differently. The referendum in Scotland is paradigmatic.
MA:And when you need to tell someone where you are from, you increase your sense of belonging to Catalonia.
Are there differences between mentioning Catalonia to someone in the UK now and four years ago?
LDG:I used to say that I came from Barcelona some years ago; now I only say I’m Catalan. Unlike in the past, it rings the bell when people hear about Catalonia and you can even be asked about the referendum.
MA:We’ve learnt here that letting people know about us is essential, and we can’t be lazy and avoid explaining where we are from. We need to do our small part.
Raising awareness around the world is underway now, but how can the international community be persuaded to support this cause?
CM:First of all we need to call for our right to vote, letting everyone know that we’re going to vote. When Spain vetoes us, there will be no country against our right to vote. For the time being, we need to be aware of the fact that from September to November, Catalonia is set to be the centre of attention worldwide, and we have to be ready for this challenge.
If Catalonia gets its Independence… Will you come back?
LDG:If things are done in the right way and the country baseson innovation and research, it’ll pay off coming back.
MA:We also can go on wandering throughout the world, but with a new passport. It’ll be so emotional that I get checked in the borders!
CM:Of course we’ll come back. We have to, so as to build the new country.