Is Scotland’s Film Industry In Jeopardy?

by Alex Watson

Creative Scotland received further criticism in Parliament yesterday from artists who have previously worked with the organisation.

The comments arose during a meeting of Scotland’s Education and Culture Committee, intended to shed further light on the health of the country’s arts and culture sector.  Despite the appointment of new Creative Scotland Chief Executive, Janet Archer, in July this year, some are still unsatisfied with the organisation’s actions.  Film producer at Sigma Films, Gillian Berrie, highlighted Creative Scotland’s lack of support and funding for Scotland’s film industry, in particular.  Berrie said: “It’s embarrassing being Scottish.  We [filmmakers] can’t stay here if something isn’t done.”

Other artists in different fields were initially positive about the new Chief Executive’s progress.  Producer, Chief Executive and Co-Artistic Director of Grid Iron Theatre Co., Judith Doherty, said: “In the last three or four months I have had really good dialogue.  I have had understanding and support.”  Playwright, David Greig, agreed that Creative Scotland were improving, but that there was still much more to be accomplished.  Greig said: “The direction of travel is great [but] young and emerging artists are really suffering.”

Credit: Creative Scotland

The meeting centred on the state and reported decline of Scotland’s film industry.  Berrie admitted that under Archer’s leadership, Creative Scotland are now focussing on film more.  However, Berrie still does not feel that film is being taken seriously enough by the organisation.  Berrie said: “I think very small steps have been taken.”  Janet Archer was present to defend Creative Scotland and her decisions during the meeting.  Archer said: “I think we are doing well [and] we are having an open conversation.”  The Chief Executive implied that she would spend sufficient time devising a longterm plan for the new structure of Creative Scotland, as opposed to a quick fix.  Archer said: “I’m not interested in a sticking plaster approach.”

According to Archer, a plan for the future of Creative Scotland will be available online in January 2014.  Confirmed plans and funding methods will be announced on April 1st 2014.  Archer stressed that the funding application process would become significantly less complicated, something which had deterred and excluded many artists under former Chief Executive, Andrew Dixon.  Archer said: “Funding schemes at the moment are quite confusing.  We are on a track to simplifying our funding programs.”

The reported £6 million spent by Visit Scotland to promote the 2012 Disney Pixar film Brave is clearly a bone of contention for Berrie.  MSP Stewart Maxwell argued that the endorsement was intended to advertise Scotland as a tourist destination, rather than sell cinema tickets.  Nonetheless, Berrie maintains that this money could have been put into several Scottish films, rather than one large international project.  Berrie also compared the worth of Scotland’s film sector (£32 million per annum in total) to that of Ireland (around £400 million).  According to Berrie’s figures, Ireland’s tourist industry reaps around £250 million of this every year.

Withered Hand Tells All About 2014 Album

by Alex Watson

After nearly a five year wait, Scottish indie band Withered Hand have finally unveiled information about their long anticipated second album.  Due to be released in February 2014, the record is to be titled New Gods, and will consist of eleven songs.

Apart from upbeat track ‘Heart, Heart’, the new album is entirely made up of previously unrecorded music.  There have been some notable changes in the Withered Hand line up since the first album, Good News.  Listeners can expect to hear Malcolm Benzie (from band Eagleowl), Peter Liddle (Second Hand Marching Band), Fraser Hughes (Second Hand Marching Band and The Occasional Flickers) and Alun Thomas joining Dan Willson (Withered Hand founder and frontman) on New Gods.  The final cut of brand new track ‘Horseshoe’ hints at a much bigger and broader sound overall for this album.  According to Willson, the nostalgic feel of the song is thanks to his own music taste being stuck in the 1990s.

Withered Hand will tour the UK and USA after the release of New Gods
Credit: Alex Watson

Willson has also rustled up some well known performers to feature on the album.  Pam Berry (Black Tambourine), Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines) and members of Glasgow’s Belle and Sebastian appear throughout the record.  Founder of Fife’s Fence Records, Kenny Anderson (AKA King Creosote) also guests on several songs.  Willson admits to intentionally preserving a small slice of Scottish music history in New Gods.  The musicians guesting on the record have all inspired him, in some way or another.  The singer said: “Part of it is paying your dues, and part of it is making a document of something.  It was an opportunity to have versions of these songs that I wrote with people who, over the last ten years, have made music which I think is amazing.”

Despite his DIY music background, Willson, has chosen to release New Gods in partnership with record labels FortunaPOP! (UK and Europe) and Slumberland Records (USA).  Willson said: “My intention all the time when I was recording this album was to self release it, like I did with previous things.  And, at some point in the process, I thought, ‘Oh, this is going really, really well.  I probably can’t do this record justice.’”  Willson also opted to polish the sound for this album by recruiting famous music producer, Tony Doogan.  Doogan has previously produced successful albums for well known acts, including Belle and Sebastian, The Mountain Goats and Mogwai.  Willson said: “I waited until I knew that I could work with Tony Doogan, the producer, because I’d never really worked with a producer before, and I was really intrigued.”

When asked about the length of time it has taken for this new album to come to fruition, Dan Willson explained that something held him back from completing New Gods until he was certain he could make it the record he wanted.  Willson said: “Some of [the reasons] are to do with really boring things like money, and some are to do with recognising that this bunch of songs that were coming was the next album.”

Student Radio Awards 2013

by Alex Watson

With nominations announced at the start of October, there is now just over a week left before the Student Radio Awards 2013 take place.  The annual awards ceremony celebrates the efforts of hardworking student radio stations and presenters across Britain.  This year, the event will be held at the indigO2 in London on Thursday 7th November.

The Student Radio Awards are supported by several high profile organisations, including various BBC radio stations, Global Radio and the British Council.  Dreamed up in 1995 by former Student Radio Association chair, Nick Wallis, the awards have been backed by BBC Radio 1 from the start.  Dubbed by Wallis as an ‘extraordinary talent-sourcing behemoth’, the awards boast some extremely successful previous participants.

Greg James (formerly of University of East Anglia’s Livewire) is one of the awards’ most famous alumni.  The ultimate inspiration for budding broadcasters – James won Best Male Presenter at the Student Radio Awards in 2005, and was presenting on Radio 1 just two years later.  The 27 year old presenter has never been afraid to dream big, admitting in an interview last year, ‘I always thought I could end up here [at Radio 1] if I worked hard enough’.

Greg James 2

Greg James went from the Student Radio Awards to BBC Radio 1 in just two years

The nominees for 2013′s Student Radio Awards are primarily from English universities.  Just two Scottish stations are in the running – Edinburgh University’s Fresh Air and Monster FM in Inverness.  Xpress Radio in Cardiff solely represents Wales this year.  University Radio Nottingham swept the board last year, although there were other strong contenders.

Fly FM (Nottingham Trent University) and University Radio York will go head to head this time around for certain awards.  However, nominations for categories such as Best Male and Best Female are evenly spread, leaving room for newcomers and lesser known stations to bag a prize.

The Mercury Awards comes under fire.

Mercury Award nominations

Mercury Award nominations

By Stuart Iversen

The Mercury Awards have come under fire this year for an “unadventurous” shortlist and a lack of transparency when it comes to judging.

The annual music awards takes place tonight at London’s Roundhouse.  It has previously claimed it exists “solely to champion music in the UK” and has long been praised for it’s highlighting of exciting underground acts.

However, with a shortlist that contains five albums that went to number one this year and an average charting of 10th compared to 48th a few years back, it has been described by Sam Wolfson, executive editor at Noisey, as a “narrow view of music picked by judges of a narrow background.”

These same judges have come under fire for their lack of transparency.  One former judge spoke to The Observer and stated, “I was quite open when I did it and I don’t see a problem with that.”

While Mike Diver, the online editor of Clash Magazine, proclaimed that “knowing who’s picked these albums at the time of their announcement – or, better, beforehand – would help critics like myself form a more complete picture of how certain albums have made the cut.”

On the other hand, Mike Smith, the president of record company EMI, feels the lack of transparency is a necessary evil.  “The judges should be anonymous, if they were not, I am sure they would be lobbied quite hard.  The idea, I think, is that major labels would have an advantage over the independents… people would try to influence the decision.”

He was also a defender for the awards as a whole stating, “the thing that is still great about Mercury, is that bands can be picked that the public were not yet aware of.”

With the ceremony taking place tonight in London, it’s clear that there will be a lot of attention focused it’s way, whether that is for the right reasons is another matter.

Arcade Fire Add Two ‘Secret’ Glasgow Shows To November Tour

by Ben Bland

Arcade-Fire-Reflektor-460x261

Arcade Fire are set to play 2 ‘secret’ gigs next month in Glasgow. The Montreal based band, whose 4th album ‘Reflektor’ was released on Monday, have announced under their alter ego ‘The Reflektors’ they will play two shows at Barrowlands on the 15th and 16th of November.

This follows an underground marketing campaign which has included graffiti and posters with the ‘reflektor’ symbol appearing in cities all around the world. These latest shows came to light after a poster was spotted and posted on an Arcade Fire fan twitter account. The poster (see below) reads ‘ formal attire or costume’ which has become a recurring request with other secret shows in Blackpool, New York and Miami.

The band who first came to the world’s attention with their seminal album ‘Funeral’ in 2004 have composed a series of critically acclaimed albums culminating in their Grammy-award winning 2010 album ‘The Suburbs’. However, their latest offering, produced by former LCD Soundsystem mastermind James Murphy has taken a new direction musically and has divided critics. The Guardian commented that ‘It sounds like the work of a band that has plenty of good ideas, but increasingly can’t tell them from their bad ones’ while the Telegraph have called it ‘ a baffingly brilliant art rock epic’ . Despite this division, their ability live has never come under question with the seven piece’s unique mix of instruments and styles fronted by the husband and wife partnership of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne creating an energy that few of their contemporaries can match.

Consequently, despite the covert nature of the concert announcement, there is sure to be high demand. Tickets go on general sale on Friday (November 1) on Ticket Master for £30.

The poster advertising the latest shows.

The poster advertising the latest shows.

What’s On in Edinburgh

What’s happening in Edinburgh on the week of the 22nd April 2013.

Includes Tradfest, 30 Days of IPA, Toy and Comic Mart and the Edible garden at the Botanics.

culturebelt.01 from Tom Freeman on Vimeo.

Vinyl Lovers

Record Store Day took place this weekend, and saw musicians, artists and the record-buying public come together to celebrate the unique scene. Set up in 2007 it was established to promote independent music shops by selling exclusive vinyl recordings to fans.

Our reporter, Shiv Das, spoke to Avalanche Records, in Edinburgh, discussing how the weekend went.

Edinburgh is home to five independant record stores-

1.Avalanche, 5 Grassmarket, Edinburgh

http://www.avalancherecords.co.uk/

2. VoxBox, 21 St Stephen Street, Stockbridge, Edinburgh

http://voxboxmusic.co.uk/blog/

3. Elvis Shakespeare, 347 Leith Walk, Edinburgh

www.elvisshakespeare.com

4.Underground Solushn, 9 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh

5.Vinyl Villains, 5 Elm Row, Edinburgh

http://www.vinylvillainsrecords.co.uk/

Edinburgh Festival Gets New Director

ferguslinehan01

The Edinburgh International Festival has today announced it has appointed a new artistic director. Fergus Linehan, the former director of the Sydney International Festival as well as fomer Head of Music at the Sydney Opera House, will take over the role in October. He succeeds Jonathan Mills, who has been in charge at the festival for seven years.

Mills will step down after the 2014 festival, but Mr Linehan will work part-time as director designate from 1st May this year. He will step up to the role full-time from October 2014, which will mean 2015 will mark his first festival as director. He will remain in charge at the EIF until at least 2019.

Under Mr Linehan the annual turnover of the Sydney International Festival almost doubled, rising from $12m to $20m between 2004 and 2009, thanks to a rise in ticket sales, funding, and sponsorship.

Speaking of the appointment, Linehan said “I am delighted and deeply honoured to have been appointed as the next director of the Edinburgh international festival. I look forward to safeguarding the founding principles of the festival in ways which are engaging and relevant to all.

“Successful festivals respond to both place and provenance to create a unique identity and this is particularly true of Edinburgh, the pre-eminent festival city. It is with this in mind that I will begin the exciting work of developing my plans and ideas for 2015 and for future festivals”

Mills had previously faced criticism over his festival programmes, which some critics claimed were lacking in homegrown talent.

Edinburgh’s Lord Provost Donald Wilson also welcomed the appointment, saying “Fergus brings new skills, intellectual rigour and a highly successful track record to the Festival and the city.

“Having previously lived in Edinburgh and worked with companies visiting the city he is familiar with what the city can offer its residents as well as visitors and artists from around the world. I look forward to welcoming him back to Edinburgh and Scotland’s creative and vibrant cultural life.”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop, added ‘The Edinburgh International Festival has a worldwide reputation for excellence and innovation. In bringing together exceptionally talented artists from nations across the globe, it helps to celebrate and promote Scotland’s rich culture and heritage on the world stage and strengthen our links with other countries. I welcome Fergus Linehan’s appointment as Director and wish him every success in the role.’

Edinburgh Fashion Show

Edinburgh Fashion Show

The Edinburgh College of Art is getting ready for this year’s fashion show which will take place later this week.

This year’s runway show will feature designs from students graduating in Fashion, Performance Costume and Textiles. The Edinburgh College of Art Fashion Show is Scotland’s leading fashion event and one of the capital’s cultural highlights.

This week’s event promises to be bigger and better than ever before, with 20 collections featuring a diverse range of designs inspired by lost Peruvian tribes, 1990s kids TV shows, the sleek shapes of luxury yachts, and the power of the colour blue.

The Fashion Show will take place on Thursday 25th April and Friday 26th April, in the University of Edinburgh’s McEwan Hall. There will be one Schools performance and five public performances.

For anyone interested in attending the Fashion Show, there are still tickets available online for £15.

 

Scottish History told in Stitches

close up

by SandrZüllig and Louisa Clair Anderson

More than 500 volunteer stitchers from practically every area of Scotland are involved in what will be the Great Tapestry of Scotland.

This huge community arts projects, which began in Autumn 2011, aims to create a series of over one hundred and forty panels that tell the key stories in Scottish history – everything from Duns Scotus to Dolly the sheep. The tapestry is set to be finished by August this year and will be displayed in the Scottish Parliament in September, before going on tour in Scotland and abroad.

The Great Tapestry of Scotland is the brainchild of one of Scotland’s best-known writers, Alexander McCall Smith. The 44 Scotland Street author, together with historian Alistair Moffat, and the artistic talents of Andrew Crummy, not to mention stitchers from all over Scotland, form a team set to produce the world’s longest tapestry. Writer Alexander McCall Smith says that “the recording of events, both great and small, on cloth is nothing new. The most famous example, of course, is the Bayeux Tapestry, which is one of the world’s best-known works of art. More recently, the completion of the Prestonpans Tapestry in Scotland has reminded us of just how effective this method of narrating history can be. When I saw that tapestry for the first time, I was struck not only by its beauty but by the story behind its creation.”

The numbers behind the Great Tapestry of Scotland                                               stitcher

49, 50,000 sewing hours (equivalent to sewing 24 hours a day for 6 years!)

30 miles of woolen yarn (enough to lay up and down Ben Nevis 37 times!)

12,000 years of Scottish history

Over 500 stitchers

Over 140 panels

1 beautiful tapestry depicting the entire history of Scotland!

Keep up to date with the final spurt of the Great Tapestry of Scotland on Facebook.

House venue to be shut down

by Shiv Das

Edinburgh City Council’s planning department have ruled against a man who has set up his own music venue in a house in the capital.

Douglas Robertson submitted an application for certificate of lawfulness to enable a house as a live music venue, which the Council has rejected.

Robertson, a freelance photographer, rented an old grocer shop to use as a photography studio 20 years ago, and used the basement below for musicians to rehearse. Over the past two years Douglas and his wife have hosted countless local and touring musicians playing classical, folk, bluegrass, Americana and jazz. They have raised over £1200 pounds, and hosted over 100 concerts last year. Visitors are asked to pay a £10 donation, which goes straight the performers. He has a strict 11pm curfew rule every gig.

Robertson has paid some of the costs himself. He has spent £5000-£6000 on equipment over the years, and provides free soup and bred for all the musicians before the gigs.

City Council served a town and county planning legislation enforcement notice demanding that Robertson seeks a partial change of use for the house to continue concerts. This requires a public entertainment licence and installing fire and safety regulations.

Cllr Richard Lewis, Culture Convener, said: “Of course, we want to support those, like Douglas, whose enormous passion for live music already contributes greatly to the scene in Edinburgh – and has the potential to contribute a whole lot more – but this cannot be at the expense of the relevant planning legislation.”

Andrew Burns, Council Leader, adds “Planning’s conclusion was that the level of concert activity contravened permitted use for what is a house in a residential area’’.

The Council’s Planning Service contacted Robertson in early November 2012 to ask him to stop the concerts from the end of 2012. This followed a planning enforcement investigation which itself followed a complaint from a nearby resident which obliged the Planning Service to investigate.

“The vast majority of our neighbours either enjoy our concerts as guests or have no problem with them. Only one neighbor has actually complained in the last 10 years” Roberston said.

 

Visual Artists forced to live on the breadline

A recent study by the Scottish Artists Union reports three quarters of visual artists are living on an income of less than £5000 a year.

The SAU, which is lobbying and campaigning on behalf of visual artists working in Scotland states that the present figures are a worrying depiction of their earnings.

Only 5% of artist taking part in the survey are earning more than £15000 after tax and expenses.

Simon Hynd, a successful film director from Edinburgh, is now working for the BBC but says that the first years after graduation are the hardest: “When I started out, I was definitely in that category. For the first three years at least I was earning less than £15000 a year.”

Jonny Wilson, an unemployed film writer from Edinburgh, belongs to the same category and claims that being an artist is often a question of class.

“I fall into that category as I’ve only earned about 5000 this year. I have had some contact with BBC executives and people like that. They all seem to have come from privately educated backgrounds and have the means to fund themselves while chasing their dreams. Those from the lower socio-economic scale just can’t afford to do that. They have the reality of having to pay their bills and that eats into your energy and your ability to create.”

The recent report by SAU also states that most visual artists have never applied for a public funding or received a grant.

Mr Wilson’s observations are backed up by SAU’s report saying that 47% were forced to get a part-time job in order to keep their heads above water. Mr Hynd remembers being in the same situation: “That’s something that I did as well. I was working in retail while I pursued my dream.”

However, Mr Hynd was in the lucky but unusual position to get financial support from his family: “I was in a fortunate position because I have a wife who has a regular job so she was able to support me to an extent. She took a bit of the pressure off. Other artists definitely don’t always have that luxury.”

Fashion show raises thousands for charity

    

A charity fashion show has raised nearly £3,000 for children’s charity CHAS.

Thursday night saw the opening of Edinburgh’s glamourous fashion event which showcases the work of both student and established designers.

The event, organised by students at Edinburgh University, will run a special VIP event tonight (Friday, the 30th) and finish with a general admission performance on Saturday evening.

 For more information or to buy tickets for Saturday go to: http://www.edinburghcharityfashionshow.com/

Potter tour to open in London

Coat of arms of Hogwarts provided by Jakovche

The Harry Potter Studio Tour is opening tomorrow, 31st March in Hertfordshire, London.

Fans of the Potter franchise will be able to see sets from the films at Leavesden Studios in Watford, where all of the eight movies were filmed. The tour features real sets, models, props and costumes from the movies. Sets, which have been made in great detail include the Great Hall of Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s dormitory, Headmaster Albus Dumbledore’s office and Diagon Alley. 

Fans can also watch short films about designers talking about their work, ride a broomstick in the green-screen effects room and see how animatronics, prosthetics and make-up were used to bring to magical creatures to life.

David Heyman, a producer on all the Potter films has said: “This is a tour for Harry Potter fans, but it’s also a tour for people who are not necessarily Harry Potter fans. It’s such a good insight into the making of a film…basically a how-to.”

Tickets for the tour can be bought online at http://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk/en/your-visit/tickets-prices. Tickets cost £28 pounds for an adult and £21 for a child.  The tour promises to be a magical experience for the whole family.

Edinburgh International Harp Festival opens.

Harp lovers across the world will be gathering at Edinburgh’s Merchiston Castle School from today, to join in a celebration of traditional music from the celtic fringe, and further afield.

Musicians from countries as diverse as Holland, Sweden, Poland, China, Africa and Colombia will gather to share their music – and their talents.

Performers include Lamine Cissokho from Senegal, a descendant of a famous musical dynasty that trace their roots back to the 15th century. He has been playing the African kora (harp) and other traditional West African instruments since the age of ten.

Edmar Castaneda is another attractive performer. From humble beginnings in Colombia, his musical inspiration came through his musician mother and local folklore traditions.

The festival has been running in Edinburgh for thirty years, and continues to thrive. Its Artistic Advisor, Isobel Mieras, comments with a twinkle in her eye,
“It’s a troublesome baby – it’s got big and successful, and looking after it becomes harder and harder!”

Originally for dedicated students of harp and other traditional instruments, the festival has become a growing attraction for lovers of traditional and folk music more widely.

“A lot of people think it’s a bit po-faced, but believe me, harp music can be exciting!”

Performances will be augmented by courses and workshops designed for everyone from the youngest child touching a clarsach for the first time, through to experienced players.

Young harpist, Elinor Evans, can be heard in this piece playing a traditional Scots tune, arranged by Isobel Mieras.

GAME goes into administration, main Edinburgh stores stay open

A GAME Shop: Open For How Long?

GAME, Britain’s biggest video game retailer, has gone into administration today.

The retailer counts around 1.300 stores distributed between the UK and mainland Europe, 5.100 employees in the UK and Ireland, of which 385 are employed at its headquarters in Basingstoke, Hampshire.

In Edinburgh, Gamestation on Princes Street, the flagship store of the company, had already been closed in late 2011.

However, as the retailers are refusing to release any comments, it’s understood that the GAME stores in St. James Shopping centre and Ocean Terminal are still open as usual.

Meanwhile, it has already been reported that about half of the 600 UK shops have been closed during the day, and it’s unclear whether the rest will stay in business.

The company’s website is currently no longer accessible, and it names MJA Jervis and SD Maddison as the appointed Joint Administrators.

Mike Jervis has commented: “Despite these challenges, we believe that there is room for a specialist game retailer in the territories in which it operates, including its biggest one, the UK.

“As a result, we are hopeful that a going concern sale of the business is achievable”.

GAME, which was founded in 1991 as Rhino Group, had already been rumoured to be in troubled waters as their credit worthiness came under scrutiny just a few days ago.

As a consequence, three main suppliers, Nintendo, EA and Capcom, blocked the distribution of their most recent releases to the retailer.

The overall performance of the company in the last few months has been abysmal, with a £18 million loss for the year to 31 January being blamed on high fixed costs and an ambitious international expansion.

Titanic director breaks deep dive record

Hollywood director James Cameron has become the first person to solo dive to the deepest point in the ocean. The Marian Trench, which is located in the western pacific ocean close to Guam, is an astonishing 7 miles (11km) deep.

In 1960 the first and last successful endeavor to reach the bottom of the Marian Trench was made by US Navy Lt Don Walsh and oceanographer Jacques Piccard. Cameron though holds the record for being the first person to reach sea ground alone.

He spent several hours on the Pacific Ocean sea floor, collecting samples for scientific research and taking photographs and moving images.

After his return Cameron tweeded: “Hitting bottom never felt so good”

The specially designed sub, the Deepsea Challenger was made in Australia, weighs 11 tonnes and is more than 23feet long.

Cameron said about the expedition: “Most importantly, though, is the significance of pushing the boundaries of where humans can go, what they can see and how they can interpret it.”

National Geographics supported the expedition and its executive vice president of the Mission program Terry Garcia is proud of the program:  “In 2012 we are still exploring largely unknown places — as National Geographic has been doing for nearly 125 years. I’m delighted to say that the golden age of exploration and discovery continues.”

James Cameron always had a passion for deep waters. He has made more than 70 deep submersible dives, including a total of 33 to the wrack of the Titanic. Since Cameron is still a film director at heart it is not surprising that the Deepsea Challenge will become a 3-D film which will subsequently be broadcast on the National Geographic Channel.

Literary Death Match to take place tomorrow

A ‘battle to the death’ is set to take place in Edinburgh tomorrow night.

The Voodoo Rooms will for the second time host Literary Death Match (LDM), an event originally created by Todd Zuniga, an LA-based writer and journalist and the founding editor of Opium Magazine.
The contest pits four authors against one another, as each reads a short extract of their work. Two finalists are chosen by a panel of judges, which have in the past included Christopher Brookmyre, Jon Ronson and D.J Taylor.

The winner is then decided by a more esoteric contest, as audience members are encouraged to take part in bizarre book-related games. A recent LDM in Boston on March 8th featured a round of “Pin the Moustache on Hemingway” – audience members were handed the moustaches of various famous authors, such as Arthur Conan Doyle and James Joyce, and then blindfolded, before attempting to attach the moustaches to Hemingway’s upper lip.

Deciding contests have also included a Spelling Bee Finale (held in Norwich earlier this month) and a Neil Gaiman Cupcake Chucking Contest in Minneapolis – St. Paul. Whichever author the winning audience members represent is then crowned champion, and awarded “literary immortality”.

LDM has been described by the Guardian as “witty, iconoclastic and unfettered from the constraints of the traditional, and largely corporate, publishing agenda.” Earlier this year, Zuniga was named one of 2012′s “Faces to Watch” in the LA Times, with his style described as an “unlikely combination of Vegas showman and book geek.”

The event has taken place all around the British Isles and has travelled to 39 cities across the world, taking in Helsinki, New York and Beijing. LDM has also featured at several festivals, including the Free Fringe and the Latitude Festival.

This is the fourth time that LDM has come to Edinburgh, with the first visit taking place in August 2010. Previously the contest has been held in The Banshee Labyrinth and at the Edinburgh Book Festival last August.

Iain McPherson, General Manager of the Voodoo Rooms, described the venue as being “very excited” to host the event again.

New record label launched at Jewel and Esk College

Staff and students at Jewel and Esk College have launched a new record label, Feast Records. Utilizing the college’s impressive array of recording equipment the label is aimed at promoting “new young musical talent in Scotland”.

An event will be held to celebrate the new label on the 30th of March at Edinburgh’s Electric. The launch will be ticketed at £5 on the door and will feature young Edinburgh bands such as Maydays, The Nature Boys and Fridgemaster. Feast’s upcoming website will also feature gig and album reviews, studio sessions and up and coming bands.

This record label comes as the latest in a line of recent small independent labels to be launched in the capital such as Song by Toad, Offbeat, Alextronic and Pure Synthesis.

Feast records can be found here on facebook.

Jewel and Esk College website can be found here.

Podcast: Final Harry Potter named best film at Empire Awards

The final film in the British fantasy film franchise took the top prize at the Empire Film Awards 2012 in London last night.

Along with Best Film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 scooped the award for Best Director, for David Yates. Accepting the award he commented, “It’s a real treat to get this from people who love movies,” referencing the fact that the awards are decided entirely by the public.

Harry Potter was not the only British film to emerge victorious, with Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy winning the awards for Best British Film, Best Thriller, and Best Actor, which went to self-proclaimed ‘veteran’ actor Gary Oldman. Oldman, who received his first Oscar nomination this year after 32 years in the industry, commented that he was delighted to be receiving an award voted for by movie-goers, “This is a very special award, because it isn’t political. There’s no agenda, it’s just movie fans and I will cherish this.”

Best Actress went to Olivia Colman for her harrowing portrayal of a battered house-wife in Paddy Consedine’s Tyrannosaur. “Although it doesn’t seem it, it was the most enjoyable experience I’ve ever had on set,” said Colman on accepting her award.

Another British film, The Inbetweeners, beat out raunchy comedy Bridesmaids to win the Best Comedy prize.

Listen to Katrina Conaglen and Kirsten Waller’s discussion of the awards in an Edinburgh Napier News podcast extra:

Listen here:

[Read more...]

Rare Automaton sparks international interest

The Black smoker is an unusual addition to the Edinburgh auction house

A rare automaton of a black man smoking a cigarette will be sold at auction by Lyon & Turnbull this week. Valued at around £1500, the piece is made by famous Frenchman Vichy and dates from the period 1860 to 1910, known as “The Golden Age of Automata”.

Sourced from a private collection near Dundee, the Black Smoker has mechanical movement to the eyes, mouth and neck. Douglas Girton from Lyon& Turnbull spoke of how the figure’s unusual qualities have sparked an interest among buyers internationally;

“It’s the most viewed item on our online auction. Our customers are excited by the fact that it’s a bit different and quirky, buyers are definitely very curious about our Black smoker!”

The success of the Hollywood Blockbuster “Hugo”, directed by Martin Scorsese, which featured automatons or mechanical robots, has undoubtedly added to the interest of the piece.

Originally used as a promotional piece in the window of a tobacconist, the antique figure remains in excellent condition with the clockwork mechanism in full working order.

Collectable

The high price tag attached to this once forgotten family heirloom is down to its renowned manufacturers, as Lee Young, automaton specialist pointed out;

“This is very collectible item, especially as it dates from the period between 1860 and 1910 when many small family based companies of Automata makers thrived in Paris. From their workshops they exported thousands of clockwork automata and mechanical singing birds around the world. It is these French automata that are collected today, although now rare and expensive they attract collectors worldwide.”

Lyon & Turnbull is one of the capital's oldest auction houses.

Gustave Vichy was born in 1839 to a Parisian watch and clock maker who, along with his wife, set up the Vichy Company in 1862 with the aim of building and selling clocks, mechanical objects and toys. In 1866, Gustave took over the company and dedicated his time to developing automata while his wife, a seamstress, dressed the figures. The Vichy Company became part of a group of family businesses that thrived in Paris between 1860 and 1910 and known as the “Golden Age of Automata”. Gustave had great success producing advertising automata and one of his models won the Grand Prix at the Great Exhibition of 1900, the only award given to automata or mechanical toys. His son Henry gradually took control of the firm, incorporating Lioret phonograph mechanisms into some automaton models, which were advertised as being able to sing, speak and play musical instruments.

The black smoker goes on sale on the 28th March 2012 at 11.00am at Lyon & Turnbull, 33 Broughton Place, Edinburgh EH1 3RR.

Festival tickets on sale this weekend

Tickets for the Edinburgh International Festival will go on sale tomorrow, 24 March 2012.

The famous finale: Tickets are expected to sell out quickly. Image: Tim Rawle / CC license

The festival, which will run from the 9th of August to the 2nd of September, will showcase talents from 47 nations in performances of theatre, opera, dance and music.

4 million people will flock to Scotland’s capital city to watch 40, 000 performances by more than 25, 000 artists. This year will be the 65th anniversary of the Edinburgh festival and the programme will enshrine the values of the Olympic games and global identity.

Prices for the festival start at £6 and discounts will be made available closer to start of the festival. Students and children under 18 will be able to buy half price tickets on selected performances from the 24th of March.

The popular finale, the Festival Fireworks Concert, is expected to sell out quickly, as well as tickets for the opening concert Delius’s A Mass of Life.

Tickets can be bought from Hub Tickets http://www.hubtickets.co.uk/ from Saturday as well as from the Edinburgh Playhouse, Festival Theatre, The Queen’s Hall, Royal Lyceum Theatre, and the Usher Hall, from Monday the 26th of March.

UK’s 2012 Eurovision entry unveiled

Engelbert Humperdink is the UK entry to the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest.

The UK’s entry into the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 has been unveiled today on the official Eurovision website. The entry, a ballad entitled “Love Will Set You Free” is performed by veteran crooner Engelbert Humperdinck.

Humperdinck, 75, will perform the song at the Contest finals in Baku, Azerbaijan on May 26, in a bid to reverse the recent UK bad fortune in the competition.  It has been 15 years since the UK have won the first place prize, with the 1997 entry from Katrina and the Waves, “Love Shine A Light.” It has won the competition a total of 5 times since first entering in 1959.

Born Arnold Gerald Dorsey, Humperdinck is best known for his 1967 hit, “Release Me.” His career has spanned 56 years, and he will be the oldest male performer to take part in Eurovision.

A soaring power ballad with lyrics, “Though I’ll miss you forever, the hurt will run deep. Only love can set you free,” the song has drawn mixed reactions on twitter.

User @barnabyedwards was enthusiastic, “What madness is this? The UK’s Eurovision entry appears to be a proper song sung by a proper singer,” while @garydunion was more condemnatory:  “Oh Jebus, the UK eurovision entry is even worse than I feared. This is truly dire.” His thoughts were not echoed by @dvolvemusic “Love that people are being forced to EAT THEIR WORDS about Humperdinck’s eurovision song. Its insanely brilliant, Yeah, i still love it :D”

Spamalot opens at Playhouse tonight

Monty Python’s Spamalot, a hit Broadway musical is opening at the Edinburgh Playhouse tonight.  Written by Eric Idel and John du Prez, this production of the “rip-off” of Monty Python will run for six-days.

The production stars former Doctor Who Star Bonnie Langford and this UK tour will run in Edinburgh for 6 days.  In celebration of the musical, a giant spam tin is making appearances around the city centre, visiting Edinburgh Castle, the National Gallery and Parliament.

Spamalot tells the story of King Arthur and his knights of the round table à la Monty Python.  Featuring the 1975 film’s killer rabbits, foul-mouthed Frenchmen alongside Broadway staples like chorus girls, the show was immensely popular in the US, winning the TONY award for best musical in 2005.

The show begins at 7:30 Monday-Saturday (matinees at 2:30).  Tickets can be purchased on The Playhouse’s website for between £15.50 and £39.50.

A modern 007

Vintage, a Random House division, will relaunch Ian Fleming’s back catalogue of James Bond stories. His estate has signed a 10-year book deal which will see the books in both print and e-book form.

To date, the James Bond books have  sold more than 100 million copies worldwide, with the first being released in 1953.

There are 14 books in total, including two short story collections. The entire series will be relaunched this summer.

The James Bond name also lives on through the films. Daniel Craig’s third 007 film Skyfall, is set for release in October.

Several authors, including Sebastian Faulks, John Gardner and Jeffery Deaver are among authors who have written officially-sanctioned Bond novels. Deaver is responsible for the series’ latest addition, Carte Blanche, which was released in May, 2011.

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