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Soul of Fire – She fought for peaceRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 13/12/2015

By Randall Calvin

Bertha von Suttner – Monologue for Maxi Blaha by Susanne Wolf

 

EU Spectator had the pleasure to meet the wonderful actress Maxi Blaha at the European Parliament in Brussels, where she provided the audience with an outstanding performance based on the renowned Austrian pacifist, Bertha von Suttner, being the central figure of “Feuerseele – Sie kämpfte für den Frieden,“ “Soul of fire – She fought for peace.”

The well-known Austrian Actress Maxi Blaha portrays in deliberately and chronologically chosen chapters, contrasts and episodes, the main concerns of B. v. Suttner. Either passionate humanitarian engagements or dramatic love-affairs in later years, the heroine’s life’s vicissitudes are presented in a moving, yet humorous manner.

The performance lasts for just under one hour, but for the purpose of this video, we have just given you just a short edited flavour of the piece.

Suttner, a strong woman, openly and directly struggles with her basic being. She reveals her visions, her feelings and her misery. She shows the ups and down of her struggle with life.
 She does so unsparingly honest and hopefully idealistic.

Susanne F. Wolf’s play indicates where Bertha’s life and exogenous conditions harmonized or contradicted with her biography. Based upon scientific research, the play puts the important political, psychological and emotional aspects of Suttner’s life into focus. Passages from Suttner’s book and literary text are subtly mingled.
 The musically accompanied ”one woman play” in English is a stirring stocktaking of our times, showing that the great visions and ideals of B. v. S. have remained unresolved to this day and age.
 The play is a theatrical endeavour to disseminate the ideas of the great humanist, to keep them alive.

The debut performance of the play took place in the Austrian parliament in 2014. Over 100 performances all over Austria, in Paris, Istanbul, Oslo, Maribor, Bratislava, in the USA, Canada, all over Japan, in Australia, New Zealand and Iran. Maxi Blaha was invited to international theatre festivals as well as to the European Parliament in Brussels and the United Nations.

Fore more visit her website: http://maxiblaha.at/

 



 

Silent moments in music – Per-Olov KindgrenRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 29/11/2015

By Randall Calvin

There are many fine musicians who publish their music on the internet, and play music for our enjoyment for free. One such individual I found on YouTube, is the feature of our culture article today.

He is a classical guitarist, and since I first subscribed to his channel some years ago, I have progressively become an enormous fan of his work. He plays a variety of original and cover pieces solo on his Spanish guitar. It is a particular genre of course, but if you like short relaxing music videos, you really should visit his channel, where you will find a vast selection of his work. He comes across as a very unassuming man, and although he never speaks in his videos, in terms of introducing or commenting on the piece, I feel his music speaks for him.

Kindgren was born in Bogotá, Colombia, to a Swedish father and a more Danish mother on the 10th of June, 1956. His father, Owe, an engineer, worked for the Colombian branch of LM Ericsson installing telephone stations. The family returned to Stockholm when Kindgren was three years old. He lived there from 1960 till 1970.

At the age of six, Kindgren was fascinated by a bright red electric guitar in a shop window. The Beatles became his heroes, and he especially admired Paul McCartney. His parents gave him a classical guitar for his seventh birthday. In 1970 he saw a documentary about John Williams broadcast on Danish national television, and from that day on, he knew what he wanted to become. When Kindgren was 14 years old, his family moved to the border town of Helsingør inDenmark.

There he could more easily attend a Swedish high school in Helsingborg, where he met his first classical guitar teacher, Torvald Nilsson. 

In 1976 Kindgren began to study at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, where he moved during his studies and where he lives and works today. He studied there for seven years with professor Per-Olof Johnson until his graduation in 1983. While continuing his studies, he became a music teacher, teaching at music schools in Vallensbæk and Gentofte for 24 years.

 

 

 

Today Kindgren works as a music teacher at the music school in Gentofte, which provides him with a steady living in addition to the concerts he performs. He also sells transcripts of his sheet music online through his website.

In 1979 he joined with three other guitarists, forming the Nordic Guitar Quartet, which performed more than 400 concerts through the years. Kindgren composes pieces for solo guitar, as well as for duets, trios, quartets, and up to septets and octets for guitar. In 1998 he composed pieces for choir, orchestra, and a rock band for the 25th anniversary of the Vallensbæk music school; in 2000 he composed a Christmas Oratorio for organ, guitar, flutes, choir and narrator. In 2009, the great French guitarist and composer Jean Marie Raymond wrote for him a beautiful piece, a little jewel called “As Always.”

Kindgren’s style is mainly classical, with influences from jazz, blues, and easy listening. In addition to his classical repertoire, Kindgren also plays works of The Beatles and Metallica. Kindgren likes to describe his own compositions as “songs without words.” I recommend you check out his Youtube channel, and enjoy the music.

 

Discography

  • 1992 – Images, Nordic Guitar Quartet (Primaveramusic)
  • 2008 – After Silence (Villa Luisa Records)
  • 2010 – Distant Love
  • 2011 – AIR

For more visit his website: http://www.per-olovkindgren.com/  

 



 

Award of the LUX Prize 2015 in the European Parliament


Posted 25/11/2015

This year's award of the LUX Prize went to "Mediterranea" by Jonas Carpignano. The finalists included "Mustang" by Deniz Gamze Ergüven -and "Urok" by Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov.

Since 2007, the European Parliament LUX FILM PRIZE casts an annual spotlight on films that go to the heart of European public debate. The Parliament believes that cinema, a mass cultural medium, can be an ideal vehicle for debate and reflection on Europe and its future.

The films selected for the LUX FILM PRIZE competition help to air different views on some of the main social and political issues of the day and, as such, contribute to building a stronger European identity. They help celebrate the universal reach of European values, illustrate the diversity of European traditions and shed light on the process of European integration.

The films selected for the LUX FILM PRIZE competition help to air different views on some of the main social and political issues of the day and, as such, contribute to building a stronger European identity. They help celebrate the universal reach of European values, illustrate the diversity of European traditions and shed light on the process of European integration.

The LUX FILM PRIZE has become a quality label backing European film productions. Its winning films have become hits within the EU and beyond. It has helped publicise films that might have otherwise been seen and discovered by few people and has put the spotlight on urgent topical issues.

When Parliament created the LUX FILM PRIZE, it decided to focus on distribution because it believes that this is “the Achilles heel of European cinema.” Unlike the largely unified North American market, the film industry in European countries faces huge organisational and economic difficulties which are worsened by language barriers.

Winner of LUX FILM Prize: Mediterranea
By Jonas Carpignano
Synopsis:
Ayiva recently left his home in Burkina Faso in search of a way to provide for his sister and his daughter. He takes advantage of his position in an illegal smuggling operation to get himself and his best friend Abas off of the continent. Ayiva adapts to life in Italy, but when tensions with the local community rise, things become increasingly dangerous. Determined to make his new situation work he attempts to weather the storm, but it has its costs.

ScreenplayJonas Carpignano
Cast: Alassane Sy, Pio Amato, Francesco Papasergio, Koudous Seihon
Cinematography by: Wyatt Garfield
Film editing: Sanabel Cherqaoui, Affonso Goncalves, Nico Leunen
Art director: Alan Lampert, Paolo Nanni
Production: Good Films, DCM Productions, Good Lap Production, Maiden Voyage Pictures, Audax Films (US), Court 13 Pictures (US), End Cue Productions (US), Le Grisbi Productions (US), Nomadic Independence Pictures (US), Sunset Juction Entertainment (US), TideRock Media (US), Treehouse Pictures (US)



 

Fall of the Berlin Wall: Anniversary Celebrations


Posted 10/11/2015

The 9th of November marks the anniversary of the one of the most significant events in recent Germany's history: The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

While 2015’s memorial events were rather more subdued than last year’s 25th anniversary in 2014, tens of thousands of Berliners and tourists gathered at the centre of the once-divided city. Many wandered along a nine-mile strip where the wall once stood, and 7,000 illuminated helium balloons were perched, matching the height of the barrier built in 1961.

Yesterday in Brussels to commemorate the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 25th anniversary of German reunification, Kristalina Georgieva and Günther Oettinger officially inaugurated "the Kennedy piece" of the Berlin wall, in the presence of Wolfgang Schäuble, Minister of Finance of the Federal Republic of Germany.

This piece of history will permanently stand on the Berlaymont's esplanade as a symbol of an enlarged and united Europe.

Meanwhile, speaking in Berlin on the 26th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Tusk described Germany and Chancellor Angela Merkel personally as examples of the best European values.

"Those who believe that Germany is too open, too tolerant, too liberal, forgot to do their homework about our tragic history," said Tusk, a former Polish Prime minister.

"Do you want a Germany that is open, tolerant, compassionate, sympathizing with the weaker and the poorer, in other words the Germany of Angela Merkel, or a Germany which is closed, cold and ruthless? There is only one answer," he added.

Therefore, other European states should show solidarity towards Germany "in these difficult and testing times," he said.

EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker has accused national leaders of sapping efforts to tackle the migration crisis by not honouring commitments on money and resources.

 



 

Goodbye Expo Milano 2015


Posted 01/11/2015

Expo Milano 2015 came to an end yesterday and the eyes of the world now turn to Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, which will host the event in 2017.

The six-month-long event, whose motto was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life,” was dedicated to the vital need for mankind to ensure enough healthy food for all, while respecting nature. More than 140 countries and organizations presented solutions at their pavilions, of which a record number of 54 were self-built, around the expo's theme.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and other officials including Vicente Loscertales, Secretary-General of the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), which is the organization in charge of overseeing world expos, attended the closing ceremony held at the Expo site.

Before officially concluding the Expo Milano 2015, Mattarella said he was honoured to end an event which spread huge positive energy for the building of a better future for humanity and for the planet.

"Expo will leave us an important legacy born from dialogue and hope. Today it is not a farewell, but the beginning of a new civic commitment," he highlighted.

While much will be written about the cost and legacy of the event, Italians should be satisfied, as the six-month-long Expo Milano 2015 showcased tech innovation, especially from Italy, and the host country made clever use of this opportunity to show off its start-ups.

Naturally well placed, with a theme like food, the host country, Italy, known for its gastronomic megastores around the world, Italian food chain Eataly boasted a 8,000 square meter pavilion that had nothing to envy from other large food producing countries, and also featured an art exhibition aimed at representing Italy’s heritage.

Yet, Italy did more than reminding Expo visitors of its capacity to attract tourists and serve them great food. More generally, it did its best to look at its future and not just at its past.

Loscertales, Secretary-General of BIE, defined the Milan event as "great success" for Italy and for all participant countries and organizations of the world. Overall, 21 million visitors, of which around one third were non-Italian. 

The world exhibition also had VIP guests, over 60 heads of state and government, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Premier David Cameron and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, as well as by a number of international celebrities.

Expo Milano 2015 "has made its place in the history of expos," Loscertales highlighted.

Expo Sole Commissioner of the Italian Government Giuseppe Sala thanked the governments, organizations, companies and people of the world who participated in the Milan Expo with "the spirit of unity which is a necessary condition for development."

"I am convinced that among the millions of people who have visited this Expo we have spread not only knowledge but also more awareness of the urgency to give concrete answers to the contradictions of a planet where there are people who starve to death and others who have diseases caused by over-nourishment," Milan Mayor Giuliano Pisapia said.

The BIE flag was lowered and handed over to Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, which in 2017 will play host to the international exposition focused on "Future Energy," and to Dubai, where the next world exposition will take place in 2020 under the theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future."

 



 

 

Irish Special Forces win prestigious international sniper competitionRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 25/10/2015

By Randall Calvin

The Irish Special Forces unit, the Army Ranger Wing, has won a prestigious international sniper competition, beating a host of international competitors, including the US Marine Corp and the FBI.

The team won both the international and overall categories at the 15th annual United States Sniper Competition at Fort Benning in Georgia, becoming the first non-American team to win both categories. Other teams entered included the U.S Rangers, Airborne, Marine Corps and Mountain Divisions, the F.B.I Swat Team as well as teams from Britain, Canada, Germany and Denmark.

The competition takes place over four arduous days in the Deep South marsh and bush lands, encompassing 16 individual challenges with very little rest between. Tests include a sniper stalk, movement shoots by day and night, obstacles courses, pistol shoots, stress shoots and unknown distance shoots.

The Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces Vice Admiral Mark Mellett DSM said: “The Army Ranger Wing have long been regarded as one of the finest Special Forces Units in the world. This victory is testament to their hard training and resolve.”

The goal is “to identify the best sniper team from a wide range of agencies and organisations.”

Last year the previous Defence Forces team came second in the International Category and placed 21st overall. The Army Ranger Wing previously placed second in both 2011 and 2012.

The Ranger Wing has been deployed overseas since working in Somalia in 1994, and has served on peace-keeping and peace enforcement missions across the globe. The unit can also serve as protection for senior Irish army officers deployed in high ranking posts in high risk areas. Domestically they have worked to counter the threat of dissident republicans.

There is no direct English translation of the term 'Fianóglach' so the designation Ranger is the accepted version. 'Fianóglach' links the traditions of 'Na Fianna', legendary Irish warriors, with the present day Óglaigh na hÉireann, the Defence Forces. Qualified members of the unit wear the Fianóglach shoulder flash insignia.  The rapid emergence of new technology and the increasing diversity of potential tasks dictated the requirement for logical contingency planning. The need for a high level of preparedness to deal with any requests for operations of a specific nature is inherent in the Unit mission. From its foundation it was necessary for the ARW to ensure that the highest standards pertained at all levels of the Unit. Motivation, training and operational flexibility are paramount to success. This is achieved by ensuring the highest level of individual proficiency allied to the C3 (Command, Control & Communications) function, all of which knit together to form cohesive military teamwork.

ARW Special Operations Force Qualification Course (SOFQ)

The SOFQ course is 36 weeks long and is divided into 5 distinct modules:

 

            • Module 1: Assessment & Evaluation
            • Module 2: Skills & Leadership
            • Module 3: SOF TTPs
            • Module 4: Counter Terrorism TTPs
            • Module 5: Continuation training

 



Frankfurt book fair – where all that we will read is decidedRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 18/10/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

This year’s edition of the world's largest event in the publishing industry closes its doors today after five frantic days. The fair distances itself from traditional book fairs, as more than 500 publishing agencies negotiate and decide which and where books around the world will be published. The fair is essentially about business.

In other words, the exhibition is the most important trade hub for international publishing rights, says Petra Hardt, head of rights and licenses for the German publisher Suhrkamp Verlag.

Representatives from book publishing and multimedia companies from all over the world come to the Frankfurt Book Fair in order to negotiate international publishing rights and licensing fees.

The fair is organised by a subsidiary company of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. For five days more than 8,000 exhibitors from over 100 countries and more than 300,000 visitors take part in the event.

The Frankfurt book fair spans more than 500 years. Soon after Johannes Gutenberg had developed printing in movable letters in Mainz near Frankfurt, the first book fair was held by local booksellers. Until the end of the 17th century, it was the most important book fair in Europe.

As a consequence of political and cultural developments, it was eclipsed by the Leipzig Book Fair during the Enlightenment.

After World War II, the first book fair was held again in 1949 at the St. Paul's Church. Since then, it has regained its pre-eminent position.

Considered as the most important book fair in the world for international deals and trading, this edition wanted to reflect the current migration situation in Germany. Under the ethos “Books Say Welcome,” more than 6,000 bookshops across Germany this week collected financial donations from their customers to help purchase school books and language teaching material for learning centres close to refugee centres.  

Although food and shelter may be a priority for the record numbers of often desperate refugees arriving in Germany, the organisers of this year’s edition decided to offer free passes to refugees. The refugees were able to visit the stands of publishers from their home countries, such as Syria.

"The ability to read is a basic condition for participating in society and in democracy," said Juergen Boos, organiser of the Frankfurt exhibition.  Underlining the crucial part education plays in migrants' integration, Boos said "we have to go to where the refugees are and make learning material and books readily available to them." 

But this year’s edition was not without controversy, the choice of Salman Rushdie as guest speaker at the world’s largest publishing event angered the Iranian ministry of culture, which cancelled its participation in the book fair saying that “fair officials chose the theme of freedom of expression, but they invited someone who has insulted our beliefs.” Iran placed a fatwa on Rushdie after publication of his 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, forcing the Booker-winning novelist into hiding for years.

Polemics aside, this year, Phil Collins and Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei memoirs made waves at the fair, they were among the forthcoming books causing excitement at the industry’s international trade event.

Another highlight of the week was the announcement of Bodley Head of the acquisition of “And The Weak Suffer What They Must?” a “devastating” critique of austerity written by former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The book will be out in April 2016, in which argues that austerity is a threat to the global economy and provides insides of his role in Greece’s debt negotiations.

Major deals have also been struck for a handful of debut novels: Scottish author Gail Honeyman landed a high six-figure sum for "Eleanor Oliphant," the story of a girl who doesn’t belong, after an eight-way auction, while Abbi Waxman’s debut "The Vegetable Gardener’s Companion"  has been racking up foreign deals, and Canadian screenwriter Elan Mastai’s first novel "All Our Wrong Todays" landed an advance from US publisher Dutton Penguin reported at €1.10m.

As the 67th edition of the Frankfurt Book fairs closes its doors, the organisers are already well under way preparing 2016 edition, in which Belgium and the Netherlands will be the guests of honour. 

 



 

Special guests join U2 on stage in Barcelona


Posted 12/10/2015

VIP treatment

Bono and the boys were joined on stage in Barcelona on Sunday by some very famous guests, although their dance moves may not have been very well choreographed by the crowd didn’t seem to mind.

Oscar-winning actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in the picture.

Bardem was first up and performed a rather interesting dance with his blue feather boa, sidling-up to not only Bono, but Larry, Adam and The Edge as well. It's a miracle Bono managed to belt out Mysterious Ways without guffawing his way through the lyrics. 

As soon as the song was over Cruz jumped up and appeared to be scolding her husband and ordered him to leave the stage, but Bardem wasn't budging until he got his picture taken with the band!

It was then Cruz' chance to get up close and personal with U2, she stayed on the stage with her blonde wig in place and filmed their performance of Desire.

The concert is part of U2’s iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE tour. The special show kicked off in the Bercy Arena in Paris. On their current tour, the band is showcasing their inventive set that allows the band to explore the concepts of iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE via a performance that literally moves throughout the venue via multiple stages, a one-of-a-kind interactive floor-to-ceiling arena-length LED screen, and a radical new approach to surround sound.

The iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE setlists span the band's entire career, from its 1980 debut album, "Boy," to its most recent release, "Songs of Innocence." The concepts of innocence and experience are explored in vivid musical and visual detail, progressing from songs inspired by the band members' earliest influences and formative life experiences through decades' worth of indelible anthems from the group that has won more Grammys than any other living rock band.

 



 

Vatican dismisses priest after he comes out as gay


Posted 03/10/2015

The Vatican dismissed a priest from his post in a Holy See office today after he told a newspaper he was gay and urged the Catholic Church to change its stance on homosexuality.

Monsignor Krzystof Charamsa was removed from his position at the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican's doctrinal arm, where he had worked since 2003, a statement said.

Mr Charamsa, 43, and a Polish theologian, announced he was gay and had a partner in a long interview with Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

He later held a news conference with his partner, a Spanish man, and gay activists at a Rome restaurant.

They had planned a demonstration in front of the Vatican but changed the venue several hours before it was due to have started.

The Vatican said Mr Charamsa's dismissal had nothing to do with his comments on his personal situation, which it said “merit respect.”

But it said giving the interview and the planned demonstration was “grave and irresponsible” given their timing on the eve of a synod of bishops who will discuss family issues, including how to reach out to gays.

It said his actions would subject the synod, which Pope Francis is due to open tomorrow, to “undue media pressure.”

The issue of homosexuality and the Church has dominated the aftermath of the Pope's visit to the United States last week.

In today’s interview, Mr Charamsa said his partner had helped him come to terms with his sexuality and knew he would have to give up the priesthood, although the Vatican statement made no reference to this outcome.

"It's time for the Church to open its eyes about gay Catholics and to understand that the solution it proposes to them, total abstinence from a life of love, is inhuman," he was quoted as saying.

The Catholic Church teaches that homosexuality is not a sin but that homosexual acts are.

The Vatican has been embarrassed by controversy over the Pope's meeting with Kim Davis, a Kentucky county clerk who went to jail in September for refusing to honour a US Supreme Court ruling and issue same-sex marriage licences.

The Vatican said yesterday that "the only real audience" the pope had during his visit to Washington was with a small group that included a gay couple.  

 



 

Historic Longchamp new €130 million grandstand


Posted 29/09/2015

It hosts one of the most glamorous days on the sporting calendar, but Paris' Longchamp racecourse has long been in need of a makeover.

Next month, following the conclusion of Sunday's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, work will start on a project that owner France Gallop hopes will transform the appearance of the historic horse racing venue and secure its financial future.

Architect Dominique Perrault's futuristic new stand design incorporates "transparent shelves," replacing two rather tired main grandstands.

 

Architect Dominique PerraultArchitect Dominique Perrault 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Erected in the early 1960s, the stands have always felt slightly at odds with their surroundings in the Bois de Boulogne, an 850-hectare public park on the French capital's western fringes.

The new building and overall redesign is costing €130 million and will feel less alien in the setting, Perrault insists. "Everybody is happy with the project because it has got more green space," Perrault said.

"For me, I like the relationship between the architecture and nature, it's very smooth, very delicate and poetic also."

A series of concrete plateaus will house restaurants, bars and terraced hospitality spaces with panoramic views.

"You can see in all directions," the Paris-based architect explains.

"The trackside looks out to the east onto Paris, the Eiffel Tower. To the west, you have the river Seine and a park. The idea is you walk on a different plateau and the view on either side is uninterrupted like a fluid promenade."

Service buildings currently scattered around the site will also be demolished and rebuilt as pavilions, while the racecourse's historic structures will be renovated.

 



 

Cinque Terre, Italy: Manarola and Riomaggiore


Posted 24/09/2015

If you ever get tired of life, bypass the therapist and decamp immediately to Cinque Terre. Here five crazily constructed fishing villages, set amid some of the most dramatic coastal scenery on the planet, ought to provide enough to bolster the most jaded of spirits. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, Cinque Terre isn't the undiscovered Eden it once was but, frankly, who cares?

Sinuous paths tempt the antisocial to traverse seemingly impregnable cliffsides, while a 19th-century railway line cut through a series of coastal tunnels ferries the less brave from village to village. Thankfully cars – those most ubiquitous of modern interferences – were banned over a decade ago.

Rooted in antiquity, Cinque Terre's five villages date from the early medieval period. Monterosso, the oldest, was founded in AD 643, when beleaguered hill dwellers moved down to the coast to escape from invading barbarians.

Riomaggiore came next, purportedly established in the 8th century by Greek settlers fleeing persecution in Byzantium. The others are Vernazza, Corniglia and Manarola. Much of what remains in the villages today dates from the late High Middle Ages, including several castles and a quintet of illustrious parish churches.

Buildings aside, Cinque Terre's unique historical feature are the steeply terraced cliffs bisected by a complicated system of fields and gardens that have been hacked, chiselled, shaped and layered over the course of nearly two millennia.

So marked are these artificial contours that some scholars have compared the extensive muretti (low stone walls) to the Great Wall of China in their grandeur and scope.

In October 2011 flash floods along the Ligurian coast wreaked havoc in Vernazza and Monterosso, burying historic streets and houses under metres of mud and killing half-a-dozen people. As of 2013, most businesses are open again, but check the status of the Sentiero Azzurro (blue walking trail) before you set out.

More info about travel to the Cinque Terre: http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/ital... Rick explores more of the Cinque Terre, from Manarola's cemeteries high in the hills to Riomaggiore's tangle of pastel houses.

At http://www.ricksteves.com, you'll find money-saving travel tips, small-group tours, guidebooks, TV shows, radio programs, podcasts, and more on this destination.

 



 

Star Wars Episode VIII goes back to Skellig MichaelRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 14/09/2015

By Randall Calvin

Despite ruffling a few conservationists feathers, no pun intended, filming on the famous Irish outcrop resumed today.

Disney and Lucasfilm returned to the remote Irish island of Skellig Michael, which is located 12km off the coast of Kerry, to shoot scenes for Star Wars: Episode VIII, despite the objections of conservationists concerned about the impact of local wildlife, reports RTE, Ireland’s national broadcaster.

JJ Abrams’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens – episode seven of the saga, due out in December – filmed scenes on the tiny unpopulated island, which is home to bird species including puffins, peregrine falcons and guillemots, last July. Irish arts minister Heather Humphreys assured those concerned that the shoot will be monitored to ensure the least disruption to the world heritage site, for Rian Johnson’s sequel, due in cinemas for May 2017. Roughly 100 cast and crew are involved at any one time on the island, not surprisingly as there is very little space to work.

Roll call started at around 08:00hrs this morning, proceedings were threatened by heavy rain, but happily for the production team the skies soon cleared. The crew and equipment were transported to the island by boatmen from nearby Portmagee, who received €1,000 each for projected loss of earnings from tourism during filming.

James Hickey, the chief executive of the Irish Film Board, said the filming programme had been "designed specifically to avoid disturbance of breeding birds," adding that the timing was approved by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

 

Skellig Michael filming ruffles a few feathers

“Skellig Michael, or Sceilg Mhichíl (in Gaelic) is one of our most dramatic and beautiful islands and it is very easy to understand why its stunning scenery has caught the attention of the makers of one of the world’s biggest film franchises,” said Humphreys in a statement. “The return of Star Wars to Sceilg Mhichíl is another win for Ireland and the Irish film industry, which is a growing and dynamic sector of our economy.”

She added: “Specialist staff from my department have been in discussions with Lucasfilm since March of this year in relation to a limited amount of filming, expected to last two to four days.”

Skellig Michael, also known as Great Skellig, is the larger of the two Skellig islands in the Atlantic ocean off County Kerry on the sparsely populated south-west coast of Ireland. It is currently unpopulated, though a monastery was founded sometime between the sixth and eighth centuries before being abandoned in the late 12th century. The remains of the monastery and most of the island were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The Irish national trust, An Taisce, has once again expressed concern about the impact on local wildlife after objecting to Star Wars’ previous visit. “Skellig is very fragile, a world heritage site, archeological features with dry stone walls,” spokesman Ian Lumley told RTE. “It’s a major bird reserve with ground-nesting species that are very vulnerable.” He said he understood the frequency of helicopter flights, which can disrupt avian behaviour, were due to double for the new shoot.

 

However, Humphreys said an ecologist and specialist staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the National Monuments Service would be on hand throughout the filming process and would have the power to stop filming if necessary.

It is not known which scenes from The Force Awakens were shot on Skellig Michael – which joined Abu Dhabi, England’s Forest of Dean and Pinewood Studios, Buckinghamshire, as shooting locations for Abrams’ film. The new Star Wars movie hits cinemas on the 17th of December in the UK and a day later in the US.

 



 

U2 highlight refugees' plight as tour begins


Posted 05/09/2015

U2 kicked off the European leg of their iNNOCENCE + eXPERIENCE Tour in Turin on Friday night, with Bono drawing attention to the plight of refugees trying to reach Europe.

The band opened their concert at the Pala Alpitour in the city with The Miracle of (Joey Ramone) and stormed through a set which included more tracks from new album Songs of Innocence and anthems from throughout the quartet's career.

"It's been five years since we've been in this beautiful country," said Bono. "We missed you." The singer addressed fans in Italian on a number of occasions.

Snippets of covers such as Send in the Clowns (Stephen Sondheim), I Can See for Miles (The Who) and Mother and Child Reunion (Paul Simon) were scattered throughout the set and among the surprises was a performance of the 1981 album title track October – the first time the song has been performed in Europe since 1987.

Drawing attention to the refugee crisis in Europe, Bono said: "Watching the news, ordinary people - all of us - seem capable of such great evil and such great love.

"I don't know the answer to the refugee crisis in Europe and Africa but I know we must work together to find an answer to the refugee crisis in Europe and Africa."

He added: "As Nelson Mandela said 'It always seems impossible until it is done'."

Bono also asked the crowd: "What do you want? A Europe with its heart and borders closed to mercy? Or a Europe with its heart open?"

Following the death this week of Syrian child Aylan Kurdi, who drowned trying to reach the Greek island of Kos, Bono changed the lyrics of Pride (In the Name of Love) to "One boy washed up on an empty beach."

 

Bob Geldof offers to host refugees in his homes

Not surprising, sharing the sentiments of his fellow countryman, outspoken activist Bob Geldof has said he is prepared to take in four refugee families to do his part in helping to deal with the growing migrant crisis.

Speaking to Dave Fanning on Irish Radio One, he said that he looks at the crisis with profound shame. 

He said he understands the economics and the politics, and that the root cause has to be addressed.

However, he said we are in a period of fundamental shift and when people are poor they move.

"It is a monstrous betrayal of who we are and what we wish to be, we are in a moment that will be discussed and impacted upon in 300 years’ time, a fundamental shift in the way the world has worked for the last, say, 600 years.

"If there's a new economy there needs to be a new politics. There isn't and it's that failure of new politics that has led to this f***ing disgrace ... this absolute sickening disgrace."

 

The aid campaigner and singer said he would open the doors to his family home in Kent and his flat in London in a personal response to the shocking scenes.

"I'm prepared - I'm lucky, I've a place in Kent and a flat in London - me and [partner] Jeanne would be prepared to take three families immediately in our place in Kent and a family in our flat in London, immediately, and put them up until such time as they can get going and get a purchase on their future."

Geldof also said that he himself is an economic migrant as Britain accepted him and he said it is the same for thousands of Irish people living in England and Australia and in countries across the world.

 



 

The European Week of Sport #BeActive


Posted 28/08/2015

The European Week of Sport aims to promote sport and physical activity across Europe. The Week is for everyone, regardless of age, background or fitness level. With a focus on grassroots initiatives, it will inspire Europeans to #BeActive on a regular basis and create opportunities in peoples’ everyday lives to exercise more.

Engagement in sport and physical activity is at an all-time low: 59% of Europeans never or seldom exercise or play sport (Eurobarometer).

Participation in sport and physical activity is stagnating, and in some EU Member States, even declining. It’s not just people’s health and well-being that suffers; it’s our society and economy as a whole. Increased spending on health care, a loss of productivity in the workplace and reduced employability are just a few of the negative knock-on effects.

Shape of the Week

The European Week of Sport takes place at EU, national, regional and local level, and is structured to include themes and activities that appeal to all audiences.

Public authorities, the sport movement, civil society organisations, the private sector, grassroots initiatives and individuals are working together to inspire people to be more active.

The Week is structured around four Focus Days: Education environment, Workplace, Outdoors, Sport Clubs and Fitness Centres. These are the main settings where people can improve their habits and #BeActive!

At the heart of the Week is the Flagship Event, the theme of which will change every year.           It brings together decision-makers, stakeholders and experts from across Europe to share best practices and come up with innovative ways to inspire Europeans to get moving through interactive workshops, a high-profile conference and other activities.

The Flagship Event culminates in an Awards ceremony, which showcases some of the best grassroots initiatives in Europe that are tackling the challenge by offering fun and creative opportunities to engage people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in sport and physical activity.

The European Week of Sport as a whole is composed of projects co-financed by the European Commission, as well as events organised by the Week’s European partners, national coordinators, ministries, civil society organisations, local authorities and the private sector. Any individual or organisation can also develop and register an event with the European Week of Sport.

The European Week of Sport includes events and activities across the 28 EU Member States as well as in Macedonia, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, and Turkey.

As an annual event, the European Week of Sport will inspire all kinds of creative and exciting events and activities in different countries. Take a look at what’s happening this year.

The official opening of the European Week of Sport takes place in Brussels on the 7th of September.

 



 

Is he the original? Brussels' Manneken Pis goes under the microscope


Posted 16/08/2015

The Belgian capital's emblematic Manneken Pis statue of a little boy taking a very public leak, beloved by millions of tourists, is getting a thorough examination to prove whether he is the real deal.

The small statue standing about 60 centimetres tall in a fountain in the heart of Brussels has suffered many indignities since he was first put up in the early 1600s, prompting the authorities to replace it with a replica in the 1960s.

The original is supposedly in the nearby Brussels Museum where it was lovingly restored in 2003 but researchers now think the little cherubic bronze they have there may not be the genuine article after all.

"Looking at the Manneken Pis closely, I realised that its history is very murky and that actually we do not know whether it is the original or not," Geraldine Patigny, a research student at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), stated.

In 1619, the Brussels authorities asked sculptor Jerome Du Quesnoy the Elder to make the statue of the small boy urinating, according to one of many legends, to put out a fire caused by besieging troops and so save the city from destruction.

The statue was stolen several times over the years, most notably in a well-documented case in 1817 when supposedly it was put back in its place of honour. It was stolen again in 1965.

Patigny believes the statue that was returned to the fountain in the 19th century may have been in fact a replica.

"After that (theft), we have no more trace of the original which apparently is only found again in 1966, in two pieces, in a Brussels canal," Patigny said.

The statue, believed to be the original, was then handed to the museum for safe keeping.

"The historical record is very confused and there are holes in it. There are accounts in local publications or in folklore but there is nothing really concrete in the archives," Patigny said.

Researchers are hoping that X-ray images and other tests will provide the answer, specifically on the chemical composition of the bronze.

"We are looking especially to see if it includes nickel," said Amandine Crabbe, a researcher at the Flemish Free University of Brussels (VUB).

"If it is present, that would mean it most likely dates from the 19th century," Crabbe said.

"If it is absent, then that makes it more likely that it is the original, although it is never possible to be 100 percent certain."

 



 

 

George Cole - uh my god!Randall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 07/08/2015

By Randall Calvin

It may be political ‘silly season’ where political journalists dig deep to find a story with a catchy title, but this is no cynical piece. Short of a war being declared, I have to pay a modest homage to Arfur.

As readers will no doubt know George Edward Cole, OBE passed away this week aged ninety, and as has been said his bio in film was truly extensive. I had seen him in many film roles in my youth, when Britain still had a pretty respectable indigenous film industry.

However in 1979 at the tender age of ten, a strange new TV show came on the tube with the even stranger name of “minder.” My older brothers had to explain to me that a minder was a type of bodyguard. I fell in love with the odd couple, laurel and Hardy mis-matched duo almost immediately. 

The writing and story lines were excellent, but the pairing of the older “Arfur” Arthur, stuck culturally somewhere in the 1950s with the trendy Ford-Capri-driving Terry worked excellently. Although I knew Terry, or as in East London ‘Tel,’ was actually an actor called Dennis Waterman, who sang the cool song of the theme music, I confess that it took me a few seasons to realise that Arfur’s actual name was George Cole. The delightful cockney slang and immortal expressions completed the soul of the series. “Er indoors” his wife whom we never got to see. “Behave yourself” and “oh my god” just some of the choice phrases Arthur would employ to vein a sense of artificial incredulity when caught out by the police, but endlessly frustrated Detective Sergeant Albert 'Charlie' Chisholm never quite got to “nick” the loveable petty rouge trader.

George Cole was born in Tooting, London on the 22nd of April 1925. He was given up for adoption at ten days old and adopted by George and Florence Cole, Tooting council employee and cleaner respectively. He attended secondary school in nearby Morden. He left school at 14 to be a butcher's boy, and had an ambition to join the Merchant Navy, but landed a part in a touring musical and chose acting as a career.

At age fifteen, Cole was cast in the film Cottage to Let (1941), opposite Scottish actor Alastair Sim. Sim liked Cole, and agreed with his family to take in Cole and his adoptive mother to their home. Acting as his mentor, Sim helped Cole lose his Cockney accent; Cole stayed with the Sim family until he was twenty seven. He later attributed his career success to Sim, with whom he appeared in a total of eleven films, ending with a television film of The Anatomist (1956). Cole also acted opposite Laurence Olivier in The Demi-Paradise (1943) and Olivier's film version of Henry V (1944), of which he was the last surviving cast member. His career was interrupted by his National service in the Royal Air Force from 1944 to 1947, where he was temporarily a radio operator.

Returning to his acting career, he became familiar to audiences in British comedy films in the 1950s. Cole appeared with Alastair Sim in Scrooge (as the young Scrooge) in 1951, but his best known film role was as "Flash Harry" in the St Trinian's films (two of which also star Sim), and in the comedy Too Many Crooks (1959). He also starred in the film Take Me High (1973) alongside Cliff Richard and Deborah Watling. He was known for his lead role in the radio comedy A Life of Bliss (1953–69) in which he played an amiable but bumbling bachelor, David Alexander Bliss. (David Tomlinson initially played Bliss). It lasted for six series and 118 episodes, becoming a TV series in 1960. In this form, it ran for two series, but no episode is known to survive.

The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh (1963), is a three-part serial which formed part of the Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour TV series. It was shot on location in England and was directed by James Neilson. It starred Patrick McGoohan as Doctor Syn, with Cole as Mipps.

 

Cole appeared as a guest star in the Gerry Anderson produced television series UFO in the episode "Flight Path" (1971). He also made a guest appearance as Mr Downs, a bank manager, in a 1978 episode of the sitcom The Good Life, performed in the presence of the Queen. On the 5th of August, his Agent Derek Webster, said Cole had died at the Royal Berkshire hospital following a short illness, surrounded by his family. His friend and co-star on Minder Dennis Waterman said he had "the privilege of spending Tuesday afternoon with him and Penny and, although very frail, his wit was as evident as ever."

"I am so sad to hear of George's death. His family must be devastated, and I am absolutely certain that anybody who ever knew him, will feel the same.

"I'm so grateful to have been a friend of this wonderful man. We worked together for many years and my boast is that we laughed all day every day.

"He was an amazing man, a wonderful actor and besotted with his family. Farewell old friend."

Waterman, who sang the Minder theme tune, left the show to be replaced by Gary Webster for the final two series. Webster called Cole a “comic genius” who “made you realise there's an Arthur Daley in every family.”

“He was one of those characters you never thought you are going to be without, both as an actor and a character,” he added.

“He was a great guy to work with and a real genuine gentleman.”

As I started, bowing to the great body of work Cole achieved in his acting life, to me he will always be the frustrating, doggy, loveable crooked used-car dealer Arthur Daley in the Thames Television series Minder, which he played from 1979 to the show's conclusion in 1994.

Arfur Daley “uh my god.”

 



 

 

The Galway RacesRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 03/08/2015

By Randall Calvin

The Galway Races, in the west of Ireland, has had a long and exciting history, and has become what it now one of the most famous tracks in the world.

The Galway Races holds a very special place in the heart of many race-goers from across the globe, and indeed in the hearts of Galwegians themselves. It has been the subject of many a famous songs and poems.

In the Beginning

In 1764 there was a five-day race meeting at Knockbarron near Loughrea, and exactly 100 years later, the ‘Western Plate’ race was confined to “gentlemen riders qualified for National Hunt Races at Punchestown or members of the County Galway Hunt.” The first racing festival held in Ballybrit was a two-day event with the first race meeting on Tuesday, 17th August, 1869.

Contemporary records show that a staggering forty thousand people turned up to attend the race meeting. To cater for the crowds who arrived into the city in the lead up to the festival, the public park area in Eyre Square was set up as a campsite. The Chairman of the Stewards at the race meeting was Lord St. Lawrence, then M.P. for Galway and a main contributor to Punchestown racecourse. His fellow stewards were also involved in the tradition of hunting and steeple chasing – men like the Marquis of Clanricard, Lord Claremorris, Captain Blake Forster, Henry S. Persse, Pierce Joyce, George Morris and Valentine Black. 

Papal Visit

Galway-Races_Papal-VisitThe visit of Pope John Paul II to Galway on the 30th September 1979 is one of the most memorable moments in the history of Galway and indeed the Galway Racecourse in Ballybrit. It is estimated that 280,000 people flocked to Ballybrit to enjoy the papal visit. There were 77 concelebrants, 200,000 communicants with 800 priests distributing communion and 4,000 stewards.

There was a great air of expectation, excitement and calm amongst the 280,000 crowd awaiting the arrival on the papal helicopter. Flocks of people thronged to the racecourse with layers of clothes on, backpacks, plastic bags of food and flasks. There were lots of people on the side of the road selling stools, large umbrellas and flags of all sizes.

Present Day

In over one hundred years of racing at Ballybrit, the Galway Races has gone from strength to strength with now in excess of 150,000 people attending the week-long festival every year.

From its modest beginnings in 1869, the festival is now a multi-million Euro or Pound event. Recognised as the greatest mid-summer festival in Ireland, punters from all over the world visit the famous race track year after year for a great mixture of racing and old Irish craic. When the racing is over they stream into the city to carry late into the night. The Galway Race Course Committee pays tribute to Lord St. Lawrence, the man who started it all.

Ladies Day

The Best Dressed Person Competition takes place on what is traditionally known as Ladies Day on Thursday of the Summer Festival Meeting, (Thursday, 30th July, 2015) This competition is generously sponsored this year for the first time by Kilkenny Group.  The Kilkenny Group has been the leading promoter of Irish design, with 13 store locations nationwide including a thriving outlet on Galway’s prime High Street.

The decision by the family run retailer to sponsor this year’s Best Dressed Lady Competition is a significant move both for the Kilkenny Group and the Galway Racecourse, who have not had a new sponsor for the competition in 13 years. The sponsorship decision is a step to further solidify the Kilkenny Group’s reputation as one of the country’s leading retailers.

 

Galway Ladies Day is famous for being stylish, vibrant and chic.  Kilkenny Group details of Best Dressed Lady Competitions 2015 include prizes for the Best Dressed Lady, Best hat and the very popular Best Irish competition will also continue. Judges who will select a winner from the crème de la crème of the fashion elite attending the busiest day of the Galway Races Summer Racing Festival. There is no formal entry procedure to the competitions. Judges simply wander through the crowds and invite chosen finalists to the Kilkenny Group marquee, adjacent to the Champagne Tent.

 

AT GALWAY RACES

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)

THERE where the course is,

Delight makes all of the one mind,

The riders upon the galloping horses,

The crowd that closes in behind:

We, too, had good attendance once,

Hearers and hearteners of the work;

Aye, horsemen for companions,

Before the merchant and the clerk

Breathed on the world with timid breath.

 

Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,

We’ll learn that sleeping is not death,

Hearing the whole earth change its tune,

Its flesh being wild, and it again

Crying aloud as the racecourse is,

And we find hearteners among men

That ride upon horses.

 



 

Florida couple finds rare gold coins from ancient Spanish shipwreck


Posted 29/07/2015

The € 900,000 haul is thought to have come from a galleon sunk during a storm in 1715 

Like something out of a Robert Stevenson novel, a Florida family, whose businesses include underwater treasure hunting, has found an estimated € 900,000 in gold coins. The haul was recovered from an 18th-century Spanish galleon sunk off the coast of the state.

The treasure was discovered about a month ago by the Schmitt family’s 27-year-old son Eric in the waters off Fort Pierce, a city with 42,000 inhabitants that is located some 210 kilometers north of Miami.

The galleon was part of a fleet of 11 ships that departed from Havana in 1715, but sunk off the coast of Florida during a hurricane. That’s according to Brent Brisben, who owns the shipwreck salvage company 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels IIC, which helped recover the coins.

Brisben told the Florida Today website that keeping the news under wraps throughout this time was “particularly hard for the family that found it. They’ve been beside themselves.” The couple was identified as Rick and Lisa Schmitt.

The treasure consists of 51 gold coins dating from the period; 40 feet of an ornate gold chain; and a rare single coin called a “royal,” which was minted to honor King Felipe V of Spain.

Brisben said that the extremely rare silver-dollar-sized coin is worth “probably around half a million dollars itself,” because there are just a few in existence.

A news conference is scheduled for later Tuesday to release the details of the find.

According to Brisben, the haul may have come from the flagship of the Capitana, which was captained by General Juan Estéban de Ubilla.   The ship was carrying more than 3.5 million pesos in treasure, including the queen’s jewels, when it sank with the rest of the fleet en route to Spain on July 30, 1715.

Under US and Florida laws, the state is entitled to 20 percent of the haul, which will be placed in a museum. The rest of the treasure will be split between the Schmitt family and 1715 Fleet – Queens Jewels.

It was unclear whether the Spanish government would file a claim for the treasure.

In 2012, after a five-year international legal battle, Florida-shipwreck hunter Odyssey Marine Exploration was ordered by the US Supreme Court to return to Spain 500,000 gold and silver coins the company had recovered from an 19th-century shipwreck in the Atlantic.

The case set legal precedent in the United States on the ownership of sunken treasure.

The coins are now on display at the Naval Museum in Cádiz.

 



 

Short History of Modern Belgium


Posted 23/07/2015

The history of Belgium stretches back before the origin of the modern state of that name in 1830. Belgium's history is intertwined with those of its neighbours: the Netherlands, Germany, France and Luxembourg.

For most of its history, what is now Belgium was either a part of a larger territory, such as the Carolingian Empire, or divided into a number of smaller states, prominent among them being the Duchy of Brabant, the County of Flanders, the Prince-Bishopric of Liège and Luxembourg.

Due to its strategic location and the many armies fighting on its soil, Belgium since the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) has often been called the "battlefield of Europe" or the "cockpit of Europe." It is also remarkable as a European nation which contains, and is divided by, a language boundary between Latin-derived French, and Germanic Dutch.

Belgium's formation, like that of its Benelux neighbours, can be traced back to the "Seventeen Provinces" within the Burgundian Netherlands.

These were brought together under the House of Valois-Burgundy, and eventually declared independent of both France and Germany by their descendant Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, in his Pragmatic Sanction of 1549.

The Eighty Years' War (1568–1648), led to the split between a northern Dutch Republic, and the Southern Netherlands from which Belgium and Luxembourg developed. This southern territory continued to be ruled by the Habsburg descendants of the Burgundian house, at first as the "Spanish Netherlands."

Invasions from France under Louis XIV led to the loss of most of what is now Nord-Pas-de-Calais to France, while the remainder finally became the "Austrian Netherlands." 

The French Revolutionary wars led to Belgium becoming part of France in 1795, bringing the end of the semi-independence of areas which had belonged to the Catholic Church. After the defeat of the French in 1814, a new United Kingdom of the Netherlands was created, which eventually split one more time during the Belgian Revolution of 1830–1839, giving three modern nations, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.

The ports and textile industry of Belgium were important back into the Middle Ages, and modern Belgium was one of the first countries to experience an Industrial Revolution, which brought prosperity in the 19th century but also opened a political dichotomy between liberal businessmen and socialist workers.

The king set up his own private colonial empire in the Belgian Congo, which the government took over after a major scandal in 1908. Belgium was neutral but its strategic location as a pathway to France made it an invasion target for Germany in 1914 and 1940. 

Conditions under the occupation were severe. In the postwar period Belgium was a leader in European unification, as a founding member of what has become the European Union. Brussels is now host to the headquarters of NATO and is the de facto capital of the European Union.  The colonies became independent in the early 1960s. On September 5, 1944, the Benelux Customs Union was created.               It entered into force in 1948, and ceased to exist on 1 November 1960, when it was replaced by the Benelux Economic Union after a treaty signed in The Hague on February 3, 1958.

The Benelux Parliament was created in 1955.

The Treaty of Brussels, signed on 17 March 1948 by Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, and the United Kingdom, is considered the precursor to the NATO agreement, which Belgium became an official member of on April 4, 1949. The headquarters of NATO are located in Brussels, and the headquarters of SHAPE near Mons.

 

Belgium was also one of the original founding members of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) in July 1952 and of the European Economic Community formed by the Treaty of Rome on March 25, 1957. Belgium has been a member of the Schengen area since 1985. Belgium was one of the founders of the European Union. Between 1999 and 2002, the Euro gradually replaced the Belgian franc (the currency of Belgium since 1830) at the rate of 1 EUR=40.3399 BEF Belgian Euro coins depict the King on the reverse.

Politically the country was once polarized on matters of religion and, in recent decades, it has faced new divisions over differences of language and the unequal economic development. This ongoing antagonism has caused far-reaching reforms since the 1970s, changing the formerly unitary Belgian state into a federal state, and repeated governmental crises. It is now divided into three regions, Flanders (Dutch speaking) in the north, Wallonia (French speaking) in the South, and bilingual Brussels in the middle. The economy is prosperous and well integrated into Europe.The 2010 Belgian federal election produced a highly fragmented political landscape, with 11 parties elected to the Chamber of Representatives, none of which had more than 20% of the seats.

The separatist New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), the largest party in Flanders and the country as a whole, controlled 27 of 150 seats in the lower chamber. The Francophone Socialist Party (PS), the largest party in Wallonia, controlled 26 seats. Belgium beat the world record for time taken to form a new democratic government after an election, at 353 days. Finally a government coalition was sworn in on 6 December 2011, with Socialist Elio Di Rupo becoming Prime Minister of the Di Rupo Government.

 



 

Galway International Arts Festival 2015Guadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del Olmo


Posted 18/07/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Galway International Arts Festival is a Festival of extraordinary experiences, a creative collision of performance, music, visual art, theatre and spectacle.

Whether turning a small Irish city on its head for two weeks, taking work on an international tour, or being a forceful year-round presence, every experience of the Galway International Arts Festival is an unforgettable encounter.

Discover the creative roots of the most imaginative arts Festival in Ireland.

The Festival... creative collisions for a new perspective

Rooted in Galway on the west coast of Ireland, the Festival unlocks peoples' passions and inspires new ways of thinking and acting. They are creative collision makers, sparking connections between the arts, between audiences and performers, between Galway and the world. Every encounter with Galway International Arts Festival is an invitation to join their 21st cultural pilgrimage seeking new horizons, embracing creativity and the unexpected.

Strolling along the cobbled streets, every turn offers the possibility for new adventure; surreal giant puppets snaking through the streets, enchanting music, enthralling musicians and awe-inspiring street theatre.

From the all-out party atmosphere at the Festival Big Top to the quiet contemplation in the Festival galleries...the Festival transforms the city through the arts in an engaging, fun and authentic way. If you happen to visit Galway during the arts festival, expect to be transformed too.

The Festival is special. Worlds, cultures and dreams collide inspiring passion, creativity and new ways of thinking.

 

Festival History... the roots of imagination

Galway International Arts Festival has been connecting audiences and artists for over 37 years. Founded in 1978, it has grown into an event with a major reputation where, in 2014, there were 180,000 attendances at 213 performances, talks and exhibitions in 29 venues over 14 days.

The Festival was established by a group of fledgling and experienced artists, who, sitting around a kitchen table one afternoon, dreamed of bringing world-class artists to Ireland, while also supporting Irish artists and showcasing their work on the world stage, creating unique and wonderful experiences for all...and so they did.

The Festival has contributed massively to placing Galway firmly on the map, as both a key cultural centre for the arts and a cultural tourism destination. The Festival has also founded and acted as a seedbed for a number of well-known and established arts organisations in Galway.

Galway International Arts Festival presents and produces programmes of the highest quality across all art forms featuring theatre, music, visual arts, opera, street spectacle, dance, discussion and comedy. The Festival is committed to continually developing and producing new work, which tours internationally. In 2014, the Festival’s co-productions - Ballyturk, riverrun and Chapatti have toured extensively throughout Ireland, UK, USA and Australia.

Highlights from the programme in recent years include; Primal Scream, Philip Glass, New York Dolls, David Gray, David Byrne, Brad Mehldau, Blondie, Kronos Quartet, Brodsky Quartet, Bon Iver, David Hockney, Joni Mitchell, Henri Matisse and David Mach.

Visiting international theatre and dance companies have included John Mahoney and Northlight Theatre, The Royal National Theatre, Propeller, The Royal Court, Steppenwolf, Fabulous Beast Dance Company, Hofesh Shechter Dance Company, The Abbey Theatre, Druid Theatre Company and the Bristol Old Vic.

Their Mission

“Our mission is to be a 21st Century Pilgrimage that delivers a world-class Festival experience and is an artistic leader in the presentation and origination of work.”

 

What the Press Says...

“The biggest, most exciting, most imaginative explosion of arts activity this country has.”  The Irish Times

“A glorious kaleidoscopic fortnight of events.”  The Irish Examiner

“This year's Galway fortnight made you look at life anew. ”  The Irish Times

“One of Europe's most important cultural events.”  BBC TV

“The spirit of Galway International Arts Festival is all-inclusive, accessible and always open to suggestion. Contemporary festivals fall over themselves to state their commitment to both street and ‘high art’. The difference in Galway is, that ambition is realised.”  The Observer

“It's festival season, one event triumphs them all - Galway Arts Festival.”  The Irish Independent

“Galway... one of the most significant arts Festivals anywhere.”  The Irish Independent

 



 

Words also travel (and not only during the summer)Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 12/07/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Have you ever wondered why or how on Earth the word “siesta” landed on UK shores while the Brits have their “nap.”

Despite the fact that Spain is still being disparagingly referred to as the land of the afternoon nap, the tradition is also popular in many other countries, as a matter of fact, Winston Churchill adopted the habit after visiting Cuba during the country’s fight for independence from Spain.

In the case of the Spanish language, the unintentional arrival of Columbus in the Americas and the Golden Age of Spanish arts saw Spanish words travel around the world and taking root throughout Europe. The process probably started receding at the very moment the “Gran Armada” began to sink near the British shores, followed by the decline of Spain as a world power.

In fact the word armada can be found in English, Hungarian and German, which is a reflection of two types of natural language processes.

Alberto Bustos, a linguist and author of a Spanish-language blog called Blog de Lengua, explains that “anybody who invents something, invents the word that describes it” and also that “language can help a culture adapt to realities that are foreign to it.”

What’s more, says Bustos, Latin is one of the main reasons that different languages share expressions we think are our own. “In this case it wouldn’t so much be a Spanish contribution, as much as a derivation or appropriation of Latin terms.” If you have ever come across an international publication referring to a president’s agenda or the calling of a referendum, that’s the reason.

“When two languages come into contact,” says the expert, “they tend to influence each other, but the exchange isn’t on the same terms.” Geographic proximity, migration and tourism play a huge role in this “language trade.”  By the way, these foreign words that retain their original spelling are known as loanwords.

Undisputedly, French is the largest contributor to English vocabulary, not surprisingly as after all, William the Conqueror invaded England in 1066;

And he, his nobles, and many of his followers from Normandy, settled down in the conquered land, speaking only a range of Oïl dialects (Northern French dialects).

 

Thus, introducing legal, military, and political terminology; words for the meat of an animal; noble words; words referring to food — e.g., au gratin. It is estimated that nearly 30% of English words (in an 80,000 word dictionary) may be of French origin.

English imported Italian words relating to music such as piano or fortissimo. And of course some irresistible and resounding words rooted in Italian culture, such as piazza, pizza, gondola and balcony. Unfortunately, fascism, as a word, was also imported from Italian; but equally, the English word umbrella from the Italian “ombrello,” something that it is as British as the bowler hat.

Concerning the Dutch origins of English words, we can find plenty of examples of words that entered the English language via trade and navigation, such as skipper (from schipper), freebooter (from vrijbuiter), keelhauling (from kielhalen); via painting, such as landscape (from landschap), easel (from ezel), still life (from stilleven); via the New Netherland settlements in North America, such as cookie (from koekie), boss from baas, Santa Claus (from Sinterklaas); Joseph M. Williams, in Origins of the English Language, estimated that about 1% of English words are of Dutch origin.

Many Spanish words adopted by the English language where however from Amerindian origin, such as cannibal, hurricane, apache, tomato, coyote, chocolate, potato or tobacco. As from Arabic, words like coffee, cotton, henna,  saffron were added by colonial trade, but also scientific vocabulary borrowed into Latin in the 12th and 13th centuries  with words as alcohol, alkali, algebra and azimuth.

Other words date back from the colonial era, words from Hindi and Persian origin because Persian was the official language of the Mughal courts. Some of the words imported were as colourful as pyjamas, bungalow, verandah, jungle, curry, shampoo or khaki.

German has contributed blitz, Führer and Lebensraum undoubtedly related to World War I and World War II; but others, more tasty terms, such as bratwurst, hamburger and frankfurter have been also adopted into the English lexicon (ups a Greek word in the middle of it).

Regarding Greek words, the English language adopted plenty of scientific and medical terminology (for instance -phobias and -ologies) and Christian theological terminology.

The truth is that nowadays, English is the language that “lends” more words to others due to the influence of its culture, economics, and politics. If the smartphone is conceived and advertised in an English-speaking area, that’s the term that most of the planet is going to use.

Based on English words, we witness the creation of new words every day, such as “Grexit” which by mere repetition of the media, may as well appear in our dictionaries eventually and perhaps, who knows, as the story develops, in our history books. But in the meanwhile, the Greeks will keep the “corralito* on-going.

 

*This is when a government decides to close the banks and prevent people from withdrawing money – as is currently happening in Greece. The word was first coined in 2001 in Argentina by journalist Antonio Laje to describe the country’s financial crisis. The noun’s original meaning refers to a public playground that has been closed off to stop children from escaping. In turn, it comes from ‘corral,’ a Spanish word that entered English via the United States, as a pen or enclosure for animals.

 

 


 


 

Giving it all! Summer Music Festivals in EuropeRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 05/07/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

The best time to enjoy a music festival is definitely the summer and each year Europe offers thousands of summer music festivals.

During this torrid weekend, one of the most popular urban festivals for Belgians took place, the Couleur Café music festival.

Celebrated in Tour & Taxis, the 26th edition of this “not to miss” event for young Bruxellois, gathered artists such as Busta Rhymes, Alborosie, Wu-Tang Clan, Wyclef Jean, SOJA, Joey Bada$, Cypress Hill, Milky Chance, Etienne de Crécy, Crystal Fighters, Xavier Rudd, Shantel, Sergent Garcia, Kavinsky, The Magician, and many others.

 

In the festival premises you could also enjoy live performances by graffiti artists from Brussels, marching bands, 52 world food restaurants, 11 cocktail bars, a Holi Couleur party, dance workshops, a designer market, fireworks,...in summary, fiesta all the way.

2015 has been great for Couleur Café. Yesterday people witnessed unforgettable concerts and the very first foam party in the history of the festival. On Friday, 23,000 people, bathed in sunlight, got to enjoy truly memorable gigs by Wyclef Jean, Wu-Tang Clan, Dub Inc, Crystal Fighters and many others. Plenty of water from sprinklers and bottles (2 for 1 ticket) prevented the heat from causing any harm, also cool tents were available at camping Chill.

There are summer music festivals in Europe for all tastes and ages.

 

 

True that some of them have already passed, such as the mythical Glatonbury in the UK, for which tickets were sold out months ago; or the Sónar festival in Barcelona. But you still have time to catch up with some of the best ones ahead, and for late planners, why not organise your holidays around them.

Summer festivals can bring you to remote and beautiful landscapes or provide an introduction to nightlife that might otherwise remain hidden on a standard city break. The only decision to make is whether you want the diversions of a big city, to spend time on a beach, entertainment for the children or a one-to-one with nature.

EU Spectator has compiled for you a modest top 5 festival suggestions, in our opinion, of course:

 

Secret Garden Party

Cambridgeshire, UK

 23 July -26 July 2015

www.secretgardenparty.com

With a pagoda stage that floats on a lake and a secret sunflower field entered through a portaloo, beauty and eccentricity best sum up this festival. Held on a Cambridgeshire estate, the music is diverse – a mix of house, drum and bass, reggae and dubstep. Annual themes set a fantastical tone, with last year’s “goodbye yellow brick road” manifesting in a magnificent “emerald city” structure placed in the centre of the lake, to be set alight during Saturday’s fireworks display.

 

Exit Festival 2015

Petrovaradin Fortress,  Novi Sad,  Serbia

15 July - 18 July 2015

www.exitfest.org

Exit is an award-winning summer music festival. It is held annually at the Petrovaradin Fortress in the city of Novi Sad (Serbia), which is considered by many as one of the best festival venues in the world.

Exit is unique in the festival world as it started as a student movement fighting for peace and democracy in Serbia and the Balkans. Even today, Exit has a strong social mission to help youth in the Balkans and it is run by a non-profit organisation.

 

 Tomorrowland Festival

 Recreatiedomein De Schorre, Boom,  Belgium

 24 July - 26 July 2015

 www.tomorrowland.com

Tomorrowland is a large electronic music festival held in Belgium. It used to be organized as a joint venture by the original founders, the brothers Beers. The festival takes place in the town of Boom, Belgium (16 kilometers (10 miles) south of Antwerp, 32 kilometers (20 miles) north of Brussels), and has been organized since 2005. It has since become one of the most notable global music festivals. 

 

 

Colours of Ostrava

Dolní oblast Vítkovice, Ostrava, Czech Republic

16 July – 19 July 2015

www.colours.cz

Colours of Ostrava is a multi-genre music festival held annually in the city of Ostrava. Since 2012, the event is being held in the impressive surroundings of Dolní Vítkovice – the site of former blast furnaces, mines and ironworks.

The festival has brought a number of impressive headliners to Ostrava over the years including Grinderman, Robert Plant, Alanis Morissette, Cranberries, Sinéad O´Connor, Bobby McFerrin, Mariza, Salif Keita, Jamie Cullum, Janelle Monáe, The Flaming Lips, Antony and the Johnsons, Jan Garbarek, Gipsy Kings, Kronos Quartet, Michael Nyman as well as Animal Collective, plus top names in jazz, world music, rock, pop as well as the alternative scene. The festival also offers a diverse accompanying programme including theatre, workshops, discussions, films etc.

 

Sziget Festival 2015

Óbudai-sziget,  Budapest,  Hungary

10 August - 17 August 2015

http://szigetfestival.com

Sziget Festival is one of the biggest multicultural events of Europe, starting in 1993 and already celebrating its 22nd edition. The festival attracts almost 400 000 fans from over 70 countries to a beautiful island in the heart of Budapest, providing a complete festival-holiday experience with non-stop party, great live concerts, a widely international community and all the touristic features the city has to offer.

Other events not to be missed are:

Benicàssim

Benicàssim, Spain

16 July – 19 July 2015

Where:  Stress-free vibes at a Spanish seaside resort

Headliners: Blur, The Prodigy, Portishead

Selected other acts: Florence and the Machine

Way Out West

Gothenburg, Sweden

13 August – 15 August 2015

In a nutshell: Sweden's easy-going ethical festival

Headliners: Patti Smith, Pet Shop Boys, Beck

Selected other acts: Tylor The Creator, Todd Terje & The Olsens, First Aid Kit

Rock en Seine

Domaine National de Saint-Cloud, Paris

28 August – 30 August 2015

In a nutshell: A time for Parisians to finally let their hair down

Headliners: The Chemical Brothers, The Libertines, Alt-J

Selected other acts: Tame Impala, Jungle, Interpol

Lollapalooza Berlin

Berlin, Germany

12 September – 13 September 2015

In a nutshell: The continental take on this American classic

Headliners: The Libertines, Sam Smith

Selected other acts: Tame Impala, Bastille



 

The Avenger Patrick Macnee diesRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 28/06/2015

By Randall Calvin

I was too young to remember the original Avengers series, but I certainly do fondly recall the New Avengers, and I was an enormous if youthful fan. I was so impressed with the style and look of the production, but it was the characters that I admired, with the male female balance. Even cooler than James Bond, was John Steed, the ultra-stylish chap with just an umbrella, guiding his younger charges.

I never got to meet either of the male cast but I did have the pleasure of meeting “Purdey” Joanna Lumley at the European Parliament a couple of years ago, obviously a little older, but still beautiful and charming. I had a dreadful crush on her when I was much younger.

Last Thursday Patrick Macnee died of natural causes at his home in California at the age of 93.

According to a statement by the actor's son, Rupert, he passed away with his family at his bedside at his home in Rancho Mirage.

A star of both film and television, Macnee was best known for his role as the mysterious John Steed in 1960s show The Avengers alongside Diana Rigg.

He was a popular figure in the television industry. He was at home wherever in the world he found himself. He had a knack for making friends, and keeping them.

'Wherever he went, he left behind a trove of memories and good wishes.'

Born in 1922 and raised in Lambourn, Berkshire, his father Daniel was a racehorse trainer and his mother Dorothea was a niece to the 13th Earl of Huntington and was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work with military families.

He was educated at Summerfields Preparatory School, where he first acted in Henry V at the age of 11, with Sir Christopher Lee playing opposite him as the Dauphin.

From there he went to Eton College where he met comedian and author Michael Bentine, who remained a life-long friend.

After graduating he went on to train at London's Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, where he met and married Barbara Douglas, aged 19, and they had two children, Rupert and Jenny.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, he enlisted in the Royal Navy and was eventually promoted to the rank of Sub-Lieutenant, acting as a navigator on board torpedo boats in the English Channel and North Sea.

For a time he acted at The Windsor Repertory Theatre, in London's West End, and went on tours in Germany and the United States.

He also accepted some minor film roles, including that of Young Marley in Alastair Sim's classic version of A Christmas Carol.

Early in 1950 he was invited to travel to Canada by friend David Greene, a director friend at CBC in Toronto, and he left England within 48 hours to work overseas.

Despite his typically English exteriror, Macnee actually spent a large part of his adult life working in the U.S., taking minor roles on American TV shows.

He only returned to the UK in the 1960s in order to take on his defining role as John Steed as The Avengers began shooting in London. 

Macnee's character appeared in all but two episodes, accompanied by a string of beautiful women who were his sidekicks. The most popular was likely Diana Rigg, who played sexy junior agent Emma Peel from 1965 to 1968.

Honor Blackman played Catherine Gale from 1962 to 1964, and Linda Thorson was Tara King from 1968 to 1969.

In his final interview in The Lady magazine, he was asked which of the three he found the most appealing.

He replied: 'The very first thing you learn if you're a gentleman is that you never compare one woman to another. That's the way of all death.

'You get a big pointed high heel in your groin and you'll never walk again!'

However, in a follow-up interview in 2010 he was rather less discreet, saying: ‘Honor was adorable. She was the most beautiful of them all.

'A gorgeous blonde with the biggest breasts you’ve ever seen and beneath them the beautiful athletic body of a runner.’

Of Diane Rigg, he said: ‘She was probably one of the best actresses. She made The Avengers the enormous success it was because she was in the first episodes made for American TV when they hadn’t seen a woman in a skintight leather catsuit throwing men around.

‘Linda Thorson was a great actress with a great body but she arrived just as The Avengers was losing its appeal.’ Speaking about his role as a surprise Sixties sex symbol, he added: ‘I missed so much of the Swinging Sixties by working.

From 1961 to 1969 I got up at 4.30am, a car came for me at 5.30am and I was taken to our studio at Teddington or Elstree and we filmed until I got home at 9.30pm, five days a week.

'I spent most of the Sixties in a giant shed filming even though I lived around the corner from the King’s Road in Chelsea.’

After the original show finished in 1969, Macnee became a frequent guest on television talk shows around the world, famed for his traditional British humour and intelligence.

He went on to star in Bond film A View To A Kill alongside Roger Moore, as well as The Howling and The Sea Wolves, which Moore also starred in.

Author and playwright Bonnie Greer added: 'When I was a kid, some folks were 'one of us' - Leonard Nimoy and Patrick Macnee. Dude of dudes. RIP Patrick Macnee.'

Goodness Gracious Me actor Sanjeev Bhaskar paid a warm tribute to Macnee on Twitter, saying: 'RIP Patrick Macnee. The Avengers also warm and wonderful foil to Sir Roger Moore in several films and Spinal Tap. Epitome of the British Gent.' He took a turn on stage in Anthony Shaffer's Sleuth, which saw him take off on an international tour, and also penned two books based on The Avengers, alongside an autobiography.

In the 70s he returned to television in order to reprise the character of John Steed in The New Avengers, alongside Joanna Lumley and Gareth Hunt.

He guest-starred and played continuing roles in numerous American, British and Australian television productions.

He recorded numerous audio books, including thirteen Jack Higgins titles, nd voice-over narrations for the four hour mini-series 'America at War in Color' and many others.

Musing on life during an interview five years ago, aged 88, Macnee said: ‘I’m not afraid of death. What’s to fear? Once you’re dead, that’s it. Nothing.

'I don’t believe in heaven or hell. That’s baloney. What matters is the here and now. Yes, I’m 88 and there are things I can’t do: I can’t run a race or climb Everest. But isn’t life magnificent?’’

He was married three times but pre-deceased by all his wives. He is survived by two children and one grandchild.

RIP Patrick Macnee, the coolest of the cool. 

 



 

Brussels: around 150 people parade for cyclist safety


Posted 21/06/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

Around 150 naked cyclists protested yesterday in the streets of central Brussels as part of the 11th edition of Cyclonudista.

Through this action, fans of two wheels want to draw attention to the vulnerability of cyclists in urban traffic and call for policy action to make cycling in the city safer and more attractive. They also advocate for a less polluting lifestyle and over consumption.

"The way we consume and use our goods, at an appalling rate, is unsustainable," according to Jerome Nature Cyclonudista. "We are destroying our environment and our planet. Urban traffic, for which the automobile is central, is one example. We want to move towards softer mobility focused on the well-being of the people. "

Favouring the use of bicycles in the city is the best way to achieve that end. "This will cause less pollution and noise, however safe cycling must be feasible. Today we are with our bikes, naked, to highlight the vulnerability of cyclists. We are not protected by a body made of steel. Our politicians and policymakers must urgently attend to these demands and make the necessary changes to urban infrastructure, including more secure bike paths. There was also still a lot of work to be done for public transport, which should, be free. "



 

Guadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del OlmoRemembering D-Day through film, the making of Saving Private Ryan


Posted 07/06/2015

 

Saving Private Ryan was a 1998 American epic war drama film set during the Invasion of Normandy in World War II. Directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat, the film is notable for its graphic and realistic portrayal of war, and for the intensity of its opening 27 minutes, which depict the Omaha Beach assault of June 6, 1944. It follows United States Army Rangers Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks) and a squad (Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Barry Pepper, Vin Diesel, Giovanni Ribisi, Adam Goldberg, and Jeremy Davies) as they search for a paratrooper, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), who is the last-surviving brother of four servicemen.

On the morning of June 6, 1944, the beginning of the Normandy Invasion, American soldiers prepare to land on Omaha Beach. They suffer heavily from their struggle against German infantry, machine gun nests, and artillery fire.

Captain John H. Miller, a company commander of the 2nd Ranger Battalion, survives the initial landing and assembles a group of his Rangers to penetrate the German defenses, leading to a breakout from the beach. In Washington, D.C, at the U.S. War Department, General George Marshall is informed that three of the four brothers of the Ryan family were killed in action and that their mother is to receive all three telegrams in the same day.

 

He learns that the fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan, is a paratrooper and is missing in action somewhere in Normandy. Marshall, after reading Abraham Lincoln's Bixby letter, orders that Ryan be found and sent home immediately.

A little known fact, is that the famous horrific opening battle scene, was filmed on an Irish beach using members of the permanent Irish army, but the majority of the extras were members of the reserve defence forces, many of those were also veterans of the Braveheart movie, also filmed in Ireland. In the video attached, you see an older documentary made by the army, which offers a little behind the scenes preparation of the battle scene, and some of the logistical problems involved. 

 



 

Raquel JimenezRaquel JimenezSlane Castle Ireland – Countryside Concerts and More


Posted 31/05/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Situated in the stunningly beautiful Boyne valley, in County Meath Ireland, overlooking the River Boyne just a few miles upstream from the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne, Slane Castle in its existing form was reconstructed under the direction of William Burton Conyngham, together with his nephew the first Marquess Conyngham.

 

 

The reconstruction dates back to 1785 and is principally the work of: James Gandon, James Wyatt and Francis Johnston. Francis Johnston, one of Ireland’s most distinguished architects, is responsible for the dramatic gothic gates on the Mill Hill.

The Conyngham’s are originally a noble Scottish family, and settled in Ireland in 1611 in Co. Donegal. There has been an active association between the Conynghams and the Slane Estate dating back over 300 years, ever since the property was purchased by the family following the Williamite Confiscations in 1701. The present head of the Conyngham family is the eighth Marquess Conyngham.

In 1991, a disastrous fire in the Castle caused extensive damage to the building and completely gutted the Eastern section facing the River Boyne. With the completion of the 10-year restoration programme in 2001, Slane Castle has once again opened its doors, offering the perfect combination of old charm and modern day comfort.

 

Slane Concert


Simply referred to as Slane, is a recurring concert held most years since 1981 on the grounds of the Castle. Concerts typically occur on a Saturday in August, from 12:00 to 22:00. However, the 2011 concert occurred on the 28th of May and the first concert of 2013 took place on the 15th of June.

 

The sloping grounds of Slane Castle form a natural amphitheatre which is ideal for concerts. As many as 70,000–110,000 people usually attend. One of the venue boundaries is the River Boyne, and in fact two people died while trying to swim the river to gain free access to R.E.M.'s concert in 1995. The minimum age of admission to the Slane Concert was reduced in 2006 from 18 to 16 because of complaints from younger fans.

Over the years, Aiken Promotions group invited artists such as David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Queen, The Rolling Stones, and Bruce Springsteen to perform during the 1980s. 2001 and 2013 are the only years in which two concerts were held in the same year. In 2001, both concerts were headlined by U2. In 2013, the first concert was headlined by Bon Jovi and the second by Eminem, who had controversially cancelled his 2005 Slane appearance after entering drug rehabilitation.

The Foo Fighters were the latest headlining act for the Slane concert held yesterday, with more than 70,000 in attendance. The Strypes from nearby County Cavan kicked off Slane 2015.

Those who braved the inclement weather conditions were also treated to performances from the Kaiser Chiefs and Hozier.

The 1991 Tragedy - A real Unforgettable Fire


In the last quarter of a century, music has become central to the tradition of Slane. For years it has played host to the Festival in Great Irish Houses, but it is for the fabulous open air Rock Concerts in the great natural amphitheatre below the Castle that it has become internationally renowned.

 Acts such as U2, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Guns ‘N Roses, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, David Bowie, Queen and REM have performed in Slane. U2, uniquely, have performed three times at the venue – playing support to the renowned Irish band, Thin Lizzy, who headlined Slane with their charismatic singer, Phil Lynott at the first show in 1981.

In 1984 the band lived in the Castle while they were recording THE UNFORGETTABLE FIRE.

The Drawing Room was converted into a recording studio and one of the videos for PRIDE was filmed in the unique Gothic Revival Ballroom which was created for George IV’s State Visit in 1821.

It was all part of the special musical journey of the Castle.

However, as mentioned above, in 1991 tragedy struck when the real Unforgettable Fire took place, when a third of the building was destroyed and the rest of the Castle was severely damaged. It took a decade to painstakingly restore it and it has now returned to its former glory and it is a thriving venue for weddings, business conferences and other gatherings.

If you ever get a chance, just an hour from Dublin, whether to attend a concert or just to experience some of the magic, mysticism and romance, that is part of the rich tapestry that envelopes this part of Ireland, Slane Castle is well worth a view.

 

By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator



 

Guadalupe del OlmoGuadalupe del OlmoSweden wins Eurovision song contest in its 60th anniversary


Posted 24/05/2015

By Guadalupe del Olmo

Swedish Måns Zelmerlöw performed "Heroes" in the Austrian capital after being one of the favourites beating Russia and Italy with an impressive 365 points.

The popular annual song contest celebrated its 60th anniversary under the motto “Building bridges”, with Australia as a guest for the first time.

Måns ZelmerlöwMåns ZelmerlöwThe show was less dull than usual, however some of us missed some freaky songs and performers from countries that no longer take Eurovision too seriously.

Nothing is certain at Eurovision, but Zelmerlöw 's win could never be described as a surprise. He had been the bookies' favourite since he was selected to represent his country back in March. That gives Sweden a sixth win, just one behind Ireland's record of seven.

As with all the best Eurovision numbers, his track had a message - the song and the interactive graphics that accompanied it were about the damage caused by bullying.

 

This year the contest was full of ballads, nice songs and catchy tunes with the predominance of English as a language; in fact only four countries sang in their mother tongue in the final (excluding UK of course): France, Italy, Montenegro and Spain.

Special effects and computer wizardry helped France and Sweden to appear in the stage with a myriad of digital people, thus overriding the limitation of six people in the stage rule. In fact, it was quite a nightmare scenario when announced winner Måns Zelmerlöw had to perform his song again. I imagine that despite the obvious happiness, the artistic director panicked thinking about re-arranging all the digital media to fit the scene.

Overall, the night was quite entertaining, especially since the new system helped to balance geopolitical alliances and shorten the whole voting process, which encountered some technical problems with the connection with some countries.

Notwithstanding the motto of Eurovision 2015, building bridges, Russian singer Polina Gagarina's performance was marred by boos apparently prompted by the Ukraine conflict and the Kremlin's anti-gay attitude. Even the presenters had to intervene in the voting reminding the audience that the contest was beyond politics and what mattered were the music and the songs.

Kiev did not send a candidate this year. With many in the West viewing Moscow as the aggressor in Ukraine, the Russian's song, A Million Voices, and its message of peace and understanding raised some eyebrows during the qualifiers leading up to the contest final.

Despite a burning piano included, which bizarrely kept playing while self-combusting, Austrian song, regardless of being the host country, got nil points, last after Germany, also with nil points. The UK obtained the worst results in Eurovision in the last 12 years. You can consult the full results below.

 

Full list of Eurovision 2015 results: 

  1. Sweden - 365 points
  2. Russia - 303 points
  3. Italy - 292 points
  4. Belgium - 217 points
  5. Australia - 196 points
  6. Latvia - 186 points
  7. Estonia - 106 points
  8. Norway - 102 points
  9. Israel - 97 points
10. Serbia - 53 points
11. Georgia - 51 points
12. Azerbaijan - 49 points
13. Montenegro - 44 points
14. Slovenia - 39 points
15. Romania - 35 points
16. Armenia - 34 points
17. Albania - 34 points
18. Lithuania - 30 points
19. Greece - 23 points
20. Hungary - 19 points
21. Spain - 15 points
22. Cyprus - 11 points
23. Poland - 10 points
24. United Kingdom - 5 points
25. France - 4 points
26. Germany - 0 points
27. Austria - 0 points

 

But if something has changed from Eurovision early years is the existence of social media, especially twitter, which made the overall experience less stale and a delight for the most fierce Eurovision detractors. Just for the sake of it and not to take credit from the great Graham Norton coverage, I have permitted myself to include some of the funniest ones (in my opinion):

 

By Guadalupe del Olmo for EU Spectator

 



 

Twenty most fascinating facts about the Louvre


Posted 20/05/2015

By Carlo Pandian and Fiona McCoss from The Paris Pass

Few art galleries are as prized or daunting as the Musée du Louvre, Paris’ pièce de résistance no first-time visitor to the city can resist. This is, after all, one of the world’s largest and most diverse museums.

In May 1791 the National Assembly declared the Louvre "a place for bringing together monuments of all the sciences and arts". Nowadays, this is not only the largest museum in the world, but also one of the most esteemed.

Arguably it is Paris’ most visited attraction as it sees over 9.3 million visitors a year – which is no mean feat. Its collection of 35,000 priceless masterpieces, antiques and classic and contemporary makes it one of the most vast art galleries for its breadth of subjects, rangin from the 6th century BC to the 19th century.  It would take nine months to glance at every piece, rendering advance planning essential.

 

The museum lies in the centre of Paris on the Right Bank. The neighbourhood, known as the 1st arrondissement, was home to the former Tuileries Palace, which closed off the western end of the Louvre entrance courtyard, but was heavily damaged by fire during the Paris Commune of 1871 and later demolished. The adjacent Tuileries Gardens, created in 1564 by Catherine de' Medici, was designed in 1664 by André Le Nôtre. The gardens house the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, a contemporary art museum that was used to store Jewish cultural property from 1940 to 1944. Parallel to the Jeu de Paume is the Orangerie, home to the famous Water Lilies paintings by Claude Monet.

The Louvre is slightly askew of the Historic Axis (Axe historique), a roughly eight-kilometre architectural line bisecting the city. It begins on the east in the Louvre courtyard and runs west along the Champs-Élysées. In 1871, the burning of the Tuileries Palace by the Paris Commune revealed that the Louvre was slightly askew of the Axe despite past appearances to the contrary. The Louvre can be reached by the Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre Métro or the Louvre-Rivoli stations.

The Louvre has three entrances: the main entrance is through the 21m-high Grande Pyramide, a glass pyramid designed by the Chinese-born American architect IM Pei.; an entrance from the Carrousel du Louvre underground shopping mall; and an entrance at the Porte des Lions (near the western end of the Denon wing).

Under the main entrance to the museum is the Carrousel du Louvre, a shopping mall operated by Unibail-Rodamco. Among other stores, it has the first Apple Store in France, and a McDonald's restaurant, the presence of which has created controversy.

The use of cameras and video recorders is permitted inside, but flash photography is forbidden.

If you don't have the Museum Pass (which gives you priority), you can avoid the longest queues (for security) outside the pyramid by entering the Louvre complex via the underground shopping centre Carrousel du Louvre. You'll need to queue up again to buy your ticket once inside.

To commemorate the declaration by the National Assembly, the folks at The Paris Pass decided to look at the twenty of the most fascinating facts about the Louvre to serve as a reminder of why this museum is one of the best museums in the whole world.

 



 

Expo Milano 2015– is the universal expo a sign of decadence?Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 14/05/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Every country wants one, but universal expositions are known to be bloated expensive efforts that get little return both in economic or political terms. I must confess that I admire how these international extravaganzas try to get together countries around a theme each time more ambitious, in Milano the motto is “Feeding the planet, Energy for life.”

Universal expositions or ‘expos’ are nowadays far from being the avant-garde event that was the 'first World Expo', held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London, United Kingdom, in 1851, under the title "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations.” The often called ‘The Great Exhibition’, conceived by Prince Albert (Queen Victoria's husband), influenced the development of several aspects of society, including art-and-design education, international trade and relations, and tourism. 

Certainly the character of world expositions has evolved since its inception in 1851. Three eras can be distinguished: the era of industrialization, the era of cultural exchange, and the era of nation branding, as in Milano.

Similar to the Olympic Games, opinion is divided, although very few resist being in the spotlight of the world for a month, the ramping budgets, the affluence of visitors and the public disruptions are not everyone’s cup of tea. As a Spanish, I understand that the heritage of the Expo 92 in Seville and the Olympic games in Barcelona the very same year is still vivid, however, Spaniards are already turned off these megalomaniac projects that leave the public coffers empty in exchange of a ribbon cutting photo.

Running from the 1st May to October 31st, Expo Milano 2015 has managed to gather together 145 countries. Nevertheless, the project has generated sufficient controversy to the point that thousands took to the streets to protest as the fair opened. 

“The Expo is a machine for burning public money,” said one protester, carrying a “No Expo” banner. “It promised to bring jobs and boost the economy, but it’s being run by voluntary labour and has wasted billions on pointless infrastructure.”

Seven years of escalating budgets amounting to around € 13 billion, including the costs of building new transport infrastructure to service the site, ten miles from the centre of town, were needed to accomplish the venue. Even one million was spent on building camouflage structures to hide the unfinished pavilions for the opening.

 

But now that it is up and running, what can we expect from Expo Milan?

 

Over this six-month period, Milan will become a global showcase where 145 participating countries will show the best of their technology that offers a concrete answer to a vital need: being able to guarantee healthy, safe and sufficient food for everyone, while respecting the Planet and its equilibrium. In addition to the exhibitor nations, the Expo also involves international organizations, and expects to welcome over 20 million visitors to its 1.1 million square meter exhibition area.

 

The objective is to create a platform for the exchange of ideas and shared solutions on the theme of food, stimulating each country’s creativity and promoting innovation for a sustainable future, Expo 2015 will give everyone the opportunity to find out about, and taste, the world’s best dishes, while discovering the best of the agri-food and gastronomic traditions of each of the exhibitor countries.

 

The architecture varies between the giant, husk-like leaves that wrap around Mexico’s pavilion celebrating the country’s most ancient, and popular grain – maize; to the oval ramps on six levels that hints at the ancient farming canals of pre-Colombian Mexico.

For Brazil, this becomes a giant net suspended in mid-air, beckoning visitors to bounce into their indoor pavilion. Underneath, small gardens feature some of Brazil’s top products, such as coffee and tropical fruits.

Only about a third – 54 countries – of the 145 countries represented at the Milan Expo have invested in their own pavilion.

The Swiss pavilion, with a cost of more than 22 million euros has two central towers filled with the country’s top food products. They contain, under a banner saying “Will there be enough for everyone,” 96,000 litres of water, 2,500 doses of coffee, 840,000 dried apple rings and two million cubes of salt, all of it free for the taking.

French architects from X-TU, have designed their pavilion to celebrate the country’s fertile landscape. It comes in the shape of a 7,000 square-metre market, made only with French wood.

Beyond using sustainable materials, all pavilions are required to build half of their lot outdoors, and ensure it can be easily removed after the expo. Thus Milan will be part of the list of cities to hold a universal exposition, something that will be part of Italy history books, regardless if the site will remain as if nothing happened after 31st October this year.

 



 

Europe – Schuman Day 2015Randall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 09/05/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

Europe Day on the 9th May marks the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration signed in 1950 as the first move towards the creation of the European Union.

EU institutions open their doors on this day to the public.

To celebrate Europe Day, the EU institutions open their doors to the public on the 2nd of May in Strasbourg and on the 9th of May in Brussels and Luxembourg. Local EU offices in Europe and all over the world organise a variety of activities and events for all ages.

Each year thousands of people take part in visits, debates, concerts and other events to mark the day and raise awareness about the EU.

Activities and celebrations in all 28 EU countries help to bring Europe closer to the citizens.

Brussels, the capital of Europe, also celebrates this day. The city welcomes many institutions on its territory: the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions will organize an open day (from 10 am to 6 pm) with activities in the European quarter, such as the Bread Festival.

The event has the overarching theme of development, as part of the European Year for Development 2015.

 

 


Robert Schuman – Founding father

Jean-Baptiste Nicolas Robert Schuman (29 June 1886 – 4 September 1963) was a Luxembourgish-born French statesman. Schuman was a Christian Democrat (MRP) and an independent political thinker and activist. Twice Prime Minister of France, a reformist Minister of Finance and a Foreign Minister, he was instrumental in building post-war European and trans-Atlantic institutions and is regarded as one of the founders of the European Union, the Council of Europe and NATO.

The 1964–1965 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour.Grave of Robert Schuman in Saint Quentin church, in Scy-Chazelles, near Metz, France Grave of Robert Schuman in Saint Quentin church, in Scy-Chazelles, near Metz, France

Schuman later served as Minister of Justice before becoming the first President of the European Parliamentary Assembly (the successor to the Common Assembly) which bestowed on him by acclamation the title 'Father of Europe'. He is considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union. He presided the European Movement over the years 1955 to 1961. In 1958 he received the Karlspreis, an Award by the German city of Aachen to people who contributed to the European idea and European peace, commemorating Charlemagne, ruler of what is today France and Germany, who resided and is buried at Aachen. He was also a knight of the Order of Pius IX.

 

 



 

Discover the Van Gogh Museum, one of Amsterdam’s must-seesRaquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez


Posted 06/05/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Each year, 1.6 million visitors come to the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the 25 most popular museums in the world. The museum has reopened on May 1st after seven months renovation. Opened in 1973, it houses the collection of Vincent’s younger brother Theo.

The Museum maintains the world’s largest collection of the works of the world’s most popular artist - Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890). More than 200 paintings and 500 drawings by Vincent and his friends can be admired at this one obligatory visit in the Netherlands capital.  It also hosts paintings of contemporaries, such as Gauguin, Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec and Bernard.

Vincent van Gogh was born in 1853 and had a short but astonishingly productive life. Through his paintings, the museum chronicles his journey from Holland, where his work was dark and sombre, to Paris, where, under the influence of the impressionists, he discovered vivid colour. From there he moved to Arles, where he was incredibly productive, often completing a canvas every day.

Astoundingly Van Gogh was self-taught as a painter and had a career that spanned less than a decade. A volatile character liable to mood swings, he famously cut off his ear after an argument with Gauguin. In 1890, while in the depths of depression, he finally committed suicide. He would come to be regarded as a giant among artists, but during his lifetime Van Gogh sold only a single painting.

Famous works on display include The Potato Eaters (1885), an example of his sombre Dutch period, The Yellow House in Arles (1888), The Bedroom (1888), several self-portraits, and still lifes of sunflowers and other blossoms that shimmer with intense Mediterranean light. One of his last paintings, Wheatfield with Crows (1890), is an ominous work finished shortly before his suicide.

The permanent collection also includes many of the artist’s personal effects.     Van Gogh received a milk jug from Theo and used it in several works. You’ll also see family bibles that he used as subjects for his canvases. Van Gogh’s paintings are on the 1st floor; several other floors display his drawings and Japanese prints, and works by his friends, contemporaries and others he influenced, some of which are shown in rotation.

The library has a wealth of reference material for serious study. The museum’s main building was designed by Gerrit Rietveld, the seminal Dutch architect. Behind it, reaching onto Museumplein, is a separate exhibition wing (1999) designed by Kishio Kurokawa, commonly referred to as ‘the Mussel’.

Entrance queues can be long, as only so many visitors are allowed inside at a time. Come before 11am or else on a Friday night, when the museum hosts special cultural events. I Amsterdam Card holders have a separate ‘fast’ lane for entry, but it can be almost as long as the regular queue. Advance ticket holders and Museumkaart owners fare the best in their quick-moving lane. Advance tickets are available online or at tourist information offices, with no surcharge.   So our recommendation for this visit is to buy your tickets online!

By the way, there is free wifi, which is a plus. Even the museum made part of its collection accessible on internet through Google Art Project, which make it accessible for those that are too lazy to travel.

 

By Raquel Jimenez for EU Spectator

 



 


Earlier this year...


Europe & Armenian GolgothaRandall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 29/04/2015

By Randall Calvin

One hundred years ago this week, around 250 notable people in Constantinople - intellectuals, journalists, teachers, and politicians - were arrested and moved to holding centres.  All of those imprisoned were leaders of the Armenian community in Constantinople, present day Istanbul. They were rounded up on the order of the Interior Minister of the Ottoman Empire.

This event in 1915 marked the start of arrests, killings, mass deportation and ethnic cleansing of more than one million Armenians from Anatolia, now modern day Turkey.

The difficult issue of Armenia was again addressed last week, with Austria joining the European Parliament, France, and even Pope Francis among others, in recognising the deaths of nearly 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, as genocide...read more...



 

Raquel JimenezRaquel JimenezDiscovered papers shed light on the death of Spanish writer Federico Garcia Lorca


Posted 23/04/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

It is the first time any kind of official documentation emerges on the poet killed one month after the Spanish civil war broke out. The newly discovered official papers revealed that Federico Garcia Lorca was killed for being socialist, a homosexual, and a freemason.

The document - originally from Granada’s police headquarters - refers to the one of the highest profile victims of the Spanish Civil War as a "freemason and socialist" as well as referring to his "homosexual practices."...read more...



 

Happy birthday Leonardo!Raquel JimenezRaquel Jimenez

Milan celebrates with Italy's biggest show on da Vinci since 1939


Posted 19/04/2015

By Raquel Jimenez

Not since 1939 has Leonardo da Vinci been the subject of such an ambitious exhibition in Italy. That year, as Europe stood on the brink of war, the Italian public was treated to a large exhibition of his work during the Triennale di Milano, which included everything from his oil paintings to functioning designs he developed for machines.

Since then, a number of exhibitions have tackled parts of his work, but never all of it. “The reason is mainly because the works, painted on panels, are so fragile,” says Maria Teresa Fiorio, the co-curator of “Leonardo 1452-1519”, which opens at the Palazzo Reale this month, and which has been timed to coincide with the Milan Expo 2015 (9 May-31 October)...read more... 



And the trendiest colour in the art world (right now) is...


Posted 14/04/2015

Blue is the new orange, according to a PhD candidate in psychology and neurobiology at the Karolinska Instituet in Sweden.

Martin Bellander, who analyses data for his blog, was inspired by a number of posts he read in which the colours used in movie posters and trailers over time were analysed.

He decided to conduct a similar study, this time on a medium that dates back much farther that film – painting.

 

...read more...



 



Road to the Republic 1916 - 2016Randall CalvinRandall Calvin


Posted 06/04/2015

By Randall Calvin


Tens of thousands of people gathered in the centre of Dublin today where O'Connell Street - formally known as Sackville Street (named after Lionel Sackville, 1st Duke of Dorset) in the late 1700s until 1924, when it was renamed in honour of Daniel O'Connell, a nationalist leader of the early 19th century, whose statue stands at the lower end of the street, facing O'Connell Bridge. Dublin's main thoroughfare was pedestrianised for RTÉ's 'Road to the Rising' Commemoration...read more...



PolskaÉire 2015 FestivalAnna-Maria BakAnna-Maria Bak


Posted 21/03/2015

By Anna-Maria Bak

To champion the diversity that Polish people bring to Ireland, PolskaÉire 2015 has been established as a nationwide festival to coincide with the UEFA Republic of Ireland vs. Poland qualifier on the 29th of March.

This initiative is led by Irish Minister of State for New Communities, Culture and Equality, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin T.D. (Department of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Department of Justice and Equality), the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Dublin and the Football Association of Ireland. The festival is supported by Dublin City Council and other local authorities, along with many Polish organisations and cultural, community and sporting groups across the country...read more...


 

AFGHANISTAN: the mirror is broken, the image remains


Posted 15/03/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

EU Spectator caught up with Painter Artist-Designer Hachem Barakzaï at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

We were very impressed with the wonderful exhibition of his work, and what made it even more interesting was the political backdrop - given the fact that he is a political refugee from Afghanistan.

As described in the title of the expo "Afghanistan: the mirror is broken, the image remains," Afghanistan, far from being a land of war and conflicts, it is a country whose riches include its past civilizations, its ancient cultural heritage, and that is what Hachem Barakzaï wants to show through his paintings...read more...



European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage


Record outreach and participation

Posted 08/03/2015

2015 has seen a huge number of applications for the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards. The prize highlights the best achievements in the care of Europe's precious cultural heritage.

This year, a total of 270 applications have been received, submitted by both organisations and individuals. Applications came in from a total of 33 countries, the largest number since the award's creation in 2002. The prize is backed by Creative Europe, the EU's programme to support the European cultural and audio-visual sectors...read more...



Rock & Roll – On the road


Posted 01/03/2015

By Randall Calvin & Guadalupe del Olmo

EU Spectator magazine caught up with TAO, the one and only "rock writer" who plays with his band aboard the fabulous TAO Love Bus, bringing on the road the real- Spirit of Rock! We interviewed him and the crew on Place Luxembourg at the doorstep of the European Parliament Brussels.

So who is this Tao? See the video.


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