Updates En Route…

14 August 2012  Gold, Silver, Bronze – lifeisafestival style!

We cheered on the Olympic athletes in the pursuit of their sporting dreams during the past few weeks and lots of them did end up with some shiny discs of precious metal around their necks. Here at the lifeisafestival virtual medal ceremony things are a lot simpler. No anthems, no crowds, but yes, plenty of achievements to celebrate. And the winners are…

Gold Medal: The Volunteers! For me they are the true heroes of the London 2012 Olympics: working tirelessly every day, come rain or shine, without getting paid and still having so much enthusiasm, dedication and patience deserves gold for sure! Will forever cherish memories of a group of volunteers singing cheerful songs when we left the Olympic Park close to midnight after the handball match in the Copper Box. One of them even let me use their megaphone. As I was too late to apply this time around, very tempted to go to Rio 2016!

Silver Medal: The super supportive crowds and all the lovely people who left London during the Games to make space for the visitors! 

When the Opening Ceremony had gone well and the Games had finally begun, to our own surprise, we actually started to have fun with it. We’d hop on the (half empty) bus in the mornings showing off our sporting paraphernalia, catching up on the latest London 2012 gossip and asking random people ‘did you get any tickets, what are you going to see?’ Twitter was abuzz with folks trying to get their hands on last minute seats. ‘I was at the weighlifting, it was amazing!’ we’d exclaim excitedly several times per day to whoever would listen. Yes, there had been rumours of other sports than football and rugby being out there, but now we had proof that they were actually worth supporting – and boy did we support them! With flags and cheers, pats on the back, whistles and broad grins. Just brilliant.

The shared silver medal is also for those of you who left and might have returned to London not even realising how much of a difference you’ve made. Believe me, you so did. All of us who had to go to work during the Games braced ourselves for the onslaught of ‘millions of additional people’ expected to clog up the already stretched transport system. But then the exact opposite happened: buses and tubes seemed emptier than usual, instead of grumpier people, everyone donned some colourful jerseys and actually smiled at each other. I know, unreal. I had several conversations with strangers in the past two weeks all wishing it was ‘always like that’ and couldn’t we ‘keep the Olympics’. I’m afraid those who were away probably copped on by now and it’s not going to get nowhere near this good for the Paralympics. Oh well. 

Bronze Medal: The International Hospitality Houses! After discovering the parallel universe of the various country celebration base camps dotted around London City Centre (reviewed and mapped by London Prepares) I spent many happy hours exploring as many of them as I could. My personal party marathon turned out to be a great way of discovering corners of London which I didn’t even know existed. Some favourites were Denmark (St. Katherine’s Dock, large outdoor screen), Germany (West India Quay, yummy sausages and German cruiseship ‘Deutschland’ docked nearby) and Brazil (alas no screens but an Olympics exhibition plus a shop to already stock up on Rio 2016 souvenirs).

Instead of an unlucky fourth place I decided to add an Honourable Mention to my list and it goes to: The Floating Canal Market!

When walking along the canal after a visit to one of the BT Live locations, Victoria Park (way too much advertising on the screens and no picnics allowed in) I discovered one of my favourite things this summer: the floating market near Mile End station. Imagine colourful narrowboats moored on the towpath of the Regents Canal selling coffee, food, jewellery, books, people lounging in the grass listening to live music in the sun, just perfect. From 20 August onwards the market will visit Little Venice, so do stop by for some delicious grub and a chat with the boaters.

01 July 2012  ‘Goddamn Happiness’  – Diana Jones live in Twickenham

After a tumultuous week of househunting, not helped along by a bad cold and having had to cancel a festival weekend in Wales as a result, I was badly in need of something – anything – to lift my mood. Who would have thought the best medicine for my gloomy thoughts would turn out to be a Sunday night’s worth of ‘gloomy’ music? Well, meet Ms. Diana Jones, hailing from Nashville, aka Music City, charming purveyor of lovingly crafted folk songs. I had not seen Diana live since Vancouver Folk Music Festival last summer and was really looking forward to her intimate gig at the Cabbage Patch Pub.

It’s a long way from Tennessee to Twickenham. Having come across Diana’s music almost a year ago had been the beginning of quite a journey for me as well. After the festival, I had booked a flight to Nashville on a whim in a bid to avoid the rainy November weather in British Columbia. On Halloween morning I found myself sleepily peering out of the window of a Delta jet as we approached NV airport. I wondered what lay ahead in the month to come. I need not have worried, as I spent the next few weeks in a blissful bubble of my favourite things to do: I became a (temporary) regular at many music sessions around town, did cat sitting in fashionable Hillsboro village, volunteered at a local rabbit shelter, couchsurfed in quirky East Nashville and wrote while sipping endless cups of latte in Nashville’s coffee roasteries.

Just like I had effortlessly fallen in love with Diana’s thoughtful songs back in Canada, my heart now wrapped itself around the Southern accents, the leisurely way of life and the magical sounding names of streets and landmarks. Back on the plane a month later, this time headed to another of my favourite cities, San Francisco, I felt a faint tugging at my heart when I looked out the window, Music City slowly disappearing under the clouds. Sitting in the front row at Diana’s gig last night it suddenly all came back to me. That familiar feeling of having embraced a place and its people and reluctantly having left it behind.

So did the gig lift my spirits? You bet it did. It also made me want to get on the road again, talking to strangers and listening to stories of joy or heartship (if you’ve ever been on a daylong greyhound bus ride, you know what I’m talking about). Most of Diana’s songs might come wrapped in a deceptively mellow old-time sound, but her topics are nothing short of fierce and thought-provoking: poverty, environmental destruction, anger, love, hate and anything in between. In times like ours, caring about the truth and getting to the bottom of feelings we all share does not seem to qualify as entertainment for the masses. Luckily, this doesn’t bother me and Diana’s many stalwart fans one bit. So here’s to ‘goddamn happiness’, as a line in one of her newest songs goes, and to hoping that we can welcome the lovely Ms. Jones again on these shores sooner rather than later.

For more information on Diana Jones and future tour dates (fingers crossed!) see http://www.dianajonesmusic.com. Diana is also on twitter @dianajonesmusic and facebook http://www.facebook.com/dianajonesmusic

16 August 2011 – A Curious Week of BunDays

One of the reasons I decided to move to Vancouver instead of, say, Toronto, was the fact that there is a bunny shelter here. I used to have pet rabbits as a child, but as I lived in a couple of countries as an adult felt it was unfair to adopt some more bunnies until I had actually ‘settled down’ somewhere. All this time I really missed having some long-eared, four-legged companions around and was thrilled to start volunteering with the Vancouver Rabbit Rescue when I got here. So many adorable ‘fluffies’ to play with every week!

Since then lots of rabbit-related things have been coming my way one way or another. The last week in July, for instance, was filled with lots and lots of bunny things:

On MONDAY I did my weekly volunteer shift with Vancouver Rabbit Rescue and Advocacy
On TUESDAY I took a walk to Jericho Beach and said goodbye (for now) to the feral rabbits in the blackberry bushes
On WEDNESDAY I read about the Bunny Rescue in Nashville, Tennessee, who had recently saved about 40 little rabbits from very neglected circumstances
On THURSDAY we were out at a bar and a friend of mine, a fellow bunny volunteer, gave me a gorgeous silver necklace with a bunny-shaped pendant. We got talking with the waitress and it turned out her friend happens to have two rabbits – there are rabbit people everywhere!
On FRIDAY I volunteered at a concert and the band, The Outside Track, had a song about a near accident with a couple of baby bunnies in Scotland, aptly entitled ‘Swerving for Bunnies’
On SATURDAY I was at Powell Street Festival, where I was helping out at the kids tent. We made bunny heads out of origami paper, I found bunny candy and a little girl was eating bunny and carrot shaped pasta.
On SUNDAY I was at the kids tent again and, among the scrap paper, found a newspaper review of the novel ‘When God Was a Rabbit’ by Sarah Winman.

I thought it was so interesting how a seemingly random topic like rabbits could lead me to so many interesting connections and discoveries. What’s your ‘thread’ that has lead you to some unforeseen adventures or lovely people who are now your friends?

30 November 2010

It’s been a long time since I updated this section, but my friends Ana and Sandra sent me a lovely book festival report from Dublin while I was busy volunteering in Canada and here it is, enjoy!

Prose on the Pier

The Mountains to Sea Book Festival held in Dun Laoghaire in early September, now in its second year, is still one of the new kids on the block of the Irish festival circuit and everyone was curious to see what was new.

The Festival kicked off for us volunteers with a reading event hosting Helen Simpson & Janice Galloway, two completely different and very interesting female authors. Both presented their works and answered questions afterwards. Janice Galloway explained how difficult it is to write fiction centered on
environmental issues, such as the climate change without falling into the trap of lecturing the reader. She made her point clear when reading her astonishing story from her last collection “In Flight Entertainment”.

This year’s Beckett Adress was delivered by Alan Stanford, one of Ireland’s greatest theatre stars and a passionate Beckettian. Another highlight was the live recording for the RTE radio programme Sunday Miscellany, for which brand
new writing was presented by Leo Cullen, Colin Murphy, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Alex Miller, Claire Kilroy, Jackie Kay and Christine Dwyer Hickey. Outstanding music performances in between made the show an instant success.

A novelty for this year’s festival was an event called Prose on the Pier where residents of Dun Laoghaire were invited to submit their piece of prose inspired by the words “Mountains to Sea”. The best works were selected by a panel and would make it into a brochure, which was distributed during all days.

Sunday, the last day of the festival was also the busiest. The County Hall was taken over by children of all ages. The day was filled with readings and workshops with writers and illustrators, there was face painting and lovely cakes for sale – in short there was something for everyone. Most popular though were the festival balloons, some gone flying or stuck under the ceiling, a lot of kids managed to pick one up on their way out with big smiles on their faces and happy parents too.

The closing event was a reading with John Banville and Alex Miller in the Pavillion. Both read excerpts from their latest books, The Infinities and Lovesong respectively, having a discussion among themselves and later with the audience. Their attitude towards writing was intriguing. While Banville
was insisting on the fact that writing is difficult and that not just anyone can write, Miller had a more positive, encouraging and inclusive view on this matter.

At the end of the night, we left the festival with a whole new list of books to read and reassured that no matter the attitude, we are all gifted and able to express ourselves through writing, even though it is not an easy craft!

1 May

When I started this blog just over a year ago it was meant to be an antidote to a part of my life that is much more serious than just going to enjoyable arts events. My smiley, happy, cheerful side is always enthusiastic about each new upcoming event. The people I meet at screenings, parties, readings and exhibitions really energise me and I could go on and on about how much fun life is. Sometimes. Then there are those times when all this excitement completely fades into the background.

This week was such a time. Beatríz Alberta Cariño Trujillo, also known as Bety, a lovely young Oaxacan woman and a tireless human rights activist was shot and killed in Mexico on 27 April 2010. She leaves a husband and two children. I was lucky to meet and briefly speak with Bety last year at LASC’s Latin America Week in Dublin (see 2009 picture below) and simply cannot believe that she is no longer with us. Yes, there are terrible things happening all over the world on any given day; but it is often only when the person killed or injured is someone who touched our own lives that we realise the value of each precious human existence.

With this in mind I would like to express my deepest sympathy to Bety’s family and those of the other people killed or wounded in the attack. Those of you who knew her know that her work was not in vain and has paved the way for many others following in her – incredibly brave – footsteps. I also know that there are countless others who had or will have the same fate when defending the human rights of all of us. Even if many of us do not feel that this is our own path in life, it is these determined people, among them many women whose stories often do not make it into the history books, who work hard to secure many of the rights we are lucky to enjoy. Let’s honour them by keeping their memories alive. We owe it to Bety and the others. (More background information can be found on the LASC website)

25 April

Happy Birthday Life is a Festival :-)! This little blog is one year old this month and it’s been a very exciting 12 months indeed! Keeping track of all the festivals and general busyness throughout the year by blogging about it reminded me of how much I actually manage to pack into every single year of my life. I’ve been having a brilliant time, so many new things learned, new friendships formed and existing ones strengthened, obstacles overcome and adventures embarked on. And already a couple of new ones in the pipeline. Watch this space.

I took this dandelion picture during our recent trip to Dingle and it pretty much sums up the past year in a nutshell: sometimes you set out on a journey which might at first seem like a bit of a rocky path, and yes, it can sometimes be a bit lonely too, but hey, you soon realise we’re all in this together and you decide to stick with it and then the sun comes out and you look around and you’re in an amazing place with lovely people all around you and you realise that this is exactly where you’re meant to be and that’s all there is to know.

20 March

Two countries, two cities, two weeks and two excellent literature events!

I seemed to have timed my visit home quite well this time as I both caught the fabulous Literarischer Salon in Augsburg’s Stadttheater last week as well as the excellent poetry event in the people’s park in Dun Laoghaire today, which was presented by current writer in residence Mia Gallagher.

And it looks like next weekend will continue with more literary gems as Dun Laoghaire’s 2010 Poetry Now festival is just around the corner.

7 March

The third annual feminist walking tour of Dublin took place today and it was another huge success. We split up into three large groups and listened to stories from women’s history past and present a lot of which has been brushed under the carpet of Irish history (written mostly by men). One woman who has been successfully airbrushed out of history is Elizabeth O’Farrell. She was chosenby Padraig Pearse to signal the surrender to various garrisons at the end of the Easter rising, but the famous picture of Padraig Pearse with General Lowe  shows just her feet and not her face.

Other stops along the walking tour included information around abortion rights, the fight for contraception, immigrant women’s advocacy, the Dunnes stores strikers, LGBT issues, the Magdalene Laundries and many other topics that play a huge importance in women’s lives in Ireland. After about two hours of interesting facts and lively chat along the way, we finished up in the Teachers’ Club with soup, sandwiches and live music. A huge thanks to the organisers and volunteers, wish we could run this tour more than once per year, there would definitely be a need for it. Have a lovely International Women’s Day tomorrow and spare a thought for those women and men who have been and are still fighting for many of the rights we enjoy often without realising that we even have them.

26 February

It’s that time of the year when lots of exciting new festival programmes get put together. So I went along to the launch of Temple Bar Cultural Trust’s 2010 events diary in Eden on Wednesday. There is even more variety than in the past including added events for any age group, from a culture club for kids to a programme for the active retired.  For those of you looking for a space for displaying your art, there are also plenty of opportunities to do so.

Next up on the extensive TBCT cultural programme is Handel’s Day on 13 April, which was great fun last year.  The International Puppet Festival Ireland in its new reincarnation as Dublin Puppet Festival is also going to take place in Temple Bar on 24 and 25 April and shortly after on 8 May the extremely popular Bumper To Bumper outdoor silent disco event is back as part of the groovy Dublin Dance Festival. Don’t worry if you haven’t got a pen handy to take down all these dates, I will keep you posted on the rest by twitter throughout the year.

14 February

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!  For a less predictable, creative celebration of love in all its shapes and sizes, I suggest skipping the roses and instead contemplating reading your loved one or yourself ‘Valentine’ by poet Carol Ann Duffy as a starter.  The main course has to be Leonard Cohen of course. His poetry is the ultimate dictionary of love. The peeled back, non-fluffy, truthful version of it that is. What’s for dessert is up to you…

Time for love, but what kind?

06 February

Was at the Space 54 launch in Smithfield last night, what a brilliant new art/workshop/community space! It’s also in a really good spot at the corner of Smithfield Square, so will surely attract lots of interest from locals of all ages and backgrounds. Well done Francesca and Shane and everyone else who’s helping to make it happen. Looking forward to lots of creative events in the months and hopefully years to come.

There seems to be only a Space 54 facebook page so far, but if you would like to volunteer with any of their activities or have ideas for new ones you can find out more here.

13 January

Happy 2010 everyone :-)! Have been having a really relaxing extended Christmas break in the snow with good company, good food and, surprisingly, managed to not miss blogging, tweeting and emailing much. Now I’m back in the saddle though and have already been to the first festival event of the year for me, the Temple Bar TradFest launch in the Clarence Hotel yesterday. In its fifth year, tradfest has ligned up another excellent programme of authentic Irish music and culture and a lot of it is free of charge. The fun starts on 27 January and event details can be found on the Temple Bar TradFest website.

The Kilfenora Ceili Band playing a couple of tunes at the TradFest launch

28 November

I was at a great event at the National Gallery last night.  Norwegian poet Knut Ødegård and Irish poet Dennis O’Driscoll celebrated the connection between Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (if you haven’t been to the exhibition yet I highly recommend it) and poetry, Ireland and Norway and as it turned out quite a few other things as well (including Denis O’Driscoll reciting a poem by Robert Frost, as yesterday was Thanksgiving after all).

For instance, who would have thought that the English translator of Ødegård’s last three collections of poems is a Scottish Catholic priest who lived in Norway, including Molde in North Norway where Ødegård is from (and according to him ‘the centre of the universe’), for 8 years and has been a parish priest in Munich for the past 14 years. As the evening unfolded so did the layers of connection between the poetry presented. Some of it in Norwegian (which I studied a long time ago, so was pleased to understand a bit of), most of it in English, perfectly interpreted by father Brian McNeil (by the sound of it his sermons in Munich’s Berg am Laim must be very popular). While some of the poems had visual art as their starting point, many also dealt with love and death, mental illness and ageing as well as the link between the personal and the universal.

I always need a little bit of time to relax into a poetry evening like last night, especially after having had a mad day at work as it happened. Yet, as usual, once I relaxed into it I was so moved by the poems and the stories behind them that I was totally buzzing afterwards. And I really want to go back to Norway, not least as Knut Ødegård initiated and ran the Bjørnson Festival for about a decade. He is now the president of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson-Akademiet, The Norwegian Academy of Literature and Freedom of Expression.

When I left, father Brian McNeil wished me ‘Frohe Weihnachten’ in a perfect German accent. Isn’t language a curious thing I thought. It carries so many emotions without us even realising it most of the time. And it is a great reminder that we should cherish our own linguistic background, and above all, welcome people with other cultural and language backgrounds into our lives. It might just help us understand ourselves a little better, which can only be a good thing.

20 November

It’s been a bit quieter on the festival front in the past few weeks which suits me fine as I really need to get my uni assignments done while keeping an eye out for suitable Christmas pressies for family and friends.  Counting down the days until I get on that plane to a lovely snowy place where the mulled wine smells of spices and the lebkuchen taste like home…

30 October

Much-loved vegetarian restaurant Cornucopia is currently celebrating its 23rd (!) birthday and also its fabulous new extension. We had dinner there tonight with a lot of other of its loyal followers and witnessed the cutting of the ribbon at the official opening of the beautiful new space by Minister John Gormley and proprietress Deirdre McCafferty.

Cornucopia Food 1

Having opened in 1986 during the last recession and now expanding during the current one, the Cornucopia story really goes to show how sustainable success is possible even in the most difficult circumstances. The team at Cornucopia definitely got all their ingredients right: excellent food, a friendly and informal atmosphere and a love for people, food and art.

Here is a little footage of the ribbon cutting ‘ceremony’ (will upload video asap, not working right now for some reason…).

Cutting the Ribbon at Cornucopia 30 10 09

25 October

Went to see ‘Copying Beethoven’ as part of Kinopolis Polish Film Festival last night. Renowned director Agnieszka Holland did an audience Q&A afterwards and I was greatly impressed with her.  She seemed very confident, but never arrogant, down to earth but utterly charming.

I asked her if she thought being a woman in the film business made it harder for her to succeed (the percentage of women film directors is estimated at roughly around 10% depending on which study you look at). She answered that it is a physically quite tiring profession and being consistently making films over many years can certainly interfere with any plans for having a family or a stable lifestyle (many male directors having the advantage of having understanding wives while it still doesn’t always work like that the other way around).

She also said that during the earlier part of her career she once ran into an issue with some crew members not accepting her as the authority on set. But then, as the director, you are the one in charge after all and can choose who you work with. So it’s really just a matter of being confident enough in your own role.

By the way, I was surprised to hear that she has recently been working as a director on The Wire (new pilot set in New Orleans) despite being ‘not American at all’ as she put it, with a little chuckle.  The way she described how the film crew worked intrigued me greatly (have never really got into it before but might now).

All in all we got a brilliant insight into her directing work, how she casts for roles (she said she loves working with actors and prefers to choose those who are ‘true and brave’), how her daughter has been working with her as a director for the past decade or so (her sister is also a film director, what a family of cineasts), how she had to leave Poland in the 80s just before Martial Law came in and the projects that are in the pipeline for her right now.

All in all a truly inspiring event – as usual perfectly organised by the Polish Embassy, who are forever amazing me with the quality of programming they do in terms of cultural events in Ireland.

11 October

Here are some pictures from Audrey Niffenegger’s only Irish book signing of her latest novel ‘Her Fearful Symmetry’ at Hughes & Hughes in Dundrum on 9 October 2009. Before the signing the author of the bestselling ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ was interviewed by Irish Independent journalist Edel Coffey at Movies @ Dundrum and also read a short piece from her newest work.

Audrey Niffenegger 1

A limited collector’s edition of the new book (a few hundred copies only) will be available at Waterstones. Speaking to Audrey after the event, she said she is hoping to put images of the various cover pages used for the international and translated editions of her books on her website in the near future.

Ana and Audrey 09 10 09

8 October

Almost a month since I’ve updated this section, time really has been flying by again. To be honest, I still haven’t quite recovered fully (emotionally that is) from my trip to Barcelona. LC seems to do that to me, every single time. Thankfully the meet-up is all organised now and going ahead. Phew.

Then, straight after getting back to Dublin the Dublin Theatre Festival kicked off and work, uni and various volunteer shifts have been keeping me pretty busy since. Just the way I like it. And today two more festivals opened: Darklight and Open House. Plus very much looking forward to the Audrey Niffenegger (author of The Time Traveller’s Wife) reading tomorrow night.  I really can’t remember the last time I was bored, which must be a good thing methinks.

11 September

Another weekend, another festival. This time it’s Mountains to Sea in Dun Laoghaire. The weather is unbelievable. Summer must have fallen asleep and woken up now. Glad it woke up at all :-). Just back from sitting on the pier watching the sun go down over the sea with some friends who I roped into volunteering as well. It was a long day in the Pavilion and County Hall. Lots of interesting impressions, blog post about it should be up sometime next week. Think it will be about the connection between chocolate and writers. Stay tuned.

31 August

The Festival of World Cultures was totally awesome again, the best party ever and fair play to them for still putting on that much free entertainment in times like these! Gonna try and type up Edinburgh and FWC posts asap as well as some more upcoming events (there are loads!). Just need to sort them into bitesized info for you, so keep your diaries ready.

25 August

Been to Bavaria, Paris and Edinburgh in August and busy typing up reports of all three trips. Check back soon for tips on German beergardens, cosy French cafes and inspiring new writing from Glasgow to Palestine!

1 August

Awaycation has officially started! Back with more festival news in a few weeks’ time…

20 July

Festival of World Cultures 2009 programme now online for booking tickets.

19 July

All I’m saying is Leonard Cohen is back in town 😉

9 July 2009

Making my way down to the fabulous Galway Film Fleadh from 11 til 12 July. Weather forecast: heavy rain and maybe even a thunderstorm. Best ever excuse to spend two days watching the newest movies I’d say.

5 July 2009

Have just finished reading The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, which I picked up at the recent Dublin Writers Festival.  A quiet, contemplative and insightful book and a wonderful roadtrip from Texas to the very north of Canada following the snow geese’s annual route to their breeding grounds.  Never thought literary musings about birds and homesickness could be this poetic and inspiring. But they are.

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