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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Hard times for housing benefit claimants

£150m will be removed every year from the Scottish economy as a result of the UK Government’s new Housing Benefit law.  More than 95,000 households in the social rented sector will be affected by the reform and this will mean an average monthly loss of up to £65 for claimant tenants.

Great concern has been raised among Scottish citizens and the Scottish Housing Minister Keith Brown expressed his discontent about this measure. Speaking ahead of a debate on the UK government’s Welfare Reform Act on 21 March 2012, Mr. Brown stated:

“It is the responsibility of the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the welfare reforms are successfully rolled out and – even though we disagree with the changes – the public sector in Scotland must work with them to ensure no one suffers undue hardship’.

He believes  changes to Housing Benefit will have a “huge impact on local communities and individuals, some of the most vulnerable ones in Scotland”. In order to tackle the impacts, the Scottish Government and COSLA have established a Housing Benefit Stakeholder Advisory Group to help those affected ones properly understand what the impact of the UK Government’s changes to housing benefit will exactly involve.

Cineworld sees customer boost after price cuts

A few days after Cineworld announced the removal of all booking fees for its filmgoers nationwide; people seem to be happier than ever with this decision and most of them claim this will positively affect their attendance in the future.

Cineworld is the first big cinema chain to remove all booking fees and offer a further 10% discount on tickets bought online. This pioneering decision has clearly put the chain in an advantageous position in relation to its main rivals.

Most of the general public are satisfied with the news and they hope this measure will encourage other companies to do the same. Some of the comments are:

“Hopefully Odeon will follow suite. If not, then my £7 will go to Cineworld”

“Why can’t all companies just calculate their prices to incorporate all costs? Booking fees for gigs should be next. We shouldn’t be charged any extra fees when there is plenty of profit within the ticket price. And if there isn’t, then they just aren’t pricing it properly”

“I think this is a great initiative. Besides, it will surely help to keep the queues down a bit”

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Despite it already dropped fees in Scotland last year as part of a trial period, the chain was still charging a card handling fee of 70p per ticket, up to a maximum of £4.20 per booking at most of its cinemas in England and Wales.

Cineworld recently took the decision to axe all such charges for customers as a result of a research which showed that over three quarters (77%) of all cinemagoers would feel encouraged to book online if the booking fees were removed.  Besides, more than 4 in 5 customers (86%) stated had said that discounted tickets would encourage them to pre-book. In effect, it has worked.

Most of our interviewees have stated that they will choose Cineworld as priority next time they wish to watch a film. To be eligible for the online discount, customers simply need to sign up to mycineworld. For more details, click here.

Cause of Morningside fire still unknown

40 firefighters were called to deal with a blaze at a church in Morningside, Edinburgh, on Friday 9 March. Three days later, the exact cause of the fire is still being investigated.

 The alarm was raised at 19:07 at Rock Elim Church on Morningside Road. Upon arriving at the scene, fire crews discovered the blaze which had broken out in the roof space of the church building.

 A spokesperson for Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service said: “The blaze was extinguished by two firefighters in breathing apparatus using a high pressure hose reel and small tools for cutting away”.

“Asbestos was suspected in the construction of the roof and crews wore protective clothing and masks to avoid any potential contamination”.

Part of Morningside Road was closed off while the fire was being extinguished and no one was injured in the incident.

However, despite the blaze posing a serious threat to those working at nearby businesses, employees were not advised to leave the premises by members of the fire crew at the scene.

A representative for Bubbles Bathrooms, the closet business to Elim Church at Holy corner, was surprised to learn what had happened and complained about not being advised by the authorities to leave the area.

“This is the first I have heard about this incident. I remember seeing many firefighters on the streets but nobody came to inform me about it. If I had known, I would have closed the shop straight away for security reasons. Somebody should have told us what was going on”.

Tibet Protest March across Edinburgh

Activists from Edinburgh joined the worldwide commemorations of the Tibetan National Uprising Day on Saturday with a march through the Scottish capital.

 This year marks the 53rd anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising in the country’s capital, Lhasa. The Uprising erupted on 10 March 1952, a decade after the Chinese invasion of the country.

One of the organisers of Saturday’s march explained their motivation was to denounce China’s violent regime, “China’s repressive policies since it occupied Tibet 60 years ago have created a crisis in Tibet, provoking an unprecedented wave of self-immolations by Tibetan monks, nuns and laypeople. So far, 21 Tibetans have set fire to themselves in eastern Tibet; eight since 6 January 2012. Marchers”.

Protesters departed from The Mound at 1.30pm and walked to the Chinese Consulate in Murrafyeld, where they left hundreds of flowers matching the colours of the Tibetan flag, alongside pictures of Tibetants who were killed or self-immolated since the Chinese occupation of the country.

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Armed with placards, flags, flowers and megaphones, they peacefully marched over George IV Bridge, down Victoria Street, along Grassmarket, Lothian Road and Shandwick Place, calling for support to bring human rights back to Tibet. Some of the banners read: ‘Let Tibetan voices be heard’, ‘Tibet is Burning’ and called for freedom for Tibet.

 

Marchers also handed out leaflets holding the Chinese authorities responsible for neglecting the basic rights of the Tibetan people stating, “The Chinese authorities have engaged in wholesale abuse of human rights of native Tibetants, while embarking on a campaign to eradicate Tibetan language and culture”.

Edinburgh University Tibet society also encouraged people to gather in Bristo Square on Saturday. A spokesperson for the society expressed their support, “We need to let the world know that Scotland will always stand in Solidarity with Tibetants in Tibet and will not stop until Tibet is free”.

36 State-owned Remploy factories due to close by the end of this year.

Listen Here:

Remploy is closing two-thirds of its 54 factories across the UK according to the Government’s package of reforms to maximise the number of disabled people supported into work.

One step closer to become a Fair Trade Nation

Scotland’s desire to become one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations is on course to become a reality by the end of this year.

In July 2006, the  Scottish Government established a set of innovative measures to be met in order to make the ‘Fair Trade Nation’ status a real achievement.

According to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum, the main targets to be achieved in order to reach the goal depend on National and Local Authorities as well as on some public institutions such as schools or universities.

For Scotland to become a Fair Trade Nation all cities should  achieve the Fairtrade City status and at least 60% of Universities should have active Fair Trade groups working towards the same status.

So far, almost two-thirds of higher education institutions have achieved the goal and there are only four more local authorities needed for Scotland to see its dream of being one of the world’s first Fair Trade Nations become true.

In order to meet the criteria, the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government are also required to actively promote Fairtrade Fortnight each year since the campaign was launched in 2006.

With the theme “Take a step for Fairtrade” this year’s Fortnight runs from 27th February to the 11th March. Being a key year for the nation’s future to get the Fair Trade status, the Fairtrade Foundation is asking everyone to take a step for it.

A spokesperson for the Fairtrade foundation said “It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like asking everyone in your office to do it too.”.

For those willing to find out what events are taking place in Edinburgh as part of the Fairtrade Fortnight 2012, this link from the Edinburgh Council is a must: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/info/20103/fairtrade/1130/fair_trade_news_and_events

New future ahead for Spain after the General Election Day?

by Natalia Rodríguez Domínguez

Mariano Rajoy, new president of Spanish Goverment

Will Spanish General Election results mark the beginning of a new era for the country to get over its worst-ever economic crisis?

This year’s elections have been dominated by Spain’s deepest debt crisis. In his victory speech, Mariano Rajoy, new President of the Spanish Government stated: “There won’t be any miracles. We never promised any”. However, despite the seriousness of the current situation, he also expressed his optimism: “As we have said before, when things are done properly, the results come in.”
 

Rajoy has encouraged all Spanish citizens to join together and act as a whole nation in order to fight against the crisis and try to restore Spain’s financial health. His advice is to work as a unit and try to gain back respect in Europe.

Last Sunday, 20th November, Spain’s Conservative Popular Party won overwhelming victory over the then-ruling Socialist Party, which suffered its worst defeat since the start of Spanish Democracy. The Popular Party won about 45% of the votes (10,830,693) while the Socialists received only 29% (6,973,880).

The landslide victory of opposition leader Mariano Rajoy meant that his Popular Party won 186 seats in parliament, compared with the 154 they had in the last administration. As far as the Socialists are concerned, their party dropped from 169 to 110 – their worst performance in parliament since records began. The Socialist Party, which has governed in Spain since 2004, had no choice but to concede to a crushing defeat.

As the final report for the count of votes was revealed, many citizens have expressed their indignation against the method traditionally used for allocating the lower house seats in Spain.

The D’Hondt method is party-list system based on proportional representation, it was first conceived by the Belgian mathematician Victor D’Hondt, in 1878. This system slightly favours large parties and coalitions over small parties regardless of the number of votes. This means that parties with the highest number of votes do not necessarily get the most seats.

In the case of Spain’s latest General Elections, the use of this method has meant that UPyD Centre Party only won 5 seats at the Parliament despite having received 1,140,242 votes. Whilst other parties with less votes have been allocated a higher number of seats; AMAIUR Party was voted by 333,628 people, but thanks to the D’Hondt Method, they won 7 seats (2 over UPyD).

The voting system has come under scrutiny from the Spanish public with critics claiming the old system is undemocratic. Pressure is mounting to adopt a new method, which gives a fairer representation of seats, based on the number of votes cast.

Future energy options discussed in Madrid today

by Natalia Rodríguez Domínguez

MixGenera International Conference took place today, from 8:15 to 17:45, in Madrid, Spain. It  brought together researchers, engineers and practitioners to analyse the future of electricity supply and other alternative energy  sources.

The Conference was sponsored by IEEE Power & Energy Society (PES), CIGRÉ (International Council on Large Electric Systems), Red Eléctrica de España and Carlos III University. It presented papers with new research results on the new electricity supply equipments and methods which will converge in 2020 and 2030.

Some of the topics discussed today have been the following: Introduction and control of renewable generations; perspectives for the nuclear generation, utilisation of gas turbines, CO2 and Hydro generation capture, distributed generation, smart grids and the future of electricity markets.

More info on their website: http://electrica.uc3m.es/mixgenera/

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