Pamplona, bull running, bull gorings, Esquire TV and poetry from New York


The Fiesta so far has been one of moments of glory and moments of hilarity, all among old strangers and new friends. The star of the show has been the American bull-runner Dennis Clancey, formerly of 20th Special Forces Group in Iraq, and now one of the presenters of Esquire TV’s coverage of the encierro, the ‘bull-run’, as you can see in the photo below.

Dennis Clancey on Esquire TV in Pamplona

Dennis Clancey, centre, on Esquire TV in Pamplona

Dennis was running on the horns of the main herd of the bulls on July 9th down calle Mercaderes when the lone lead bull, which had shot out in front, came crashing to the ground in front of various runners standing on the side including the legendary Joe Distler. However, before anyone else could react, Dennis reached out with his hand and with a click of his fingers summoned the bull to join the rest of the herd and took them all around the curve.

Some were not so lucky, on July 7th, Mike Webster from Gainesville, Florida, photographed below running in previous years, was gored in the chest by a bull from the Jandilla ranch. However, Mike was released from hospital later that day and we’ve seen him recovering in various bars around town, dining out on his story. (Not true, Mike is one of the more dignified and humble runners.)

Mike Webster in striped top right

Mike Webster in striped orange and navy shirt

This weekend is set to be the most dangerous weekend of running, with the French Bastille Day holiday releasing thousands of new runners into the streets. Luckily a runner we haven’t seen so much of in the run this year, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, is present as ever in the press, having published ‘The survivor’s guide to running with the bulls’ in The Local, Spain’s English language newspaper (online here).

He is photographed below with John Hemingway (by Cristen Hemingway Jaynes, another of Ernest’s grandchildren) in Bar Windsor after running on July 7th this year.

Ernest Hemingway's grandson John talking with Alexander Fiske-Harrison in the Fiesta of Pamplona 2015, taken by Ernest's granddaughter Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

Ernest Hemingway’s grandson John talking with Alexander Fiske-Harrison in the Fiesta of Pamplona 2015, taken by Ernest’s granddaughter Cristen Hemingway Jaynes

We took this photo from his blog as apparently where he claims he has fled to France to avoid the French for the weekend.

We leave you below with his contribution to the magazine of the New York City Club Taurino (with thanks to Lore Monig, the club president.)

Lucy G.

(Dep. Ed.)



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Bulls Before Breakfast


Bulls Before Breakfast cover

It’s not often we recommend a book other than the e-Guide Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona, but our friend Peter Milligan’s book Bulls Before Breakfast is proving to be a cracking read – witty, well-researched and well-written. It was also nice to see the authorial staff of Fiesta getting their nods, from John Hemingway – Ernest’s grandson – who wrote the foreword, to the following description of the annual, end of feria runners’ breakfast at Casa Paco with Joe Distler, Jim Hollander and Alexander Fiske-Harrison. We enclose the screenshot from the Kindle edition. Given it’s published by St. Martin’s Press, the “mainstream and bestseller” imprint of Macmillan, and that it’s already been in the New York Post, we feel sure it will do well.

P.S.  Ari Deutsch is Milligan’s brother.

The Editor

Bulls Before Breakfast JD1

Here is Jim Hollander’s photo of that breakfast. There are, indeed, legends here, especially Julen Madina and Miguel Ángel Eguiluz, who also contributed to Fiesta.)

Casa Paco

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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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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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The Last Arena: The Statue And The Storm


From our friend in the south…

The Editor


José Mari Manzanares shows his art in Jerez


Cristina Ybarra presents her poster for the Rocío pilgrimage in the Salón de Borbón at the City Hall of Seville

Cristina Ybarra presents her poster for the Rocío pilgrimage in the Salón de Borbón at the Ayuntiamento, ‘City Hall’, of Seville

On Friday morning we took the train from Seville to Jerez and the temperature went south alongside us to a bearable 30 degrees. We exited the world of Ybarras and (encaste) Ibarra, Borbóns and (liquid) bourbon, and entered the land of horses and Domecqs. (For a story about my Zippo lighter, see Cristina Ybarra’s blog here.)

As I said in my last post, the bulls and bullfights of the Feria de Abril of Seville had been bad – the bullfighters unable to show either art with them or skill. I have written before – on this blog, in my book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight – that large bulls, such as a first category bull-ring like Seville requires by law, have a far greater probability of being unfightable than the smaller ones found in a second category bullring like Jerez de la Frontera.

As the Royal Decree No. 145 of February 2nd, 1996, states in Article 46:

The minimum weight of animals in bullfights will be from 460kg in rings of the first category, from 435 in those of the second and 410 in those of the third.

Now, all aficionados look at the weight of bulls before they enter the ring, however, often they do not look – and in certain rings they do not publish – and the equally important age of the animal, which, of course, bears a varying and indirec relation to its weight. The toreros, ‘bullfighters’, I know and have fought with all spoke as often about age as size or horn type. A year in a bull’s life is a long time. So, although the same Royal Decree pronounces in the preceding article, 45, that –

The males that are destined to be fought in bullfights should be as a minimum four full years and in every case less than six.

– this still offers a two year range which is the difference between headlong aggression and a more judicious and challenging approach to what the bull perceives as a combat.
IMG_5669Of the El Pilar bulls we saw in Seville not only were four over 550kg, but four were also over five years old (three of both fours being the same bulls). In part this explained their lack nobleza, ‘nobility’, a concept which can be explicated in terms of unquestioning aggression or volatile stupidity, depending on your viewpoint. (The high casuality rate among the officer class in all conflicts leading up to and including the First World War in no way springs to mind. The full nature of the toro bravo I go into in one of the ‘pages’ listed top right of this website. For those whose main interest is how bullfighting can still exist in the modern world – the ethics – or why I refer to its as an art – the aesthetics – or a breakdown of the three act structure of a corrida – capote-picador, banderillas, muleta-sword – there are also ‘pages’ there on these topics.)

When you combine these old wise bulls who ‘speak Latin and Greek’, as the saying goes, with young unknown – or older and relatively little known – toreros the audience of Seville vote with their feet and wallets, not least because bad toros and toreros cost no less than great ones at the Maestranza box office (photo above), and you’d do better to spend your money on a cocktail at the Hotel Alfonso XIII (photo left), and read the critics in the Spanish newspapers bemoan the lack of a single true toro in the whole damned feria (photo below.)

The Spanish newspaper ABC bemoans the lack of bulls with the headline 'When there is raw material' (click to enlarge)

The Spanish newspaper ABC bemoans the lack of bulls with the headline ‘When there is raw material’ (click to enlarge)

Click logo below to read on…

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The Last Arena: Between one feria and the next


News of the bulls from the south of Spain. Let us hope by the time they come north, they’re in better shape…

(Click the logo below to read.)

The Editor

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The Last Arena: The Dead God With Cold Eyes

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I submitted this article for my column in Taki’s Magazine. However, I was told by the editor that she’d had quite enough about bulls. Which is ironic, given what it says. Anyway, here it is, for what it’s worth.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

Alexander Fiske-Harrison waiting for the bulls, Cuéllar 2013 (Photo: Enrique Madroño Arranz)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison waiting for the bulls, Cuéllar 2013 (Photo: Enrique Madroño Arranz)

Dead Gods With Cold Eyes

I nearly died the other day. Not, like the time before when John Hemingway, Ernest’s grandson, pulled me out from a stampede in Pamplona or the time before that when Eduardo Dávila Miura pulled me out of a bull-ring in Palma del Río. This time was for real.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison begins to run with the bulls, Cuéllar 2013 (Photo: Enrique Madroño Arranz)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison begins to run with the bulls, Cuéllar 2013 (Photo: Enrique Madroño Arranz)

I was running with the bulls of Cuéllar, which is a much like running with the bulls of Pamplona, only the town is smaller, the encierro – ‘bull-run’ – more ancient (the most ancient, in fact, as I wrote in the Financial Times), less crowded, and those that do turn up are mainly local, all Spanish, with not a drunk or first-timer among them.

Cuellar photo 3 blogDespite this I still managed to bump into someone as I passed a lone, stationary bull in a narrow stretch of street. Being lighter than me, he was knocked to safety, but I dropped where I was and the commotion drew the bull’s eyes – black, bovine, lifeless and colour-blind, following only movement – and it charged across the street, skittering to a halt on its hooves as I similarly fought for grip in my new, untested running shoes.

With my back against the wall, its horns either side of my chest – literally – and, unlike in Pamplona or an official plaza de toros, no surgeon within a forty-five minute drive, I saw my own death ahead of me. However, for some reason the bull decided today was not my day and moved on, most likely because I had the presence of mind to freeze, making myself invisible to the clockwork brain behind the horns.

Read on at The Last Arena by clicking here.

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From The Last Arena: Back To School

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A fortnight ago I accepted a prize from the most ancient encierros, ‘bull-runs’, in all of Spain, those of the town of Cuéllar.

Earlier that morning I nearly died while running them. The bull in the photo-detail below was suelto – ‘loose’, alone – and faced away from me when I seized what I thought was a chance and tried to run past it in the narrow street.

At the same moment, another runner tried to do exactly the same from the other direction. When we collided, both of us with eyes only on the bull, he was bounced clear to safety while I lost my footing on the slippery street at the very instant the bull caught our movement in its peripheral vision and charged me as I struggled to get upright with my back against the fence.

In this moment – which lasted as infinitely long as all the novelists, journalists and diarists of near-death say it does – I stood so still as to render myself invisible to the bull whose horn points were paused either side of my chest. Read on at The Last Arena here.

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