The sounds of barbers' scissors busily clipping away and the reek of nail varnish remover invaded Barcelona's most emblematic central square, the Plaza de Catalunya, earlier this week in an unusual – but popular – demonstration of public solidarity with those struggling in Spain's worst recession since the 1950s.
In what was surely Catalunya's first ever open-air beauty parlour, some of the city's top hairdressers – amongst the 50 present were big names like Cebado, Polopelo, Salvaje and La Pelu – offered cut-price cuts and manicures in a bid to raise money for the Father Manel Foundation, which is run by a priest who works with socially marginalised people in two working-class inner-city districts of Barcelona.
Compared with usual prices in Catalunya, the charges were more than reasonable: around €10 for a straight haircut for an adult – half-price for children – and two euros for a manicure.To make the offer even harder to resist, local bands playing on a stage in the middle of the square accompanied the charity drive, entitled Deixa't prendre el pel pel pere Manel [Let your hair be cut for Father Manel]. "It's a great idea, you're not pressuring people and for such highly regarded people in this trade to collaborate is good," Father Manel told the newspaper El País.
The public's response was hearteningly positive, with more than 100 customers waiting for a cut by midday. "At 10 o'clock in the morning there were already so many people there they were giving them appointments for five in the afternoon," one witness said.