Editor & Co-Author of Bull-Running Guide in ¡Hola! magazine

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, who put together Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona – with a foreword from the Mayor of Pamplona, and contributions by John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest, Beatrice Welles, daughter of Orson, as well as bull-runners like Joe Distler and Julen Madina and photography by EPA veteran Jim Hollander – opens this week’s edition of ¡Hola! magazine, the Spanish parent of Hello! Read the English version of his interview on his personal blog here.

The Editor

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The Running Of The Bulls – THE MOVIE


The greatest movie on the ‘running of the bulls’ in Pamplona ever made has finally come out on DVD, available here. As you can see from the HD trailer above, it was made for the cinema, where it is screened in the city every day during the bull-running festivities of the Feria of San Fermín. It was years in production, and is the definitive film on the topic, with some of the most awe inspiring footage of encierros, ‘bull-runs’, ever shown, and interviews – in English and Spanish – with such legends of the encierro – ‘bull-run’ – as Joe Distler, Noel Chandler, Julen Madina, Miguel Ángel Eguiluz and many others. (All of whom contributed to the eBook Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls of Pamplona on which more here.)

To wet your appetites, here is a selection of photos from CBS News, listed as their favourite of this past year, 2014.

CBS header

CBS Photo 5
(What CBS doesn’t know is that leading that bull is the young Pamplona bull-runner, Aitor Aristregui Oloriz – Ed. )

CBS Photo 4

CBS Photo 3

CBS Photo 2

(What CBS doesn’t know is this marks the return to the streets of Joe Distler, following his first year off – indeed first missed encierro –  since 1967 – Ed. )

CBS Photo 1


The Editor.

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THE LAST ARENA: AFH’s article ‘See you soon, Cuéllar’ in El Norte de Castilla


From the taurine blog ‘The Last Arena':

El Norte de Castilla 2014 header

Yesterday’s newspaper

Yesterday, the Spanish regional newspaper El Norte de Castilla – ‘The North of Castile’ – published my third annual ‘thankyou-note’ article about the town of Cuéllar (original Spanish here), in Castile and Leon for its generosity during its feria – my favourite – and its incredible bull-runs. I cannot recommend the town enough to visitors and tourists – especially during the feria, where the bull-runs are as spectacular to watch as they are to participate in (as I have written before for the Financial Times.) The best place to stay is the Hotel Mesón San Francisco (click here to book), and other details of the town are in the article below. It is an hour and a half’s drive from Madrid, or a twenty minute fast train to Segovia and forty minute taxi ride…

El Norte de Castilla 2014

As it appeared in the paper…

See you soon, Cuéllar


“I have run in many bull-runs, but my favourite is, without doubt, the one in Cuéllar»

Alexander Fiske-Harrison | Segovia

For three years now I have come to the heart of Old Castile for the Fair of Our Lady of the Rosary of Cuéllar, and each year before, like a polite but unfamiliar guest, I would write a thank you letter as is the custom of we English. (2012, 2013) Now that I feel know Cuéllar a little better, even if not each of its inhabitants personally, and I can address you less formally, as real friends are allowed to do.

And yet there are still so many thanks to be given, and not just from myself in England but also from my other friends whom came from around the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ world this year: from Australia and from Scotland, from Canada and from Wales, even from Australia (you have had celts from Ireland in your Irish pub since before I first came.) And of course, my brother-in-arms in the encierros – ‘bull-runs’ – of Spain, Bill Hillmann representing the United States, and who first suggested I come to this town at the invitation of your great sculptor of, historian of and runner of encierros, Dyango Velasco.

(From outside the Saxon world we also brought a crazy Viking from Sweden – who ran with your bulls despite an aneurysm in his leg – and an even crazier Mexican, who never normally runs, except he found himself lost in the forest with Bill and his walking stick among the bulls – the blind leading the lame among the lethal.)

We all of us wish to thank Mariano de Frutos, his daughter Elisa and her husband Ruben Salamanca at the Hotel Mesón San Francisco, which was our headquarters in much the same way Hotel Quintana in Pamplona was once that of Ernest Hemingway and his friends – it is also the hotel of the bullfighters, some of whom I still know – and gardens on calle San Francisco are like the outside tables of the Café Iruña, attended with divinely inspired patience by Enrique and Cristina.

However, we also ventured beyond our querencia – ‘lair’ – there, to your peñas, beginning on the afternoon of the Pregón with Bill’s presenting his new novel – with me as translator – at El Pañuelo at the invitation of its president Valentin Quevedo on its fiftieth anniversary for CyLTV and various assembled journalists. There is also always Dyango’s peña el Orinal, and the even nameless poker club of Luis Quevedo and his wife Soco since their son Alberto’s Bodega La Carchena has closed. In the words of our poet Tennyson, “though much is taken, much abides.” So instead we went to the flamenco of the Café Theatre Oremus of Marcos Gómez and the taurine bar Paralex of Miguel Ángel Cobos who has more carteles than your town hall, but no bull’s head (yet.)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Larry Belcher, Dyango Veslaco and Bill Hillmann in Café Oremvs (Foto: Antonio Tanarro)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Larry Belcher, Dyango Veslaco and Bill Hillmann in Café Oremvs (Photo: Antonio Tanarro)

This year, my own temporada taurina began as always in Seville in April – and it will end there when I address a conference of La Real Maestranza, the University of Seville, and the Foundation of Taurine Studies, on November 5th (the 4th anniversary of the last time I passed and killed a novillo-toro) – but this year I will have run in many more encierros than passed cattle in plazas de tientas (Saltillo and Miura… nothing more, but nothing less.)

Since July I have been lost among the crowds in Pamplona where I barely saw a bull, although I did in Tafalla, and then learned in the words of Dante to “abandon all hope” running down the mountainous Pilón of Falces with the vacas of Miguel Reta, the Pamplona pastor, who were eleven years old and like Dante also speak good Latin. I learned loneliness running from the police line at the start of the encierro in San Sebastián de los Reyes, where I had only bulls for company, but of them all, my favourite remains Cuéllar.

El embudo de Cuellar por Nicolas Haro

El embudo of Cuéllar by Nicolás Haro

Read on by clicking here.

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THE LAST ARENA: Experienced bull-runner gored by bull: isn’t it ironic? I don’t think…


From the taurine blog ‘The Last Arena':

En castellano aquí.

An Op-Ed I wrote a fortnight ago, but Bill beat me to the punch – unsurprising from a much better boxer than I would ever have been – and got his in The Washington Post instead…

Alexander Fiske-Harrison & Bill Hillmann with their awards for writing bull Cuéllar, August 2013 (Photo: Jim Hollander; Awards sculpted by Dyango Velasco)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison & Bill Hillmann with their awards for writing bull from Cuéllar from the book Fiesta (Photo: Jim Hollander; Awards sculpted by Dyango Velasco)



This weekend I paid my last visit to my friend Bill Hillmann in the Hospital of the Virgin of the Camino in Pamplona. There we celebrated Bill finally being given the all clear to return home to his native Chicago, ten long days after his wife Enid and I chased his ambulance from that morning’s running of the bulls. That story appeared in almost every news network in the world.

(The first to break it were The Times and The New York Times.)

Part of the reason for this notoriety was the superficial irony of his injury: Bill and I, along with Joe Distler a veteran bull-runner from New York, Jim Hollander the EPA photographer from Jerusalem and John Hemingway, Ernest’s grandson from Montreal, had written an electronic guide book titled Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona (website here) – available at Amazon US here, UK here, Australia here, Canada here, Spain here, France here, Mexico here (all other regions available too.)


As ‘man bites dog’ stories go, “bull-survival guide author gets injured by bull” is a shoe-in, and it seems churlish to point out that he did indeed survive. However, to claim, as many in the world’s press have done, that his advice is not worth taking as a result is a step too far.

For a decade Bill has run the annual eight days of encierros – bull-runs – of Pamplona’s feria of San Fermín unscathed, as he has in other less famous towns like San Sebastián de los Reyes, Alcalá de Henares and Cuéllar, which has the oldest encierro in Spain, dating back to at least 1215 A.D.

Would the same reporters have said that driving advice from three-time Formula 1 champion Ayrton Senna was rendered invalid by his fatal crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix? Are Karl Wallenda’s views on high-wire walking to be dismissed since he fell to his death in Puerto Rico in 1978? No, dangerous activities will always be dangerous, the only thing experience, and its passing on as advice, can ever do is mitigate the risks, not eradicate them.

Read on by clicking here.

En castellano aquí.

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San Fermín So Far – 2014

Untitled It has been one hell of a Feria de San Fermín so far here in Pamplona, with highs and lows, screams and laughter, which, given that this Fiesta above all others is known to its devotees as a microcosm of life itself, should not be surprising. The world’s press likes a good story and didn’t they just like the one about Bill Hillmann, bull-runner and writer, being gored soon after the publication of the eBook Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona to which he contributed.

The anthology’s editor, Alexander Fiske-Harrison – also a contributor and a former bullfighter – was interviewed on Hillmann’s behalf while he was in surgery. (Fiske-Harrison had been running with the same bull moments before but escaped uninjured.) A small sample of the press coverage includes The Times, Daily TelegraphThe Guardian and The Independent in the UK, The New York Times, Washington Post , Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune in the US, The Huffington Post and Esquire magazine, El Mundo, ABC and El Pais in Spain, Midi Libre in France, The Spiegel in Germany, The Globe And Mail in Canada, The Australian, NPR, BBCCNN, Fox, CBS, Sky, and NBC.


Bill Hillmann being gored by a bull of Victoriano del Rio

Hillmann is recovering well, despite having a two inch wide, eight inch long hole punched through his hamstring by a 600kg (1,323 lbs / 94 stone) bull from Madrid. (The bull himself, Brevito, from the ranch of Victoriano del Río, ended honourably on the sword of the one-eyed matador Juan José Padilla – by coincidence Fiske-Harrison’s first teacher of bullfighting during his time as a torero as recounted in his book Into The Arena – the bull entered the ring with Hillmann’s blood still on its horn.)

As journalists we well know the allure of “man bites dog” stories, and the “expert bull-runner gets gored on bull-run” story fits the formula remarkably neatly and, with several hundred photographers already on site, it also neatly fills the empty column inches created by empty desks as the press goes on its July holiday. However, as a story, it has about as much irony as the famous Alanis Morissette song.

Bull-running involves moving in the vicinity of Spanish fighting bulls, and doing it in Pamplona involves doing it in half a mile of street along with three or so thousand people who have never done it before. However, for a bull-runner not to run Pamplona and to stick to smaller towns like Tafalla or Alcala de Henares would be like a jockey turning down the Grand National or Kentucky Derby because it was dangerous and he was unlikely to win.

We’d suggest the journalists commenting otherwise actually read the book. Otherwise they run the risk of looking more than a little foolish themselves.

Joe Distler, another co-author of Fiesta who ran every bull-run in Pamplona from 1967 to 2012, once answered a question as to why he did it thus:

‘Have you heard of Karl Wallenda? He was a great high-wire walker, and when asked why he still dared fate after being seriously hurt he calmly replied, “Walking the wire is life, everything else is just waiting around.” That’s why I run.’

Wallenda was killed walking the wire. Would anyone question his ability to give advice on it as a result?


For ten years Hillmann has been coming to Pamplona from the US, and for the past two he also went to the oldest encierro – ‘bull-run’ – in Spain, Cuéllar, along with other smaller towns. As Americans go, that’s knowledgeable, hence his contribution to the book.

However, the true magicians on the encierros like Miguel Ángel Castander have been running all their lives, in thousands of encierros, as well as being a professional recortador and pastor, ‘herdsman’, in the encierro of San Sebastián de los Reyes (You can see him here with the bull which gored Hillmann. He is pulling the tail, then later distracting it with his body as the lure. This is what Hillmann was – perhaps foolhardily – attempting when the bull caught him a few moments later. Note the men in green shirts with sticks. They are Pamplona’s pastores – ‘herdsman’ – like the Fran Irarte, the man losing his hair.)


This is why in the book also includes advice from four of the most experienced Spanish and Basque runners with over 10,000 runs between them. It also worth pointing out that you don’t run for competition or to impress, there is no keeping score or ‘experts': running is for the alegría, for the sheer ‘joy’ of putting it on the line. This is the reason the guide book is the only one in any language with a foreword from the Mayor of Pamplona himself.

There are other things in the encierro as well, like history and camaraderie. The first of the serious American bull-runners Matt Carney is the father of this tradition – he was Joe Distler’s great mentor. So, to see two of his children – Allen and Deirdre – in the street together awaiting the bulls on calle Mercaderes, near the famous ‘curve’ onto calle Estafeta, was a moving sight this morning; as moving still was seeing Clive Fiske Harrison in the street with the bulls alongside Joe Distler and former Texan rodeo champion Larry Belcher.

From bottom left: Joe Distler, Carlos Manriquez, Clive Fiske Harrison - Pamplona bull-runners breakfast (after the run)

Left hand side of the table, from bottom: Joe Distler, Carlos Manriquez, Clive Fiske Harrison, J-J Centurion, Bunny Centurion, Rick Musica (tongue out), Erik Whiteway, Craig McPherson (standing), Victor Lombardi (opposite), Jack Denault (sunglasses on head) – Pamplona bull-runners post-encierro breakfast 2014

That was also the same day another ‘Anglo-Saxon’ – as all English-speakers are referred to in Spain – runner mentioned in the book, El cohete escocés, ‘The Scottish Rocket’, Angus Ritchie, was trampled. Apparently he protested to paramedics that being taken to hospital was unnecessary. However, since his reasoning was that his bleeding head-wound was not from a bull, but from the night before, and self-inflicted at that, maybe they sensibly ignored his protests. That or they took his thick Paisley burr for a symptom of a subdural haematoma.  Pamplona takes all sorts. We even had Charlie Sheen staying in the Hemingway suite at Hotel La Perla providing light entertainment to those watching the encierro from Noel Chandler’s balcony opposite.

The Editor.

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Updating… watch this space…

… the new post will be up in one hour… The Editor

(Meanwhile, read Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona)

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The Last Arena: The Times: Bullfight cancelled after three matadors badly gored


Here, here.

The Editor

AFH The Times article logo

As Graham Keeley in The Times of London writes today, despite my 4,000-word post (recently extended) on the art of toreo below, it is the risk that makes it ‘real’ as Adolfo Suarez Illana used to say to me in the ring, ‘authentic’ as one Andalusian government official called it to me last Thursday, ‘the last serious thing left in the world today’ as the poet Federico Garcia Lorca put it.

I saw David Mora do amazing work in the ring in Seville two weeks ago today, and the other two toreros last year. I wish them well and a quick and complete recovery. Unlike my rather grotesque and viciously moralising compatriots writing in the comments section of The Times, who are like another Taliban in their own petit way, and who seem too dim or venomous to realise…
click logo below to read on…

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