Priego de Córdoba has always been known for the wide variety of cultural events it has to offer – and rightly so; in 2006 the town staged the 59th International Festival of Music, Theatre and Dance, an event which, alongside that of Granada, is among the oldest in Spain.
Flamenco, however, followed its own course, at a distance from the mainstream cultural life of Priego: this is probably because historically, flamenco was often considered a second-class art form, and the packed calendar of more conventional events in Priego left flamenco out in the cold.
But even though it did not enjoy the artistic acceptance that it merited, there were some first class one-off festivals, attracting some of the greatest contemporary artists.
Priego has produced very few nationally-recognised figures -- although it is worth mentioning José Ropero Miranda, known as Niño de Priego, who starred in the Opera Flamenca between 1926 and 1939; and more recently, Antono José Mejias Portero.
Nevertheless, there is a substantial number of amateur singers, who regularly demonstrate their talent at family gatherings, private parties, or benefit performances.
In 1979, there was a tragedy in Priego, when a well-known flamenco music-lover died in an accident. His friends were anxious to help his young widow and son as best they could, and they organised a festival in the old San Fernando football stadium, which drew the support of just about every flamenco singer in the town. It was a total success, attracting an audience of more than three thousand.
Given such enthusiasm, the organisers – as true fans – reckoned that the moment had arrived to give flamenco music the place it deserved in Priego, and they mooted the founding of a peña flamenca – a flamenco enthusiasts’ society.The beginning
The inaugural meeting to set up the society was held on August 13th, 1979: on November 3rd of that year, its statutes were agreed, and the first club committee was elected.
From that day, the peña became a reality, and flamenco music began to occupy what always should have been its rightful place in the town’s artistic and cultural life.
A huge variety of perfomances were put on, in response to the overwhelming demand by the people of Priego: its annual festival attracted major contemporary artists, who brought in flamenco-lovers from all parts of Andalucía, and turned the festival into a not-to-be-missed date in the already star-studded regional calendar.
From early days, the peña suffered a particular drawback in not having a home of its own, which meant that it had to move from place to place during the first ten years of its existence. This constant upheaval, usually having to put up with inappropriate venues, was a major obstacle wich prevented the society from fulfilling its musical mission, with its programme of events plagued by inconsistency.
In May 1988, Priego town council gave the peña the use of a part of the municipal arts centre: after it had been suitably fitted out, August 1989 marked the opening programme of performances in the venue which has been the club’s headquarters ever since.
On the first day of October 1999, the current committee took over, under the presidency of Don Antonio Carrillo Expósito, which gave the peña a new direction, aimed at giving flamenco a more prominent role in the local cultural scene. In January 2001, members agreed unanimously to include the designation “cultural association” in the club’s name – and so the full title became Asociación Cultural Peña Flamenca Fuente del Rey de Priego de Córdoba.