Italian cultural night

With the sound of music and language ringing in the ears and the distinct aroma of pizza filling the nostrils, Derry’s first Italian cultural festival took place earlier in the week.

Organised by students of the Northwest Academy English language school in conjunction with the Nerve Centre, the festival had a unique set of events for visitors to take part in. 

You could try your hand at the language with a series of “speed lessons” on everything from eating out, the numbers in Italian, or even the colours. There was mandolin playing as well as an operatic recital.

To top it all off there was a screening of the whimsical short Centro Barca Okkupato about a local community centre in danger of closure and the lengths to which the users of the centre will go to keep the centre open. Thé iceing on the Italian cake was a screening of the classic Cinema Paradiso, the story of Salvatore “Toto” Di Vita and the influence that the local cinema and it’s projectionist Alfredo have on his life as Toto grows from an enthusiastic young boy, to a love sick teenager through to someone who himself has influence on cinema.

Given the amount of Italians who have made Derry their home down the years it is surprising that an Italian cultural night has not been organised before. The Northwest Academy of English, the Nerve Centre and everyone else involved are to be congratulated on a well thought-out program, let’s hope it is the first of many.

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Don Quixote by Ulster Orchestra

Venezuelan conductor Rafael Payare, like a matador in the bullring, lead and tamed the Ulster Orchestra, accompanied by cellist Alisa Weilerstein during their performance of Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote at a packed Guildhall on Derry on Thursday night.

The performance was the start of a season of performances by the Ulster Orchestra which will take it to various venues and audiences throughout Northern Ireland in order to extend its reach.

The orchestral piece is no less dramatic than it’s literary equivalent as wind and brass and string sections of the orchestra are brought together with flair and passion; each one visually appreciated by Weilerstein before she has to play her part. When she does there’s a bullishness and yet a style and grace that pulls the audience in and draws their attention to every note. This leading up to a dramatic climax of the piece.

In the second half of the concert, Shostakovich’s tenth symphony was given up as an offering, a piece often argued to be about Stalin himself given that Shostakovich was often hampered by Stalin’s censorship laws. However, given that both of them died on exactly the same day we will never know.

If this is only the beginning of the Ulster Orchestra’s season then there certainly is a lot of promise in what is offered ahead. However, given that among the audience were a sizeable amount of the elderly and disabled, if the Ulster Orchestra really does want to create as diverse an audience as possible, then perhaps it could be suggested that they review their ticket pricing structure. The only concession that seemed to be available was for under 16 and their attendance was sparse at best!

Opening of ‘Jewel of Mind’ exhibition at Playhouse

Mark Luukas has been painting for over twenty years. Although born in Chester England in 1979 Derry has been Mark’s home nearly all of his life. He has been painting for twenty years, finding it relaxing and a great way of reflecting the world around him. Mark sold his first work at the age of 18.
After graduating Mark has gone on to have five acclaimed exhibitions north and south of the border in various styles including still life, figurative, abstraction and semi abstraction. However for the past four years Mark has based his work on memory and invention and has entitled this exhibition jewels of mind
. Mark’s vivid imagination has allowed him to paint a great range of subjects, nearly all of which are drawn from memories and experiences throughout his life. The colour palette which he uses as well as the subject matters involved allow Luukas to create works of great vibrancy and imagination.

The Jewels of Mind exhibition is on in the Playhouse’s main gallery until 23rd August

Colin Davidson – Silent Testimony

It’s hard to picture for those who did not live through it what the troubles were like, the shootings, the bombings, the lost of a loved one. In Silent Testimony by Colin Davidson comes a different way of telling the story. Not a dramatic blockbuster film, or a thought-provoking play or a touristic re-telling of the story to entertain those with a morbid fascination with troubles sites.

These are the images of the people who have suffered as good as first hand. For although they might not have been the direct victims themselves they’re as good as. They’re as good as because they’re the ones left behind, the ones left wondering why it happened; why my loved one? Why me? What Davidson manages to do is capture on canvas with paints and a palet knife the suffering of a generation. The texture of the flesh in Colin Davidson’s portraits. These are people who have lived and who have suffered. The palet knife traces its way through the canvas, leaving it’s mark on the subject; just as the event associated with each person has left its mark on their lives. The eyes of each subject stare back at you with all the hurt, all the pain and all the humanity that their back story has left in their lives.

Silent Testimony is a very apt name for this exhibition because although each portrait comes with a back story for visitors to read, it’s the portraits that do the talking.

If you want to know what the troubles were about, go to this exhibition and read the stories on the faces of people who lived through it.

Silent Testimony is bring shown at the Nerve Visual Gallery, Ebrington, Derry until September and admission is free

In search of the lost moment

The year 1968 was a year of revolution. From Philadelphia, to Paris to Prague people were on the march demanding their rights; no more were people willing to experience discrimination. The Lost Moment is an exhibition of photos from a number of flashpoints throughout the world. The exhibition starts with an immensely sized photo of Martin Luther King’s March to Selma Alabama in March 1965; one of the most decisive moments in the American civil rights movement. The photo’s symbolism is as immense as it’s stature and is the beginning of a well thought out exhibition. The collection of photographs, taken by some of the leading photojournalist’s of the 1960’s include photographs from not only the United States but also flashpoint areas throughout Europe including Paris during the student protests there, as well as Prague and Warsaw during protests against soviet control; protests which were so ruthlessly put down, and London, which has seen protests against several issues throughout the world. The photos in this exhibition are so atmospheric that they transport you in time and place. You can feel the tension, taste the air, drenched in smoke and fear. Juxtapo alongside these photos of far off places are ones which are more familiar to local audiences. From October 1968 with the start of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland to the attempted march from Belfast to Derry, The Lost Moment presents parallels between what was happening locally with what was happening in international cities throughout the world.

For some, these photographs and posters will bring back memories, for others they are bring to life what has only been previously heard anecdotally. The fact that the exhibition is being housed in a building which once housed the soldiers who were brought on to the streets where many of these same protests took place is an irony which surely cannot be lost on the audience. The Lost Moment, or at least part thereof will be on display during the Earigal Arts Festival in the Regional Cultural Centre in Letterkenny Co. Donegal before moving on towards the end of the year to the photography gallery in Temple Bar, Dublin for the last few months of the year.

 Carmen delights at Millennium Forum

Foyle Opera Company delighted audiences at the Millennium Forum this weekend with two performances of their latest production, Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

In order to understand this piece the audience must first understand the world not only in which the opera is set but also the social norms of 1875 when it was written. Set in Seville in the nineteenth century, Carmen is a tale of love, war, jealousy and passion. At the time Bizet was writing Carmen much of Europe was battling to maintain it’s colonies and Spain was no different.  On top of this, many of the audience’s who attended operas such as Carmen were reasonably comfortably off and were not comfortable seeing the poverty which Bizet depicts in his opera, not to mention the sight of women smoking in public.

It is this setting in which we meet Micaëla in the main square in Seville searching for Don José, a soldier in the army. She is told that he will be arriving soon, not long after the bell of the cigarette factory tolls and the men of the city gather to greet the emerging factory girls, including the seductive gypsy woman Carmen. In time a love triangle (but in reality more of a love “square” develops as Don José, Michaëla, Carmen and Escamillo vie for each others affections, with tragic consequences.

This production from Foyle Opera Company, a mixture of seasoned professionals and keen amateurs was refreshing. While at times it could lapse into a little rough around the edges amateur performance, at other times it sparkled. Given the community based nature of Foyle Opera Company, where both professional and amateur are involved, it would be unfair to single out any one performance other than to say that the roles were well cast and those with greater experience made the biggest impression while some of those with less experience showed great promise.

A Memorable Night for a Mesmerising film about a unique River

Does a ladybird know what a border is? Does a leaf? If a river could speak what would it tell us? These are just some of the questions posed in the latest offering by Italian director and producer Alessandro Negrini about the river which flows through the city he has made his home; namely the River Foyle in Derry.

Tides: A history of dreams lost and Found (some broken) is an imaginative, thought provoking film which gives a voice to the river itself, allowing it to tell the audience it’s own unique story, it’s own unique sense of place and history. Using a series of old photographs and footage from the city’s past Tides is a worthy autobiography of a city which has at times been overlooked in favour of it’s larger neighbours.

Some would be forgiven for dismissing Alessandro Negrini’s piece of work as merely a very clever montage; however it’s the depth of character which the director gives to the River Foyle which makes Tides truely memorable, bringing together, nostalgia, history, politics and the true character of the people who encounter the river on a daily basis. It truely is a fitting tribute to a river and a people the director has become one of.

Hauntingly fantastic: Ghostbusters… retro delights at Playhouse.

Ghostbusters like you have never experienced it before! Based on the 1930’s radio play that is said to have inspired Harold Ramis to have written the original Ghostbusters screenplay, Wireless Mystery Theatre take the audience back to the 1930’s where they meticulously recreate the original motion picture as a radio play similar to Orson Welles’ ‘War of the Worlds, (a performance so convincing at the time that audiences across the United States were convinced they were really facing an imenant alien invasion).

This entertaining performance’s strength lies in it’s authenticity as the audience is tranformed back to the 1930’s.Complete with comercials for lifebhoy soap the pace is non-stop and meticulously re-imagines the original radio play which the successfull film was based on with a humour and imagination to captivate the audience.

The only word of caution I would use is the “Winston”character, while it’s always entertaining to laugh at a character like this, is it something that would work well with an audience further from home.

On the whole Ghostbusters… Retro is a humerus, imaginative and entertaining show. I look forward to seeing further work from Wireless Mystery Theatre and would insist that anyone who has the opportunity to see this show should not pass it up.

Ghostbusters… retro is currently on tour, see local press for details.