New Consoles Launch Amid Poor Review Scores and Developer Pressure

By Alasdair Crews

Microsoft's Xbox One, which launched earlier this month.  Credit: Microsoft

Microsoft’s Xbox One, which launched earlier this month. Credit: Microsoft

The successful launch of the new Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles has been overshadowed by poor game review scores. Both consoles launched in the U.S. earlier this month with both console producers, Microsoft and Sony, proclaiming that thier machine have sold more than one million units in North America within 24 hours of going on sale.

Unfortunately, the successful sales for both machines have been dulled by a succession of poor review scores for their flagship games. PlayStation 4 exclusives “Killzone: Shadow Fall” and “Knack” and Xbox One-only offerings “Ryse: Son of Rome” and “Zoo Tycoon” have received mixed reviews across the gaming press.

The added pressure game developers are under when working with new hardware could have contributed to the poor review scores.  An assistant producer with Ninja Theory, Colin Chang,  said: “With development of those titles having lasted at least two years and working on theoretical hardware (that changed as time went on) at the beginning of the next-gen SKUs. [It's a challenge], especially if you’re a launch title with such a constrained deadline.”

Having to develop parallel versions of games for the new consoles, as well as the consoles already being on sale, has also affected quality.  Chang said: “I can imagine this would have affected third party publishers and developers like Activision and EA the most as they would’ve shipped 4-5 SKUs of games such as Call of Duty Ghosts and Need For Speed Rivals.”

Alongside the middling review scores, technical issues have plagued both new machines. Faulty disc drives in the Xbox One have led to Microsoft offering affected customers a free game download; whilst Sony has had issues with a blue light on the PlayStation 4 causing the console to reset itself and cause other operational issues.

Both companies maintain that the issues affect less than one percent of the consoles sold so far. With both consoles expected to be top sellers this Christmas, Microsoft and Sony hope that these issues remain isolated.

Related Story: Retailers Braced For PlayStation 4 Launch

Crocodile Takes Centre Stage at King’s Pantomime

The Cast of Peter Pan Credit: The King's Theatre

The Cast of Peter Pan Credit: The King’s Theatre

By Melissa Steel

The King’s Theatre pantomime will have more bite to it this year thanks to a “particularly scary” crocodile when it opens on 30th November.

The Peter Pan production is set to shake up the standard pantomime format with new special effects. However, fans can still look forward to seeing panto veterans Andy Gray, Allen Stewart and Grant Stott on stage.

Although most of the changes are still under wraps, the production does look set to be much grander than previous years. Director Ed Curtis said: “There will be a new level of scale and stunning special effects, including a particularly scary crocodile. I can’t give too much away, though.”

Curtis is still eager to praise King’s pantos of the past. Curtis said: “There was nothing wrong with the other productions, but we are trying to push the envelope this year.”

Curtis’s decision to take the project on was also influenced by a fondness for the King’s and the pantomime tradition. The King’s has a long history of staging pantomimes – a production of Cinderella actually opened the theatre in 1907. Curtis said: “I love the King’s. I have worked with Andy and Allen before and the prospect of working with them again was extremely attractive. Peter Pan is one of the great British fairy tale stories, too. I’ve not done a Peter Pan before, so I really wanted the opportunity to tell the story. It took me about three seconds to say yes.”

Curtis has directed a variety of pantomimes in the past. Curtis said: “I have directed three or four with Qdos before. This is not the first, but it is certainly the biggest.”

Peter Pan also marks the beginning of Michael Harrison’s tenure as producer of the King’s pantomime. Harrison is head of Qdos Entertainment’s pantomime division, one of the biggest pantomime production companies in the UK. Harrison said: “The late Gerard Kelly said to me, “Pantomime is a celebration of local culture,” and that is more applicable in Scotland than it is anywhere else and probably more applicable at the King’s than it is anywhere else.”

Comic relief comes in the form of performers Andy Gray, Allen Stewart and Grant Stott, as always. This was one aspect of the show Curtis was not eager to change. Curtis said: “It is a joy of a company to work with and the three of them are a strong comic trio.” Producer Harrison was also quick to praise the actors. Harrison said: “Grant is an Edinburgh boy, Andy although he lives in Perth has spent a long time living in Edinburgh, and Allan’s comedy is all about what is topical, whether it’s about the tram, parliament or Edinburgh Zoo. This unmissable production has got something for everyone and I am sure the production will delight audiences of all ages.”

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.

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 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.

 

Edinburgh International Festival tickets on sale from new venues across the city

Tickets to this year’s Edinburgh International Festival went on sale on Saturday 24th March from the Hub at Castlehill. From today, the public can also purchase them from five new venues across the city.

The Edinburgh Playhouse, Festival Theatre, The Queen’s Hall, Royal Lyceum Theatre and the Usher Hall have joined the list of venues where members of the public can go to buy tickets for this year’s Festival, which will take place from 9th August to 2nd September.

It hasn’t taken long for ticket buyers to make use of the new box office locations in order to purchase tickets. According to a spokesperson for the Usher Hall, 5 people have already visited this morning within one hour of doors opening.

With tickets currently being sold from a variety of venues across the city, potential Festival goers are advised to be quick and buy their tickets in advance, in order to avoid future disappointments.

For more details on how to buy the tickets, click here.

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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.

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...]

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.

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.

Guinea pig sets new world record

New record: Truffles makes a daring leap Video: YouTube/ The Courier

A Scots guinea pig has joined the ranks of many animal stars from across the world to break a record in the Guiness Book of World Records 2013.

Truffles, from Rosyth, Fife, jumped 30cm (12in) smashing the previous record held by London rodent Diesel who cleared a gap of 20.5cm (8.07in) in 2009. He has had his feat confirmed by the record breaking institution and will take part in a publicity for the launch of the latest edition of the book.

Thirteen year old Chloe Macari trained her pet to leap the distance after being inspired by Disney film, G-Force, in which  a group of  guinea pigs become special agents of the FBI.

“I had two shoe boxes and these cushions between them for safety,” the youngster explained. “We kept moving the shoe boxes further and further apart. We started at around 15cm and he was quite good. He got to 20cm and then 25cm very quickly, within a few weeks.”

The giant leap was filmed to ensure the record could be approved.

‘Death row show’ gets the axe

A Chinese television show which interviews prisoners awaiting the death penalty has been cancelled.

The controversial program had run for 5 years and was a popular slot on Chinese Television, with viewer ratings in the millions. The cancellation comes after a deluge of recent criticism from foreign media, which condemned the show for being cruel and exploitative.

However the shows presenter Ding Yu, disputes this assessment. She claims the prisoners “want to be heard,” but had not been willing to talk about “past events” to people in prison. The production team claimed the show was designed to serve as a warning to the public, highlighting the consequences of criminality.

But in spite of defending its motives, the state owned Henan Legal Channel have made the decision to permanently end the show. The decision precedes a BBC documentary about the controversial show, this will be broadcast tonight and will be followed by a similar program on PBS.

Bob Dylan set to release new album

Bob Dylan has started recording his new studio album.

This will be his 35th full-length effort and it could be released before the end of the year.

“It’s an amazing thing, how he keeps creativity,” Los Lobos singer David Hidalgo told the Aspen Times. He has recently finished recording with Dylan at Jackson Browne’s Los Angeles studio.

Adele, Miley Cyrus, Pete Townshend and Bad Religion were recently featured in a tribute album for Bob Dylan, which included 76 of his best tracks.

Bob Dylan’s label is also preparing to release his complete discography for around £200.

Disney/Pixar pair up with VisitScotland for unprecedented marketing campaign

Brave: The trailer for Disney’s new animation film. Video:  DisneyPixar / YouTube

Brave, a new animated film from Disney/Pixar, is hoped to push Scottish tourist revenue past £1 billion this year, says VisitScotland.

Due to be released in August, the film is set in the Scottish Highlands and features the vocal talents of Scottish actors Billy Connolly, Kelly Macdonald, and Robbie Coltrane.

VisitScotland announced today a global marketing campaign based on the film, designed to promote Scottish tourism. At £7m, the campaign is the organisation’s biggest yet, and marks the first collaboration between Disney and the country’s tourism board.

VisitScotland chairman Mike Cantlay is hopeful the film will boost Scottish tourism during difficult economic times.

“This is an incredible opportunity to extend the reach of VisitScotland’s marketing activity across the world. This film will be shown in more than 70 countries across the world and will give us the opportunity to convert cinema goers into visitors in the biggest campaign VisitScotland has ever launched,” Cantlay said.

Previously entitled the Bear and the Bow, the film depicts the travails of a plucky young red-haired Merida, who seeks to overcome ancient traditions and causes chaos as a result.

PODCAST: Katrina Conaglen and Maxim Lewerenz discuss the merits and disadvantages of VisitScotland’s new campaign. Hosted by Pamela Paterson.

Fans protest BBC Radio 1 cuts

David Moffatt Photographer at Moff@ Photography

Musicians and music fans gathered on a rainy Sunday to protest the cancelling of a Radio 1 show championing new Scottish music.

Glasgow’s Pacific Quay played host to the protesters who illustrated their point with Scottish musicians playing their music to show the BBC what they would be missing.

The campaign began back in October when the BBC announced further budget cuts which would include axing Radio 1′s ‘Introducing in Scotland’ hosted by Ally McCrae. The remit of the show and its sister shows in Wales and Northern Ireland, is to introduce audiences to the latest in local music. The show has helped launch the careers of Biffy Clyro and Paolo Nutini. Without these programmes protesters believe that regional music will be given limited air time.

Front man for Scottish band Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, explained the importance of the show to new Scottish music, “I think it would be a travesty if the show is cut from the BBC radio schedule in Scotland. For over 10 years, the show has been an invaluable and irreplaceable platform for new and established Scottish bands. It serves to breed an essential community within Scottish music and scrapping this show would reinforce the popular fallacy that the industry does not exist outwith London”

The campaign has also gained the backing of MSP Joan McAlpine who said, “The Campaign to save Radio Six Music was successful but The Pop Cop has gathered more signatures per head of population in Scotland with a lot less publicity, which shows the strength of feeling. The BBC really needs to listen to that message and save the sound of young Scotland. This is the only Scottish opt out on Radio One, so dropping it is just unfair. “

McAlpine has already gained cross party support in the Scottish Parliament for a motion in support of the show.

Music blogger, the Pop Cop and gig promoter, Pelmet Nites have gathered over 6,000 signatures for an online petition which is expected to be delivered to the BBC in London by the campaigners themselves in mid December.

The message in Freddie Mercury’s silence

World Aid Day raises awareness around the globe. Photo: Courtesy UNAIDS

“Goodbye everybody – I’ve got to go, gotta leave you all behind and face the truth.”

These are some of the lines from one of the most famous songs in music history and looking back they seem hauntingly accurate. The song, written by Freddie Mercury, reached number one for the second time in 1991, staying there for five weeks following his death.

Mercury was a larger than life character and shocked the world by publicly announcing he was HIV positive one day before he died.

The legendary icon died at 45, from a type of bacterial pneumonia brought on by AIDS. He died in London, 20 years ago. Mercury is still well known for his flamboyant stage presence, powerful vocals and talented songwriting that has inspired millions.

With the anniversary of his death today, and the upcoming World AIDS Day next week, there are even more reports and research being published to raise awareness of the virus.

The purpose of World AIDS Day is to remind people around the world of the HIV and AIDS epidemic. It has been 30 years since AIDS was first reported, and it is estimated that today 34 million people are living with HIV around the globe.

World AIDS Day 2011 has a ‘looking forward’ theme with a focus on 2015.  The organisation, UNAIDS, which is a joint United Nations programme on HIV and AIDS, is leading the campaign with what they call ‘Getting to Zero’. The organisation claims “we have three main targets which are: zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS related deaths by 2015”.

UNAIDS is promoting a “smarter, faster, better campaign” to raise awareness of these targets. They may seem ambitious but with the global statistics of HIV and AIDS decreasing it might not be  impossible.

The total number of Scots with HIV is now 6,845 with 72% made up of males and 28% females. The main spread of HIV is mainly due to drug use and the sharing of needles and syringes.

The Scottish charity, Positive Help, has created services to help those who are affected by HIV and AIDS in the Edinburgh area. They provide a transport service, home support service and a children and young people befriending system. The befriending system is aimed at children from three to eighteen who are HIV positive, or have parents that are.

Angus Mackenzie from the charity claims, “the befriending system is very helpful to both children and teenagers, but also their parents.”

“There was one little boy we took to a festival and his reaction was just mind blowing, as if he’d never seen anything like it before.”

One of the biggest issues with HIV and AIDS is the embarrassment and taboo that still surrounds the virus toady. Mercury himself remained silent about his illness until one day before it killed him. Many suffer discrimination and feel restrictions in relationships with friends and family. This is what the befriending systems aims to prevent.

Despite the advances in life expectancy, Positive Help claims that those influenced by HIV still suffer physically, mentally and socially. Mental health issues are a problem with the virus as it can lead to ill health, depression, isolation and agoraphobia.

Freddie certainly gave us Somebody to Love

A scene from the musical 'We Will Rock You'

Hit West End show, We Will Rock You, comes to Edinburgh
to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Freddie Mercury’s death.

The Queen frontman died an untimely death 20 years ago today. His death came one day after publicly announcing that he had Aids and asking fans to join him in his fight against the deadly virus. His anniversary coincides with the opening of ‘We Will Rock You’ at the Edinburgh Playhouse on Monday, November 29, 2011. The sell-out production will rock Edinburgh for six weeks. The performance is directed by Ben Elton with Brian May and Roger Taylor supervising music. On the opening of the production, Brian May said: “People will definitely come out of the theatre feeling that in a strange way they now know us, Queen, our struggle and our journey.”

Based on a fantastical story, Ben Elton explained: “We take the legend of Queen and create our own fantastical story of young kids battling the mighty corporations who want to suppress their individuality and their love of music. They need a hero who can help them in their struggle, and we have two – the dreamer Galileo and the sassy rock chick Scaramouche. Guess who ends up winning?”

One of Mercury’s most famous quotes, “I’m not going to be a rock star, I’m going to be a legend” certainly rings true today.  His music with Queen is still considered to be some of the greatest ever made, earning him his coveted legend status. His flamboyant routines and outrageous costumes entertained fans for decades. Mercury undoubtedly proved his dedication to his fans when he continued to entertain them, worldwide, while battling his illness. Belting out well known hits such as Bohemian Rhapsody, Another one Bites the Dust and Don’t stop me now, he carved his name into the heart of the music industry.

To celebrate the opening, a Gala event will be held on December 1, 2011 in the Edinburgh Playhouse. Held to raise funds for the Mercury Phoenix Trust, it will feature a special appearance from Queen legend Brain May. The Trust was founded in 1992 by Brian May and Roger Taylor, together with Queen manager Jim Beach. Since the establishment of the trust, it has raised over $15 million to contribute more than 750 grants to Aids charities worldwide.

December 1, will also mark World Aids day. It helps people living with the disease and commemorates those whose lives it took.  Brain May said: “I am really excited to be taking part in the show in Edinburgh, it’s always so much fun and a fantastic atmosphere and to know we are raising money for the Mercury Phoenix Trust is the icing on the cake.”

Tickets are still available for ‘We Will Rock You’ playing in Edinburgh Playhouse. For more information visit http://www.edinburghplayhouse.org.uk/prod-productions_details.asp?pid=2396&VenueID=93

Singer backs Sky Arts futures fund

Belle and Sebastian singer, Stuart Murdoch, will front a seminar at Creative Scotland tomorrow. The event is in support of a £30,000 arts fund, available for three lucky artists.

The fund is from Sky Arts in association with non-profit organisation, IdeasTap. In addition to the substantial bursary, the winners will also receive mentoring to aid in the development of  their practice and career over a year. The project’s aim is to support young people in the arts today, by bridging the gap between formal education and working as an independent facing financial restrictions and lacking creative support.

Applications are welcomed from artists aged 18-30, based in the UK and Ireland, who have an idea for a creative project. Forms of submissions can range from dance to theatre and music to art. Each applicant will propose how the Sky Arts fund can help to take their work to a next level.

The seminar will feature a live Q&A session with Murdoch, who will talk about his career and establishing himself in the industry. Murdoch will also offer advice about working in the arts. This will be followed by a panel of the fund’s staff members, who will answer questions about applying for the fund.

Opera director Daisy Evans, 24, was one of the winners of the first round of applications. Her submission was a ‘Silent Opera’ production, in which she uses live vocals and pre-recorded music heard through mobile headphones. “When they told me I had won I felt like my heart had dropped out,” she said. “This is a huge opportunity and if people are considering applying then they really need to believe that they have something worth speaking about and that people want to hear. The doors are there to be opened – just open them.”

The 24 year old Opera lover also had some advice for potential applicants: “My advice for people applying in this round is to be really passionate about your own idea.”

Applications for round two are now open.

Bookings for the seminar are still available at: http://www.ideastap.com/IdeasMag/all-articles/Sky-Arts-Ignition-Futures-Fund-Seminars/booking and is free.

What’s happening in Edinburgh this week – Top 5

By Gemma McCallan

5

Design and Democracy Art Exhibition – starts Friday 25 November 2011, The Scottish Parliament

16 graduates from Scotland’s four renowned art schools have collaborated to create an exhibition. ‘Design and Democracy’ will showcase how inspired design can be both life enhancing and creative. Designs range from photographic presentation, model store fronts, products designed for a specific use and innovative graphic design.  The exhibition aims to demonstrate that design can improve the way we live.

Entrance is free. For more information see http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/newsandmediacentre/44405.aspx

4

Beauty and the Beast – starts Friday, November 25, 2011, Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh

The Lyceum Theatre will play host to the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, this weekend. This performance tells the story of a merchant who stumbles across a castle and angers the beast who lives within. The merchant promises to return, or send his daughter Beauty in his place. Beauty must first face the terrible monster before they gradually become friends and prove that love conquers all. This is a treat for the whole family.

Tickets start from £18 for adults and are available on https://bookings.lyceum.org.uk/WebPages/EntaWebShow/ShowList.aspx

3

My Week with Marilyn – Showing from Friday, November 25, 2011, Cameo Picture House

Michelle Williams plays one of Hollywood’s icons, Marilyn Monroe, in this biographical film. Based on two books by Colin Clarke, the film focuses on a week in 1965 when Monroe travelled to Britain. She was on her honeymoon with new husband, Arthur Miller. When Miller leaves the country, Clarke takes on the task of entertaining Monroe. Throughout their week together, Monroe escapes Hollywood life and the pressures that go with it.

http://www.picturehouses.co.uk/cinema/Cameo_Picturehouse/film/My_Week_With_Marilyn/

2

The Saw Doctors – Saturday, November 26, 2011,The HMV Picture House, Edinburgh

Irish band, the Saw Doctors, take a rare trip to Edinburgh to scatter some of their Irish charm.  With hits such as I Useta Love Her and Joyce Country Ceili Band, it will be hard to resist getting to your feet and having a jive. This is a night not to be missed – but don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Tickets are available on Ticketmaster and are £24.45 each. http://www.ticketmaster.co.uk/event/360046AC9F545952?artistid=776886&majorcatid=10001&minorcatid=1

1

Rob Deerings Christmas Special – Tuesday, November 29, 2011, The Stand Comedy Club
Edinburgh’s finest comedy club provides a festive treat next Tuesday. Leading stand-up comedian, Rob Deering, offers a winning combination of music and laughter. Described as Chris Tarrent and Bill Bailey’s ‘love child’, Deering entertained Edinburgh with an unforgettable night. This year promises to be just as good. Labelled as ‘a comedy gig, a mix tape and a party’ all rolled into one, it promises to be full of festive cheer and a belly of laughs.

Ticket prices begin at £8.00 and are available to buy on http://www.thestand.co.uk/listings.aspx


Dance against domestic abuse

Scottish Women’s Aid encourages you to put on your dancing shoes
for a good cause this Friday.

The organisation will hold a special charity ceilidh on November 25, in Edinburgh’s City Chambers. Scottish Women’s Aid celebrates its 35th anniversary with The Belle Star Ceilidh Band providing live entertainment.

This event coincides with the beginning of the 16 Days of Action campaign to raise awareness of violence against women.

The fundraiser is just one of several events to be held throughout the coming months.  Other milestones in the anniversary calendar include seminars with influential researchers and activists addressing major developments in the understanding of the issue of gender based violence over the past 35 years.

As part of their anniversary the organisation will also hold an exhibition of photographs and memorabilia at Glasgow Women’s Library from November 26 – December 10.

A spokeswoman for the charity said, “The anniversary events will place the work of Scottish Women’s Aid in its historic, social and cultural context, highlighting connections with other campaigns and other struggles for social justice. The events will look back over the history of Scottish Women’s Aid, celebrating its achievements as well as looking to the challenges that lie ahead.”

For over three decades now the organisation is battling domestic abuse and offers help to them who suffer from it. The services they provide include safe refuge accommodation as well as information and support. Their mission statement is to end violence against women by fighting gender inequality, one of the main causes resulting in abuse. In times where domestic abuse is still a taboo, Scottish Women’s Aid has been ambitiously campaigning for real change throughout the years and has established itself as an important charity organisation.

The ceilidh starts Friday, November 25 at 7.30pm in the Edinburgh City Chambers.

Prices range from £16-£20 for adults and £10 concessions for students and under 16s. All the money goes to Scottish Women’s Aid. Food and a welcome drink are also included in the ticket price.

Arthur’s Seat Brought to Life During Next Festival

by Silvia Montes

As part of the 2012 Festival, Edinburgh’s iconic hill, Arthur’s Seat,
will be spectacularly transformed by NVA’s Scottish arts charity and its “Speed of Light” project.

“Speed of light” is a national programme of physical and cultural activity. Runners will wear specially designed self powered light suits, animating the hillside with trails of patterned light.

The idea came from the NVA’s Creative Director, Angus Farquhar, as he explained “I am a pretty committed runner and I am interested in ‘intentional movement’ as a way of understanding our place in the world, so it was only a matter of time before I put the two together”.

Up to 5,000 on-form runners will have the chance of a lifetime to run a choreographed route around the paths of Arthur’s Seat at night in specially constructed self-powered light-suits. As the NVA’s Creative Director said “our work is completed by the runners and walkers. There is no Speed of Light without that total participation”. He also confirmed that NVA’S will be also involved in the running “I will certainly run on some nights but I can not do the whole thing as I have to direct from the hillside in the build up, there are quite a few runners in NVA and hopefully they will put a training push in to take part next year!”

During the event, “Speed of Light” will also investigate why people run, though an exploration of the power of the mind in overcoming physical exhaustion.

The project will bring communities together from all over Scotland to celebrate sport and culture, connecting them directly to the aspirations of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London.

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