The former Undertones singer Feargal Sharkey summed up the seasonal feeling best when he sang “Here comes the summer, here comes the summer,” and, well, “here comes the summer”. He was very keen to emphasise the point …
But, he was right in asserting that the most popular of all seasons is upon us, and, on the ever-popular Costa Calida, Region of Murcia, in Spain, that means days of seemingly endless sunshine and a plethora of festivities.
The region’s festivals blend history, nature and culture with a great atmosphere, and feature music and performers from across the world.
If one’s taste in music is more jazz than late 70s’ new wave, one can eschew thoughts of the Undertones and head, instead, to the 19th San Javier International Jazz Festival, from July 1-30, which will feature, among others, Nik West, Myles Sanko, Steve Vai, Mike Stern, and the JBs, the original James Brown band.
This highly regarded event draws jazz fans from across the globe who enjoy world-class performances on summer evenings just a few minutes from the sea.
Also in July, the port of Cartagena plays host to the eclectic La Mar de Músicas Festival, from July 15-23, which offers a programme of varied world music in a variety of atmospheric settings within the city.
Each year the festival invites a guest nation to contribute exhibitions, musicians and cultural activities to broaden the spectrum of artists on offer – and, this year, it’s the turn of Sweden. This promises many different genres of music – among them boogie, futuristic jazz, techno, singer-songwriters, neofolk, joik (a traditional form of song) and fusion – all performed in a historic and fascinating environment.
The two main stages are the Parque Torres Auditorium – from where the port and impressive archaeological remains of the Roman theatre can be admired – and the El Batel Auditorium, a watch-tower by the sea. Other stages include the Arab castle, the City Hall square, the Icue and the San Francisco squares, La Mar Chica, and the ruins of the Old Cathedral – each a historic venue in its own right.
Many of the concerts are free and reduced-price entry into those that do charge can be obtained by securing a season ticket.
The 37th Lo Ferro Flamenco Singing Festival, which takes place in the tiny town of Lo Ferro from July 23-31, can be enjoyed in a traditional atmosphere. The 500 inhabitants of the town enjoy flamenco with a passion and Lo Ferro has its own flamenco singing style called La Ferreña, which was specially created for the festival by Antonio Díaz ‘Fosforito’, in 2003.
In August, the highlight is the Cante de las Minas de La Unión Festival, one of the most important flamenco events in the world. Running from August 3-13, it features performances by leading exponents of flamenco, such as Manuel Cuevas, El Cabrero, José Enrique Morente, Pitingo, Rancapino Chico, Farruquito, Antonio Reyes and José Mercé, while up-and-coming artists will compete for the coveted Lámpara Minera award.
Away from the music, the Carthaginians & Romans Fiesta, which takes place in Cartagena, from September 16-25, offers the opportunity to experience history first hand.
Roman campsites are set up on the outskirts of the city and events are organised throughout the week as more than 4,000 Roman soldiers, barbarians and Carthaginians – the otherwise peace-loving citizens of Cartagena – march through the streets. It is a colourful and exciting spectacle which draws in families from right across Europe and beyond.
A four-night, self-catering break in Cartagena in July costs from just £157.36 per person, based on two sharing a twin or double room, at the three-star NH Campo Cartagena hotel, in a residential area of the city.
Access to Costa Cálida, Región de Murcia, is simple as it is served by Murcia-San Javier airport all year round, while Alicante airport is also nearby. Both airports are served by numerous other airlines flying from a wide variety of UK and Irish airports and flights in July cost from just £22 one way.