IQ's third Unsung Hero of 2020 is NTIA's Michael Kill, who has given a voice to the devastated UK music industry during the pandemic
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IQ's latest Unsung Hero is Sonorama Ribera promoter Javier Ajenjo, who turned his festival site into a Covid-19 field hospital
By IQ on 03 Feb 2021
Unsung Heroes 2020, published in IQ 95 just before Christmas, is a tribute to some of the organisations and individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during a year unlike any other – be that through their efforts to protect the industry, or helping those who were in desperate need.
We turned to the readership and asked you to nominate worthy causes and personalities for consideration as the inaugural members of our Unsung Heroes awards. Now, IQ can reveal the dozen most-voted Unsung Heroes of 2020, continuing with Sonorama Ribera’s Javier Ajenjo, who follows Barrie Knight of Big Knight Out/In.
Each year, Sonorama Ribera festival, in the Spanish town of Aranda De Duero, dedicates itself to a special humanitarian cause, with a sum of its profits in the recent past donated to organisations such as UNHCR’s air for refugees and the Acción Contra El Hambre NGO, which battles world hunger.
When the pandemic meant that the 2020 edition of the event could not go ahead, festival co-ordinator Javier Ajenjo, who was born and raised in the town, decided that there must still be something that the event could do to contribute to the greater good.
“Due to Covid-19, the possibility arose of using the venue where the festival is usually held as a field hospital that would help and support the Aranda de Duero hospital,” states Ajenjo. “We got in touch with the health authorities, to put at their disposal all our infrastructure, materials, and the human capacity that we had to start it up.”
In less than a week and in co-ordination with various health workers, Ajenjo and a team of 20 from Sonorama, constructed and started running a 1,500m² hospital, with capacity for 200 beds.
“A few days later, the hospital started receiving the first patients,” reports Ajenjo. “Despite being somewhat transitory, one of the fundamental things that we wanted during its preparation is that the people who went to work on the premises had a rest space, a dining room, and the best conditions to be able to carry out such hard work.”
“With the new vaccines I hope that we will celebrate the festivals with some normality”
Ajenjo reveals that had the 2020 edition of Sonorama Ribera gone ahead, plans were already afoot to thank those who had been risking their own health to help the general population. “We were planning a special edition to dedicate to all the people who had worked on the front line fighting for us,” he says. “The idea was to invite 1,000 health workers to enjoy two days of concerts, with all security measures.”
Although the high infection rates resulted in Sonorama’s cancellation, Ajenjo tells IQ that alternative plans have been made for those key health workers. “We do not give up, so this Christmas they will have their online festival with some of the best artists in our country performing for them. It will be our way of thanking them.”
Looking ahead to 2021, Ajenjo believes that the forthcoming vaccines, allied with everything the Sonorama staff had been learning about in the run up to this year’s festival season, strengthens the probability that the next edition of the festival will go ahead.
“With the new vaccines I hope that we will celebrate the festivals with some normality, and that music and concerts will return to our lives,” he says. “We will take all the necessary measures and be attentive to all the advances to achieve our most important challenge, not only that the people who come to Sonorama Ribera know our land, our roast lamb, and our Ribera del Duero wine, but also enjoy our festival safely and happily!”
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