23rd Edition of the Italian Film Festival

by Giulia Maccagli and Koldo Sandoval

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The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival comes at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, this year.

The Festival, running from the 4th until the 17th of March, has venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Inverness.

At the Festival, there is the best of the “cinema italiano”, currently on a high with the global and awarded success of Paolo Sorrentino, “Youth”.

Alongside established directors’ names, such as Sergio Castellitto, Cristina Comencini, and Gabriele Salvatores, there are also new film directors, as Edoardo Falcone and Laura Bispuri.

The Festival will see on its screen renown Italian  actors, as Valeria Golino, Elio Germano, and Jasmine Trinca.

This year the Festival has a special focus on Luchino Visconti, an Italian theater, opera, cinema director, and screen-writer, in the occasion of the 40th anniversary of his death.

The 23rd edition of the Italian Film Festival is also welcomed by the Italian Government’s new support to the film industry with an investment of £300 million a year.

 

Record Visitor Numbers For Scottish Tourist Hotspots

Scotland has seen a 5.5% increase in visitor numbers in 2015, with Edinburgh Castle leading the surge of major attractions.

The castle has overtaken the National Museum of Scotland as the country’s leading tourist hub for the first time, with over 1.5 million visitors, according to figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (ALVA).

The National Museum was also the UK’s most popular museum outside of London, and Scotland’s most popular free attraction.

For the first time, the National Galleries of Scotland welcomed a combined total of more than 2.1 million visitors – thought to be a result of The Amazing World of M.C. Escher and Artist Rooms: Roy Lichtenstein exhibitions, with a 35% and 47% rise respectively.

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens saw a 10% increase, which they credited to their Lights programme in the winter months.

Glasgow’s nine civic museums continue to be a draw for citizens and visitors to the city alike, with almost 4 million recorded visits – up 5% on 2014. The city’s Riverside Museum has seen a year on year rise since it opened in 2011.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum also saw a rise of 12.4%.

Tourism bosses have attributed the Scottish success to the current weakness of the pound to the euro and dollar, in making UK attractions more popular.

Bernard Donoghue, Director of ALVA, commented: “2015 continued to be a record year mainly due to our members continuing to show how diverse the UK is to both domestic and overseas visitors.

“More people visited Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, combined, than visited Jamaica, Barbados and Cuba.

“More people visited Stirling Castle, Kelvingrove, the Riverside Museum and the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) in Glasgow, combined, than visited New Zealand. Together more people visited these 9 Scottish attractions than visited Australia and New Zealand combined.”

Stephen Duncan, Director of Commercial and Tourism at Historic Environment Scotland, also praised the findings.

“It’s great to see Edinburgh Castle at the top of the table in Scotland after another record breaking year for the castle.

“We’ve seen particular growth in online and travel trade at the castle in 2015, and following a refresh of the castle website towards the end of the year I’m sure this will continue.”

Edinburgh voted world’s fourth most beautiful city

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A view of Edinburgh from Calton Hill

 

By Anthie Parisi & Giulia Maccagli

Edinburgh has been voted the fourth most beautiful city in the world, coming just behind the renown European cities of Paris, Florence, and Rome.

The Scottish capital was ranked fourth in a Rough Guide poll of its readers.

The Rough Guide said of the city: “It’s famed for its excellent annual festival, but there is more to Edinburgh than great comedy and arts – and according to our readers, it’s beauty.”

 

 

 

Culture, architecture, nature (Arthur’s seat, S. Giles Cathedral and the Castle, just to name some) blend together making Edinburgh a magical city to visit or live in.

Unusual Christmas Markets on Sunday

By Ari Brynjolfsson.

Three ‘quirky’ Christmas markets will open this Sunday (13th December) in Edinburgh, according to events magazine Time Out.

In addition to the regular festive market, Edinburgh Printmakers will have a Christmas Market at their shop on Union Street, near Leith Walk.

The half-centennial fine art shop will offer a  variety of jewellery in addition to prints, books and textiles from local artisans.

Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair, Britain’s largest vintage fair, will host their Christmas Market in the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

In addition to vintage fashion, they also offer accessories, menswear, home wares and beauty products.

A spokesperson from the vintage shop said: ‘We’re going all out, bringing even more affordable vintage traders from our troupe to get you stocked-up with vintage. Traders will be showcasing some of their best new season stock.’

The Summerhall Christmas Market, to be set up near The Meadows, has promised more stalls than ever before.

In addition to gifts and treats, there will be food from guest vendors, traditional mulled wine from the venue’s bar and Zoom club activities for children. The Summerhall Singers will provide live entertainment with festive songs.

 

 

West Lothian welcome Small Business Saturday

West Lothian Council are encouraging residents to spend their money locally tomorrow as part of a campaign to support independent retailers.

Small Business Saturday is a UK non-commercial campaign which aims to promote local businesses and encourage shoppers to spend their money on the first Saturday in December.

The Council hope that the focus on independent firms will benefit business owners in the town centres of Armadale, Bathgate, Broxburn and Uphall, as well as Linlithgow and Whitburn.

Stuart McKinnon, Senior Public Affairs Advisor for the Federation of Small Business in Scotland said: “We know that independent businesses are part of the recipe for success in Scottish towns and communities.

“Especially in rural and remote Scotland, small firms create jobs and opportunities.

“Small Business Saturday is an opportunity for local people to support local business with the pounds in their pockets.”

Harry Ferguson, owner of Broxburn Bargain Centre welcomes the imitative, but said that his business is consistently supported by the community. He said: “Truthfully I don’t know much about Small Business Saturday, we’ve got an MP coming to fill us in about it but anything to support small independent business is a great idea.

“We need all the help we can get in this day and age. We have been here for 65 years so we have a lot of repeat customers.

“They look in the big retailers and they come back to us.”

Small Business Saturday will coincide with other events taking place across West Lothian that highlight independent, local businesses and their place in the community.

Whitburn’s Christmas Cracker event will be held at the Community Education Centre on Manse Road. It will include events for children and a festive market for gifts, food and drink. There will be a Santa Parade making its way to Whitburn Cross and the Civic Space for the Christmas lights finale.

Broxburn and Uphall’s Advent Fayre will take place this Saturday. There will be a Santa’s Grotto and market followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights at Broxburn Library.

Executive councillor for development and transport, Cathy Muldoon, said: “West Lothian is home to a number of truly unique and traditional towns and villages, many of which host a wide variety of small, high quality, specialist retailers, business services and stores.

“Small Business Saturday on 5 December is the perfect opportunity for local residents to show their support for such firms, which play a vital role in their communities and ensure our town and village centres remain vibrant places to visit, shop, work, live and be entertained in.

“The small boutiques and shops in West Lothian can lend a helping hand when it comes to picking that perfect unique gift for someone special, whilst local butchers and delicatessens can help create a great tasting, traditional Christmas lunch or dinner, as well as providing tasty nibbles and treats throughout those long, cold and wintry months.”

Last year’s Small Business Saturday saw 16.5 million people shop locally, spending a total of £504 million.

 

Adverse Weather Causes Cancellation of Botanic Lights Show

Paloma Ferreira

The Edinburgh Botanic Lights Show was cancelled this week for safety reasons, due to the forecast wind gusts of over 40mph.

Edinburgh’s second Botanic Garden Light show promised an event bigger and brighter than last year.

The award-winning show includes new design features, exhibitions, public interaction using new app technology and 3D projections generating hypnotic spectacles throughout the gardens, highlighting some of the Botanic’s oldest buildings.

The organisers have dubbed this year’s event as “unforgettable”.

The invitation entices visitors reading: “As darkness descends, follow a magical trail of light through the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

“Take a path illuminated by fantastic effects and experience the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the Garden after dark.”

Clair McKenzie, who composed the soundtrack accompanying the light show, said: “It makes complete sense to synchronise sound, light and nature with the cycle of seasonal transformations, to me the four are intimately linked.”

Artist Grant Anderson said: “Seasons of Colour Botanic Lights 2015, for me, was a really important project, I wanted the show to be bigger and brighter.

“I wanted to create something that at the heart of the design really concentrated on the landscape itself.”

The Botanic Lights Show has been open for the duration of this month and attendees have been raving about the show.

Visitor Erika Winblad said: “My brain is in sensory overload, it may be wet and cold but what an amazing event.”

Since this is an outdoor event, this week’s severe wind and rain has caused the show to be cancelled with some late notice.

Visitor Anna Goodwin said: “Turned up tonight to be told it was cancelled with my three kids. Didn’t check my emails. Took an hour to get there and back as live on other side of town and it was rush hour traffic. Was gutted. Not sure if I’ll be able to attend another night. Missed it last year too.”

The Box Office of the Botanic Lights show stated that they will be contacting attendees to offer them the chance to attend on another night.

New dates will be added to the calendar to make up for the cancelled shows.

 

 

 

Basque Country restaurant named the best in the world

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A Spanish restaurant has been named the best in the world in an online poll.

TripAdvisor users named Martin Berasategui’s restaurant in the Basque Country as the world’s best.

The three Michelin star restaurant is located in the small town of Lasarte-Oria a few kilometres to the South of San Sebastian.

Speaking after receiving his award, Mr Berasategui said: “This is my best gift than I can receive in my 40 years anniversary as a chef.

“I’m very grateful to my clients, caring them is the secret of my success.”

This year’s awards recognised the category of Basque cuisine. The awards are based on the millions of reviews the site receives from travellers worldwide over a 12-month period.

Berasategui embodies the best of Spanish gastronomy.

The interior is a beautifully stylish and understated, with immaculate table linen and settings and two log fires in elegant antique fireplaces.

“The presentation of the dishes is exquisite, tending to works of art, and beautifully prepared and cooked,” said a regular customer.

Most of the customers choose the tasting menu that includes 14 dishes and costs almost 200 euros.

The menu includes special dishes such as suckling lamb chop with Parmesan whey, fritter and asparagus with citrus dressing,  and egg resting on a liquid herb salad and dewlap carpaccio.

There are eight restaurants with three Michelin stars in Spain – four of them in Basque Country.

Basque’s cuisine is, renowned as the best in the world and this latest award confirms that Basque Country is one of the best touristic destinations for gastronomy lovers.

The Trip Advisor Top 10 Travelers’ Choice Restaurants in the World:

  • 1. Martin Berasategui – Lasarte, Spain
  • 2. Europea – Montreal, Canada
  • 3. Maison Lameloise – Chagny, France
  • 4. Adam’s – Birmingham, England
  • 5. Restaurant Sat Bains – Nottingham, England
  • 6. Geranium – Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 7. PIC – Valence, France
  • 8. NARISAWA – Minato, Japan
  • 9. Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons – Great Milton, England
  • 10. Epicure – Paris, France

3 Michelin Stars in Spain: Akelarre (Donostia), Arzak (Donostia), Azurmendi (Larrabetzu, Bizkaia), DiverXO (Madrid), El Celler de Can Roca (Girona), Martín Berasategui (Lasarte, Gipuzkoa), Quique Dacosta (Denia, Alicante) y Sant Pau (Sant Pol de Mar, Barcelona).

Creative Scotland defends using National Lottery proceeds to fund arts

By Philip Askew

Creative Scotland, the public body that subsides arts across the country, has defended the use of money raised through the National Lottery, calling it an “ideal” method of funding.

The academic Robert Hewison recently slammed government austerity measures as “anti-culture”, leading to a decline of interest and funding in art across the UK.

He specifically criticized increasing reliance on the National Lottery as a “funder of first and last resort”, saying it was “dangerous to run the country’s culture on a game of chance”.

Recent government statistics have shown that the number of adults engaging with the arts even once a year has increased by only 0.5 percent since 2005.

But Ian Stevenson, Creative Scotland’s director of finance, said Mr Hewison’s comments reveal “a lack of understanding of basic maths”.

He said: “The lottery is a game of chance as far as people buying a ticket are concerned, but it is very dependable as a source of income. It goes up in weeks with a large jackpot then returns to a steady base level in other weeks. Which means that the money raised for good causes, and therefore the money available for the arts, is in fact steady.

“Why can’t the arts be run on Lottery proceeds? It’s the ideal way to fund the arts – no one is forced to pay for them, and everyone who buys a ticket pays a little towards them.”

Creative Scotland inherited the role of the Scottish Arts Council in 2010.

Its stated objectives are to “promote an understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the arts and culture” and to “support and develop talent and excellence” across Scotland.

In October the organisation revealed it was suffering from a “funding crisis” due to being vastly over-subscribed, but has since assured applicants that money will be available to “most if not all” subscribers.

Other sponsors of Creative Scotland include the arts charities Made in Scotland and the National Youth Arts Fund.

Edinburgh ranked as the second-best student city in UK

Edinburgh has been ranked as the UK’s second-best student city this year despite the rising demand for cheaper student accommodation. The news was published by the new edition of QS ranking.

With a relatively small population compared to many of the cities in the index, the Scottish capital has a fairly large student community proportionate to its overall size. This means that it scores especially high in the “student mix” category of the index.

Notably, 38% of students at ranked universities in Edinburgh are international, lending an incredibly diverse and inclusive atmosphere for overseas students.

Carlotta Lombatto, an Italian student based in Edinburgh said:

“One of the main reasons I chose to study in Edinburgh was to improve my English level. I thought about studying in London but it is a very expensive city and I couldn’t afford living there. In Edinburgh you can find a lot of part time jobs and it’s easier to pay your fees.

“Maybe the most complicated thing in Edinburgh for an international student is renting a flat. Prices are excessive and there are so many people looking for the same thing. The deposit is very high and student accommodation is expensive.”

Manel Escuder, an international student from Spain, said: “Edinburgh is an amazing city for studying, and it is impossible not to be inspired. There are a lot of cultural events and conferences. It is a very artistic city.

“The racial diversity it’s surprisingly high. You can go to the supermarket and see so many people from different places and everybody can live together.They respect each other.”

University ranking, the mixture of international students, quality of life, rate of use and affordability in terms of standard of living are the five categories included in the criteria.

Ben Sowter, head of research at QS said: “QS Best Students Cities provides a complementary tool with respect to the specific rankings of university students.

“After all, the college experience is influenced by the place and especially by the presence of international students”.

To be included in the ranking, every city must have a population of more than 250,000 and must hold at least two educational institutions that are within the QS World University rankings. There are 116 cities in the world that qualify, but only 50 have been classified.

In Edinburgh, the two institutions ranked by QS are the University of Edinburgh, which is currently 17th in the world, and Heriot- Watt-University.

 

Hunt continues for attacker in Edinburgh

By Adam Wilson

Police are continuing to hunt for an attacker who sexually assaulted a young woman on Saturday morning.

Between 6.45 and 7.10 am on Saturday a 19-year-old woman was walking home from a night out with friends in the Cowgate area when she was approached by a man who knocked her to the ground and sexually assaulted her.

The attack happened where Middle Meadow walk meets Jawbone Walk, which cuts accross the centre of the Meadows.

The attacker fled when a member of the public saw the scene and came to the woman’s aid.

The attacker has been described by police as a white male wearing dark clothing and a dark hat.

Detective Chief Inspector Alwyn Bell said: “This has been a horrific attack on a young woman and she is understandably extremely distressed at this time.

“Specially trained officers are currently working alongisde our relevant partner agenceis to offer the victim all the necessary support and assistance she requires.

“This incident took place in an area that is often busy with joggers, dog walkers and other members of the public, regardless of the time of night, and I would urge anyone who was in the Meadows on Saturday morning and remembers anything suspicious to contact police immediately.”

Students Alex and Susan, 20 and 21, who live in the area, said: “We run in this area quite a lot and we haven’t seen anything suspicious.

“But there’s three of us in our flat so we try to run or walk to uni together.”

Inspector Bell added: “If you believe you can be of assistance to our investigations please call us on 101. Alternatively, you can make an anonymous report via the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”

 

National Lottery celebrates 20th anniversary

By Carolina Morais

Scottish organisations funded by the National Lottery Council have applauded its “vital” and “valuable” work, as it celebrates it’s 20th anniversary.

The Edinburgh-based charity ‘Dads Rock’, which provides bonding time for dads and their children, is set to expand after the National Lottery awarded it last month with £287,096.

A spokesperson from the organisation said: “We would not be able to function without the National Lottery’s funding. It has been absolutely vital. We have been benefiting since 2012 but this last amount we just got allows us to provide services for three years.

“We are going to run a young dads’ project and invest in parenting counseling . We estimate to help over 200 families in Edinburgh.”

The children’s charity ‘Woodcraft Folk’, focused on developing young people’s social and creative skills, also recognizes the importance of the National Lottery’s support.

A Scottish representative said: “It has been a very valuable help to our organisation. The money we received allowed us to employ more staff and to do more trials to test how to approach children and help them grow.

“Here in Scotland, for example, we were able to do what we called the ‘Summer Sessions 2013’, in Stirling, in which we made some real changes in children’s lives. It has definitely been a very successful partnership for us.

Nicola Bligh, from National Lottery Good Causes, said she is “extremely proud” of what the organisation has accomplished over the last 20 years.

“It has been incredibly important. We raised over 32 billion pounds, we have supported a lot of local projects and we have benefited peoples lives.

“It is amazing how you can benefit people everyday in ordinary sectors. And we created thousands of jobs and volunteering opportunities.

“We recently captured an image that will be released this Wednesday in which we gathered over 800 people from over 50 projects that benefited from our funding over the past 20 years. It is really moving to hear these stories. The numbers of our accomplishments are amazing, but the stories behind them are what really matters.”

Ms Bligh also said: “For the future, we hope more and more projects apply for our funding, which is very easy to do through our website. Our plan, of course, is to repeat what we did over the last 20 years just as successfully and keep changing people’s lives.”

To celebrate two decades of existence, the National Lottery is releasing a new video everyday at 6pm on its website until the 19th of November, allowing people to enter the prize draws which increase in value each day.

The first National Lottery draw was on 14 November 1994. According to the organisation, over 450,000 lottery-funded projects were accomplished and over 3,700 millionaires were made in the United Kingdom.

 

 

 

BrewDog Beer Launches 2014 #Mashtag

by Nicola Brown and Alex Watson

1974579_10153945299565512_180761127_nIn March 2013 BrewDog beer took to Twitter, inviting followers to create an entirely new beer simply by casting a vote each day. With voting polls open from 10am to 8pm over the course of a week, voters decided on the beer style, the flavours and even the packaging. An American Brown Ale with New Zealand hops, aged on oak chips and hazelnuts was the winner. Simple but effective, they named the process #Mashtag.

Now the independent Scottish craft brewery, which has gathered a cult status since its birth in 2007, has relaunched #Mashtag for 2014 this morning at 10am. Today voters are asked to decide between Pilsner, Red Ale and Porter to determine the beer style. In the first hour over 400 votes had already been cast. On Tuesday voters will decide on the Malt Bill and alcohol by volume (abv), Wednesday will choose the hops and IBU (International Bitterness Unit) and on Thursday the beer will be given its distinguishing characteristic with a special twist. The final day of #Mashtag will allow followers to pick a label for their newly crafted, unique beer.

We interviewed assistant manager of Edinburgh’s BrewDog, Calvin McDonald, about 2014’s #Mashtag and his dream beer.

To take part, cast your vote here.

Historic Church to host Victorian Market

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View of Tron Kirk from the Royal Mile   Photo: Kim Traynor

By Jordan Hooks

Tron Kirk, a historic church located on the Royal Mile, has become the new location for a Victorian-style market.

Proposals to convert the A-listed church into a market say the church would become the new home to a dozen stalls selling pottery, jewelry, tweed and whisky. It will also include tourist information points.

[Read more…]

Book Week Scotland Is Back

by Rachael Bell

Authors and Organiser Fiona Hyslop celebrating Book Week Scotland 2013 Credit: Scottish Book Trust

Authors and Organiser Fiona Hyslop celebrating Book Week Scotland 2013
Credit: Scottish Book Trust

Book Week Scotland kicked off on Monday with over 100 events taking place in Edinburgh.

The week will be hosted by Scottish Book Trust and is designed to encourage everyone in the community to take part. Mark Lambert, CEO of the Scottish Book Trust, said: “Book Week Scotland is all about celebrating Scotland’s love affair with a book, and writing. Reading and writing – two of the greatest inventions that human beings have ever come up with and something that Scotland excels in.”

According to the Carnegie UK Trust report 2012, only 12 percent of people in Scotland never or rarely read books. Compare this to the National Literary Trust 2012 and After Now study 2013 that found that 1 in 6 people in the UK have literacy levels below that expected of an 11 year old.

Book Week Scotland has a particularly captive audience in Edinburgh as a UNESCO named City of Literature. Sarah Morrison, communications executive at Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, said: “It’s a marker of how much people in Edinburgh value literary interests, not just in the literary community but the wider city community. Everything from the world’s largest book festival to story time readings in a local library are so well supported. There is something of literary interest going on every day in the city.”

It isn’t just Scottish nationals that are to be involved. Book Week Scotland is expected to attract a lot of literary tourism to Edinburgh. Ryan Van Winkle, Book Week Scotland Author Ambassador, said: “One of the things I do whenever I land in a new country is to read books that are set there. To me it’s a really great way to get to know peoples voice, their history, culture and slang. In my first few months of living in Scotland I raced through Trainspotting and Alasdair Grey’s classic Lanark. You don’t have to travel to read a book, of course, it’s obvious, and the great thing about Book Week Scotland is that we will be traveling together in an epic celebration of literature.”

Last year 30,000 school pupils in Scotland participated in the event. This year every Primary One pupil will receive three free picture books to encourage them to participate. That is 180,000 books that will be given out. There will also be 120,000 copies of Treasures to go out to the public. Treasures was a campaign set up after the success of last years Book Week Scotland. It invited Scots to submit a piece of writing about the item they hold most dear.

Primary One Children enjoying their free books during Book Week Scotland 2013 Credit: Scottish Book Trust

Primary One Children enjoying their free books during Book Week Scotland 2013
Credit: Scottish Book Trust

Many authors from around Scotland have also been participating in Book Week and sharing their love for reading and writing. Shari Low, popular fiction writer, said: “As a child I spent most of my time in the library. I just loved reading from a really young age and that’s stayed with me until now.

“That’s why I’m delighted to be a part of Book Week Scotland because I think that anything that inspires a love of reading for pleasure can only be a good thing, and I think that if we can inspire as many children as possible to read now then that’s something that will stay with them.”

Book Week Scotland 2013 will be running until December 1st. Treasures is available to pick up in libraries, independent bookshops, Waterstones branches, Visit Scotland Tourist Information Centres and more. Click here to search for events in your area.

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

Dundee loses Capital of Culture Bid

Image source: DC Thomson

Tay Bridge, Dundee – Image source: DC Thomson

By Hamza Jabir

Dundee has lost its bid to be crowned UK Capital of Culture for 2017, losing out to Hull. The city’s council had invested heavily in the bid and could have expected as much as £80 million worth of tourism income alone had it been successful.

The city had hoped its proposed £25 million year-long programme of events, including a festival of football and light installation spanning the Tay bridge would bring the title to the city in just over three years time.

Bid Director Stewart Murdoch confessed to being ‘brokenhearted’ at the defeat, but was quick to highlight several positives to be taken from the campaign.

He said: “I don’t think the work has been wasted. It carries Dundee forward and has raised its profile and aspirations, and that’s the best thing from a disappointing outcome for us.

“I think a lot of the events will still go ahead. Obviously, the large-scale ‘big bangs’ wont happen, but I think the commitment to culture has been bought into by the private sector and the council and the universities and we’re going to continue to put culture at the centre of the city for a generation.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop took to twitter express a positive outlook despite the disappointment.

Hyslop said: “Dundee has already embarked on a pioneering journey that uses culture and creativity to promote regeneration and tackle wider social issues in a range of innovative ways.

“A city rooted in culture and heritage, Dundee not only cherishes its diverse heritage and traditions, but also seeks further opportunities to share, celebrate and regenerate, and I am confident that its cultural journey is well on track to continue.”

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.”

Law students black up for night out

Four students black up on a night out. Image courtesy of www.thedailymail.co.uk

Four students black up on a night out. Credit; Deadline News

By Melissa Fernie

Four law students are at the centre of a race row after painting their faces black for a society night out in Edinburgh this week.

The Edinburgh University students were attending the annual law society ‘Beerienteering’ event, which is highly popular night for the society. It consists of a steeplechase around the bars of Edinburgh with challenges and surprises along the way. This year’s theme was ‘Around the World’ and students were encouraged to dress to impress.

However a team made up of three boys and one girl decided to dress as Somali pirates for the event and subsequently painted their faces black. They happily posed for photos before and during the evening but were called out on their costume choices by members of both the Amnesty International Society and the Vegetable Society at the Three Sisters Pub. Many of those involved and attending the event were surprised the law society let the team continue competing.

Speaking to students who attended the ‘Beerienteering’ event, one said: “This is an image of black and ethnic minority oppression becoming manifested in students’ costumes. Racism should be opposed on every level at Edinburgh University and we as a student body should do all within our power to make sure these attitudes are called out.”

Nadia Mehdi, Vice President of Societies and Activities at EUSA said: “I’m shocked to see that in this day and age these student weren’t aware of or choose to ignore the offence they would cause by painting their faces black.”

The law society hit back at the negative comments and Keir Gilius, President of the society said: “As a society we try to arrange our events within innovative and interesting themes leaving scope for attendees to use their imaginations. In no way was this theme intended to incite racism of cultural appropriation and as a society, we are vehemently opposed to discrimination of any form.”

Gilius apologised if the team’s costumes upset anyone and said: “In future we will strive to ensure that any fancy dress events will actively discourage the use of any costumes that could be perceived as being offensive.”

However not everyone believes the costumes should have incited a race row. One student said: “This is another fine example of some idiots looking for a reason to be offended. Not sure how on earth this is in any way racist or offensive. Absolute morons who need to get a life outside of the veg soc.”

Other students also believe too much fuss was made over the costume, with one student saying: “This is absolutely ridiculous and shows how far political correctness is being exploited. How is painting your skin black a form of minority oppression, discrimination or racism? They weren’t portraying black people in any sort of racist derogatory way. It’s annoying how so many kinds of discrimination are allowed to let slip but as soon as skin colour is involved it’s a different story.”

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.

 

Edinburgh Gets Ready for the Release of ‘The Hobbit’

The Hobbit hits theatres

The Hobbit hits theatres

Peter Jackson’s highly anticipated trilogy ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ will hit cinemas worldwide this weekend.

It has been highly awaited and people in Edinburgh have also jumped in on the excitement, with local showings sold out. The film will serve as a prequel to the highly successful ‘Lord of The Rings’ Trilogy and will feature a lot of familiar faces from them including: Sir Ian McKellen,  Andy Serkins, Cate Blanchet, Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom.

The Scottish presence is apparent in the world of middle earth. Edinburgh born actor Ken Stott starts in the film as a Dwarf Balin, one of Bilbo Baggins closest friend. Comedian Billy Connolly has been cast at Dain Ironfoot, a great dwarf warrior and will appear in the second and third instalments. ‘Lord of the Rings’ veteran, Glasgow bred,  Billy Boyd attended the London premiere last night – he appeared as Pippin in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Local Edinburgh cinema The Cameo hosted a ‘Lord of the Rings’ film marathon on the 9th of December 2012 to celebrate the release of ‘The Hobbit’. The audience was encouraged to dress up and the event was deemed a great success by management. ‘The Hobbit’ will be the first 3D film to be shown at The Cameo. Kenny Gold, duty manager of The Cameo, “There has been a lot of build up. We couldn’t have picked a better film than ‘The Hobbit’ for our first 3D showing.”

‘The Hobbit’ is set in the all too familiar Middle-Earth and it follows the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, and 13 dwarves on their quest to take back the Lonely Mountain from the reign of the dragon, Smaug – who will be voiced by Freeman’s ‘Sherlock’ co-star Benedict Cumberbatch.

The Guardian comments that the movies ‘offers an enormous amount of fun, energy and a bold sense of purpose’. Peter Jackson is once again trying to give movie goers a unique and innovative experience. ‘The Hobbit’ is shot in High Frame Rate (HFR): 48 frames a second instead of the usual 24. This gives the movie a higher definition and with the help of 3D makes the 169 minutes of spookiness more realistic.

Fan interviewed by Shiv Das about ‘The Hobbit:’

The Hobbit premiered last night in London, gathering a remarkable group of celebrities, including the Duke of Cambridge.  Sanaa Siddiqui, who was at the front of the crowd at last night, comments on the atmosphere of the event: “The whole of Leicester Square was packed to the brim with fans. The area was stunningly decorated to look like the Shire. I met all of my favourite actors, it was such an amazing day.”

Audio Interview: final hobbit vopxox shiv das

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.”

Top 10 Ways to Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh

Street Party in Edinburgh for the New Year.

Street Party in Edinburgh for the New Year.

1. Street Party

The renowned Edinburgh street party is something that should not be missed. Join 80,000 partygoer’s dance into the New Year with music from top DJs and musical entertainment such as The Maccabees, Reverend and the Makers and The OK Social Club. Celebrate at midnight with the extravagant firework display.

Tickets are £15 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★  Food ★  Venue ★★★  Family Friendly ★★

2. Concert in the Gardens

The music event of the evening proves to be as big as it ever has. Scottish musicians dominate this year with legends Simple Minds, Dundee-based boys The View and Edinburgh four piece Bwani Junction rocking into 2013. Enclosed tickets are sold out and the Garden tickets are soon to follow.

Garden tickets are £37.50 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★★  Food ★  Venue ★★★  Family Friendly ★★

3. The Loony Dook

Maybe the craziest Hogmanay tradition of them all! Join the ‘loony’s’ plunge into the River Forth on the 1st of January 2013. The Dooker’s parade kicks off the event and then it’s into the water. What a better way to kick off the New Year!

Register at http://www.theloonydook.co.uk/Register.html

Music ­­­­- Food – Venue ★★ Family Friendly ★★

4. Propaganda New Years Eve Party Animal

Celebrate 2013 with the UK’s biggest club night, Propaganda. The HMV Picture House will be home to student friendly club night. This event is for the mainstream indie music fans, but chart music is also played.  Curfew is 5am. Definitely the perfect place for those who want to dance all night long.

Tickets are £7.25 available at http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/

Music ★★★★ Food – Venue ★★★ Family Friendly –

5. The Keilidh

Fancy learning some traditional Scottish dance moves? If so, then head to the outdoor ceilidh event in the Princes Street Gardens. With a food village and outdoor bar, your every party need is catered to while you master your ceilidh technique. Last years event was a total sell out; so don’t miss out this time.

Tickets are £37 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★  Family Friendly ★★

6. St Giles Candlelit Concerts

If you want to celebrate Hogmanay somewhere that is warmer that Princes Street, then maybe this event is for you. Michael Harris with the St Giles Cathedral Choir directs this year. Parts 1 and 3 of J.S.Bach’s Christmas Oratorio and Vivaldi’s Magnificat will be featured. The Candlelit Cathedral provides an exquisite atmosphere.

Tickets are £16 available at http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/

Music ★★★  Food – Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly ★★★

7. Vegas! The Grand Hogmanay Ball

Can’t afford a trip to America to celebrate 2013? Well, Edinburgh’s own Voodoo Rooms will turn into Las Vegas for one night on the 31st of December 2012. This sophisticated event features music from Cow Cow Boogie, a swinging six-piece from Edinburgh. Burlesque dancers and showgirls will provide entertainment as well as blackjack tables.

Tickets are £25 available at http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/

Music ★★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly –

8. Baby Loves Hogmanay Disco

Electric Circus plays home to the perfect event if you have a baby that loves to dance. Music is played at a baby-friendly volume and Club DJ’s provide the tunes. The disco is family friendly as there is a chill out zone, catering and even a bar for mum and dad.

Tickets are £8 available at http://www.babylovesdisco.co.uk/

Music ★★★ Food ★  Venue ★★  Family Friendly ★★★★★

9. Your Lucky Day Festival

Head to the National Museum of Scotland for some culture on New Years day. Your Lucky Day festival is for all the family and provides dance, music and theatre. There will also be chance to see the Lady Luck art instillation by Walker and Bromwich.

All events are Free.

Music ★★  Food ★★  Venue ★★★★  Family Friendly ★★★★★

10. El Barrio NYE Party

The Latin bar and club will provide a New Years Eve Fiesta. Their aim is to bring the Latin spirit to Edinburgh by providing Latin music, dancing, drink and flair. This night will not disappoint avid Latin music lovers.

Tickets are £10 available on the door

Music ★★★ Food – Venue ★★★ Family Friendly –

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