Belfast bonfires leave Spanish visitor with a warm feeling

Spanish photojournalist Alfons Cabrera has been taking pictures of loyalist bonfires
Spanish photojournalist Alfons Cabrera has been taking pictures of loyalist bonfires
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A Spanish GP has been warmly welcomed to Eleventh Night bonfire sites across Belfast as he attempts to make sense of the phenomenon that is alien to the rest of Europe.

Alfons Cabrera is a part-time photojournalist from the Catalan region specialising in conflict studies, and it is the second year in a row he has spent the summer in Northern Ireland.

Alfons took this picture at Lower Oldpark bonfire

Alfons took this picture at Lower Oldpark bonfire

The 37-year-old from Barcelona, who has been in the Province since the end of May, said: “Last year was the first time I’d been in Northern Ireland, I came here in April to study the conflict, looking at the past, the present and the future.

“I came back again in July for four days for the Twelfth. That’s when I got to see the Eleventh Night, I didn’t have any idea about that. I knew about the Orange walks but not about the bonfires.

“In Barcelona we have bonfires for Sant Joan Night on June 23, but they are nothing like what you have here.”

He added: “When you first see the bonfires it’s quite shocking. They are really huge, I told my friends in Barcelona that they are 25 metres high and they don’t believe me.

This image was captured by Alfons at the Donegall Pass bonfire in Posnett Street

This image was captured by Alfons at the Donegall Pass bonfire in Posnett Street

“I’m aware there have been arguments around the tyres and bonfires being moved.

“Everybody has been very welcoming at the sites I’ve been at. I have explained that I am a photojournalist and I would like to take pictures at their bonfires.

“There are some people who don’t want to be in the pictures, but they’ve allowed me to take whatever pictures I like of the bonfires.

“As an outsider when I see little kids climbing the bonfire or with wood with nails in it I couldn’t imagine my mother letting me do that as a little kid. It was surprising at first, but now I’m used to it. They look like they’re having a lot of fun.

“The title of the project is ‘For the fun of it’ as when I asked people why they made bonfires, besides the answers I expected – tradition, culture – many of them said for fun.”

On Thursday he plans to visit one of the biggest bonfires in Northern Ireland: “I have been only to bonfires in Belfast but I will be going to see the one in Larne (Craigy Hill) because I’m told it is huge.”

Mr Cabrera explained that photojournalism is not his main source of income: “I do this for two months of the year. I expect it will be my full-time profession in the future but for now I work very hard as a GP and save up for one or two trips a year.

“I’ve been in Kosovo in 2017, last year I went to the border between Morocco and Spain.

“Every time that someone compares one conflict with another conflict there’s always someone who will say that every conflict is different, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find some points in common.

“In the last 20 years Northern Ireland has not been in the news. Maybe now because of the border issue with Brexit it is back in the news, but for 20 years we don’t know an awful lot in Europe about what is happening here.”

If you would like to see more of Alfons Cabrera’s photojournalism you can visit his website at alfonscabrera.cat