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First night at The Fringe

By Culture Team on Aug 6, 10 02:12 PM

Karen Wilson offers a snapshot of Edinburgh through recently arrived eyes.

There's nothing more satisfying than ambling panda-eyed towards the shops for breakfast things, against shoals of be-suited office workers.

Today we have a hard day of , er..., watching shows and then writing about them, while they probably have to look at graphs or perhaps go on a course to learn how to look at graphs more productively.

Over the last few days we have met several inspiring products of the Swallows Partnership, the mission to bring together North East and Eastern Cape cultural professionals for mutual benefit.

The South African a cappella singing group Amandla Esandla (The Power of Five), which comprises five performers selected from auditions conducted by staff of The Sage Gateshead, has bowled us over a couple of times. If they could be on Britain's Got Talent, they would win.

Our long road journey across Eastern Cape province from Umtata ends in Port Elizabeth whose name, like so many others in South Africa, reflects its colonial past.

A grassy public space above the town is called the Donkin Reserve and its centrepiece is a stone pyramid dedicated "to the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the town below".

Today we make our way to Grahamstown which is the home of the National Arts Festival, the equivalent, we are told, of the Edinburgh Festival - although obvious similarities between the Scottish capital and this speck on the vast map of South Africa are all but invisible.

Our group has fragmented, North East visual arts specialists Anna Pepperall and David Butler having gone to meet like-minded folk at Rhodes University, which is in Grahamstown.

A few days ago in Newcastle, at the offices of Ryder, I saw the architect's model of a planned amphitheatre for a primary school in the Thyume Valley of Eastern Cape, one of the poorest parts of South Africa.

This morning our party drives in through the gates of this very school, Gqumahashe. It is a rural spot and also very beautiful, with a river meandering along at the bottom of the sloped school grounds and hills rising up behind.

South Africa Day 2

By Culture Team on May 22, 09 08:28 AM

By David Whetstone
.We begin with a visit to the Nelson Mandela Museum in Umtata which opened 10 years to the day after the famous freedom fighter was liberated from prison (I remember watching on TV in a pub on Holy Island and being so absorbed that I became imprisoned, temporarily, by the incoming tide covering the causeway)..

I am reading Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, and it is interesting to see important parts of the text highlighted in the museum. t's an old government building of colonial design - red and white outside and polished timber panneling within.


This is the first - and maybe the only - instalment of a blog chronicling my trip to South Africa with the Swallows Partnership, an initiative to promote joint cultural initiatives between the North East and the province of Eastern Cape. So far on this journey of discovery, internet access has proved impossible

That's a puny complaint, though, when you consider that less than 20 years ago
the population of this part of the world was enslaved to an apartheid regime that graded people according to the colour of their skin.

By David Whetstone
One of the great attractions of the new City Library, which opens in the heart of Newcastle on June 7 (11am), will be the area designated to the Newcastle Collection.

This is a big collection featuring several smaller collections of treasures which have been in Newcastle's possession for years - but which for the most part have been locked away out of sight.

By David Whetstone
One who deeply appreciated the work of James Kirkup, the South Shields-born poet who has died aged 91, is Dorothy Fleet who has been something of a Kirkup archivist for 45 years.

Last night she said: "I first contacted him when I was a student and was doing my thesis on him in 1963 and he was just so supportive and helpful. We kept in touch and I eventually met him. Lately I've been setting up a James Kirkup collection in South Shields with some of his books and possessions."

By David Whetstone

If you were in Hall One of The Sage Gateshead on Wednesday night, you will be counting yourself lucky.

The World's Greatest Musical Prodigies might be a hyperbolic title - it certainly invites debate - but there was no doubting the extraordinary talent of the five young people
who, accompanied by the musicians of Northern Sinfonia, treated the audience to a thrilling concert.

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