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Martin Robinson’s Story

 

I live in Rojales, a small farming town with a population of around 7,000. It straddles the Rio Segura and its annexe town of Quesada has a population of around 1,400, including many expatriates.

Rojales still maintains its Spanish feel and is surrounded by citrus groves and market gardens in the fertile plain of the Vega Baja del Segura. The traditions continue with an extensive cultural programme of romerias and fiestas.

A few cave barrios were constructed in the town between the 18th and 20th centuries by itinerant workers – possibly even including British navvies building the original railways. Most were abandoned and they collapsed as the workers moved on but a couple of areas are still inhabited.

About 20 years ago, the town hall decided to preserve one of the barrios on a hillside above the town, adding paths, electricity, etc., and gave the caves to local artists to use as workshops, thereby preserving them as a living museum.

The artists used to hold regular markets. However, these stopped around 2007 because of poor publicity and it seemed that the future of the caves was under threat.

I was horrified by the thought of losing this unique little village, so I launched an artists’ petition online. It attracted many signatures, resulting in a response from the town hall which promised that the caves would be safe: they would prove it by investing a little more money. Then one of the cave owners asked if I could help restart the monthly markets as I knew a number of artists. In March 2012, these restarted with around 60 artists of all nationalities participating.

The markets still occur on monthly basis but with generally less participants. Each May, the venue hosts an arts festival weekend with workshops, exhibitions, drama, dance, music etc.

It’s great to be involved with this Spanish community, where I’m known as “Martin the artist”. I’m glad I managed to help the community.

I run weekly life drawing classes in my small studio in Rojales. Models from all round the world sit for the artists of various nationalities, including Spanish, of course.

I run weekly life drawing classes in my small studio in Rojales. Models from all round the world sit for the artists of various nationalities, including Spanish, of course.

I love the feel of living in a Spanish town where locals welcome and recognise you. I truly feel at home and enjoy living rather than just existing, and where retired people are respected by other people of all ages.