Meet the Welshman who is a councillor responsible for tourism and civil rights in his Spanish home town
A miner’s son from Rhondda who moved to Spain more than 40 years ago has become the councillor in charge of tourism and civil rights in the coastal town where he lives.
Brandon Jones, who lives with his Catalan husband in Sitges, near Barcelona, has embarked on a late political career in his early 70s, having been elected to represent the Green Party.
In 2022 he was awarded the British Empire Medal for his community work in the late Queen’s last Birthday Honours List. The longstanding co-owner of Casablanca cocktail bar is a stalwart of the LGBTI+ community in Sitges. He invests much of his time and energy into a variety of local charitable and cultural projects, often using the bar as the venue for his fundraising efforts.
In 1999 Brandon founded, and later became chairman of, the Sitges English Theatre Company. In 2011, he co-founded Gay Sitges Link to provide help and assistance to the LGBTI+ community, and with his support it has grown exponentially to offer emotional, psychological and legal support, rapid HIV testing and a variety of social activities.
Brandon is also a key proponent of cultural interchange. In 2012, he launched the Irish-Catalan Festival in Sitges, celebrating Irish culture and bringing over 700 visitors from the island of Ireland each year. And, building on this success, he co-founded the Welsh Catalan Cultural Association – promoting historical and cultural links between Wales and Catalonia. The Association has organised a Welsh Festival and Photographic Exhibition in Sitges, as well as the annual St David’s Day dinner.
Hugh Elliott, the British Ambassador to Spain, said at the time Brandon was awarded the BEM: “Brandon is a true cultural ambassador and his annual festivals have strengthened links between the UK and Spain; in particular between Wales and the island of Ireland, and Catalonia. But it is for his pioneering charity work with Gay Sitges Link that Brandon most deserves to be recognised. The association’s motto is “The Pride of Creating Community” and Brandon has been key to making that happen – bringing together likeminded individuals to create a resource for the community, including the tens of thousands of LGBTI+ visitors who come to Sitges each year. This honour is very richly deserved.”
Brandon’s father was a coal miner from Tonypandy who was also a boxer. He won a scholarship to Oxford. Speaks French, Spanish, Catalan, English and is learning Welsh.
Brandon was the youngest of a family of six. One of his grandmothers, Elizabeth O’Leary, became the first woman Mayor of Rhondda in the 1950s.
Brandon spent three years of his early life in Crossways Orthopaedic Hospital in Cowbridge suffering from Perthes disease. He overcame this and later played rugby for Porth County Grammar school, The Rhondda Valley XV as well as for the Penygraig youth team. One of Brandon’s brothers, Eugene Jones, played for Penygraig and then for Bridgend as a hooker.
At Porth County, Brandon was also one of the members of the amateur dramatic club as well as being chosen as Head Boy.
After Porth County Brandon studied French at Corpus Christi College in Oxford and, along with other friends from Porth County, Sir Wyn Williams and Peter Kiff, also played for the Corpus XV.
After leaving Corpus Brandon joined Trust House Forte and became manager of three restaurants in Oxford Circus, Piccadilly and Mayfair.
Following his time in London he became an export executive with various Scotch whisky companies over a period of 18 years, travelling to many parts of the world.
It was on a trip to Spain in 1981, when he was looking for an importer/distributor, that Brandon met a Catalan man, Juan, who was later to become his husband.
Juan and Brandon have now been together for 42 years living in Sitges,
Thanks to a colleague in the Whyte & MacKay, whisky company Brandon and Juan became the representatives for BBC TV Sport from 1989-1992, helping the BBC to set up their infrastructure for the highly successful Barcelona Olympics in 1992.
In 1998 they opened a cocktail bar, Casablanca, and art gallery in Sitges which for many years was the no. 1 on TripAdvisor and in 2013 they got married.
Sitges is a highly creative town with many festivals and art exhibitions throughout the year and in 2,000 Brandon co-founded the Sitges English Theatre Company; in 2010 Gay Sitges Link; in 2012 the Irish-Catalan Arts Festival and in 2018, along with Peter Harris, the Welsh-Catalan Cultural Association. He speaks French, Spanish, Catalan, English and is learning Welsh.
Brandon said: “Having grown up in the Rhondda Valley in south Wales and as a former keen rugby player, the importance of team and community spirit are part of my DNA. That’s why I’m always keen to help people integrate into the wonderful creative, cosmopolitan community here in Sitges.”
Peter Harris, previously Wales Secretary of the PCS trade union, who now lives in Sitges, said: “Brandon has worked tirelessly for the town of Sitges over many years.
Working in partnership with others he has helped create a vibrant community with an outstanding annual cultural programme of events. His work has also strengthened the links between Wales and Ireland with Catalonia as well as supporting LGBTI+ residents and visitors. In my role as secretary of the Welsh Catalan Cultural association I have enjoyed working with Brandon in keeping the Welsh flag flying in Sitges”.
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