For the love of big, dirty, exciting cities

by Saturday, September 22, 2018

I love big, dirty, exciting cities, and I’ve never arrived in Barcelona without a sense of excitement, of possibility, a fluttering in the stomach. Barcelona is like an older, messier, southern hemisphere sibling of Melbourne.  I love the food, the drink, the architecture, the beach, the masses of people, even the smell. It feels like a meeting point between Europe and North Africa, and even though it has been infested with tourists, there are so many hidden gardens and tiny oases.

Photo of wall in the Gothic Quarter, Barcelona, by Javier Bosch on Unsplash.

Top tip for holidaying in Barcelona

There is a reason that the central boulevards are called “Las Ramblas” – simply ramble. Go to the mountains and the beaches, wander the streets and alleys, see everything Gaudí, including his almost-finished Cathedral, check out the truly great arts scene, and don’t miss one of the world’s best markets, the Boqueria. Oh, and don’t get pickpocketed.

Something he always packs when he travels

I have a great, waterproof, portable, bluetooth speaker that I go nowhere without. I can get in the mood of any city through the music of the place, create an instant party with friends, even sing in the shower.

Photo of Sólfarið – Sun Voyager, Reykjavík, Iceland, by Roan Lavery on Unsplash.

A destination on his bucket list

I can’t wait to go to Iceland.  The music and visual art from there is kicking great goals at the moment, so there must be something in the air. The sheer variety, from the twinkly, laid-back warmth of Reykjavik, to the incredible landscape the farther north you get – I just have to go!

A travel disaster – or near-miss

I’ve been in three cyclones/hurricanes, which hopefully makes the full set.  The first was Hurricane Dennis in Cuba, during which I was in bed with food poisoning, so missed the whole thing. The first thing I did when I emerged into the devastation was eat a hot chicken sandwich, before realising there’d been no refrigeration for three days, so got food poisoning again.  The second was Hurricane Sandy, which I watched whilst unable to leave a friend’s 20th-floor apartment for two days in Boston in 2012.  The third – and hopefully last – was the gloriously named but terrifying Cyclone Zena, in Fiji, in 2016.


About  Jonathan Holloway

Jonathan joined Melbourne Festival in 2015 after four years as Artistic Director of the Perth International Arts Festival. His time in Perth culminated with the Australian exclusive presentation of Royal de Luxe’s The Giants, one of the largest arts events ever seen in Australia, playing to audiences of 1.4 million people over three days.

He came to Australia after six years as Artistic Director and Chief Executive of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival, and from 1997–2004 established and headed the National Theatre’s events department and founded and directed their Watch This Space Festival. In 2003 was Creative Director of Elemental, a large-scale theatre, music and spectacle event at Chalon-sur-Saône festival in France.

Jonathan started out as a theatre director (working under the name Jack Holloway), including cowriting / directing Robin Hood for the National Theatre in London.

The next Melbourne International Arts Festival is 03—21 October 2018.

Main image: Sarah Walker