So many of us on the island, whether indigenous to Lanzarote or, like us, immigrant residents here, spent a lot of time under covid restrictions, peering around over the tops of our masks as we walked the eerie, almost silent streets of lockdown. Most of us were counting the closed down restaurants whilst those with far more invested here than the price of a house were probably counting the number of friends and relatives who had worked in some way in the severely wounded tourism sector. On the one hand, there were the owners and waiters of the restaurants, on the other there were the musicians and dancers of the folk lore scene, now silent, now still, that are highlights of what was once our tourist-offer. So come follow your art along sidetracks & detours to hear someone who has been making plans on all our behalf to ensure we can attract not only the tourism market share we enjoyed pre-covid but also perhaps interest from non-traditional markets, too.

Given that Lanzarote had for many years been increasing its millions of new and return visitors to the island it might be tempting to think that, as we learn to ´live with covid´, as the UK government advises seemingly with its scientists as naysayers, we simply need to offer more of the same old same to bring back the hundreds of planes a week that used to land at our airport. That might be a reasonable assumption to make, as I was relieved to be re-assured by an article in the current July August September magazine, Lanzarote viva.

I´m not quite sure what I am supposed to precisely deduce from this but apparently The Canary Islands are ´hoping for´ a 25% recovery in tourism in June, 50% in September and a release of 1.4 million air seats from October onwards´.

The excellent magazine was informed by a piece from Yaiza Castilla, the Consejera de Turismo Gobierno del Canarias (Tourism Minister in the Canary islands Government). She developed her theme on the sentence in the paragraph above.

Acknowledging that new opportunities arise out of adversity, Señora Castilla said that her department is developing ways of offering alternatives to the traditional models of ´sun and beach tourism´.

´We have been promoting some alternatives to ´sun and beach´ holidays for a long time now,´ she told glossy Lanzarote viva magazine that produces many of its articles in side-by-side Spanish and English.

´We have focussed instead on holidays geared for Nature and Sports lovers or families, weddings, gastronomy, culture and identity, LGBTI and MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) to the business sectors. We´re now looking for further new markets, that generate longer stays, such as the ´silver´ market or so called ´digital nomads´. In fact we are hoping to attract 30,000 professionals over five years with a marketing plan based on the concept of “Your office. with the best climate in the world.”

We can provide ´digital nomads´ with high quality broadband in co-working and co-living space, compatible working conditions and date line, good flight connections, lower cost of living, reduced taxation, the use of the Euro, personal and legal security and an extraordinary natural setting.

Recent technological and digital advances in the tourism industry have made it possible to create a more individual profile of each of the eight Canary Islands, and we are in the process of taking that advance one step further. We now have a marketing strategy that has taken a qualitative leap. from market segmentation to personalisation, by focussing on the needs of each and every tourist. Our new web site at holaislascanarias.com is equipped with state of the art data-management technology that allows us to adapt to the individual tourist, enabling us to send recommendations and alerts tailored to their tastes. It pinpoints the places they visit, their interests and where they spend most of their time.

Lanzarote, for example, attracts tourists with a wide variety of interests, which reflect the range of attractions the island offers such as The Cesar Manrique Centres Of Art, Culture and Tourism, unrivalled sports tourism facilities and, of course, the unique natural landscape with its jewels that include spectacular volcanoes and stunning beaches.

The Minster believes we have reason to be more than just cautiously optimistic.

´On May 14th of this year, Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark approved The Canary Islands as a covid-safe destination and the UK are shortly to do so, too. The outlook for tourist figures on the island is good for the ´winter season´. We have invested over three million euros in a strong marketing campaign and have collaborated in co-marketing campaigns with airlines and tour operators.

As for cruises, The Canary Islands have been one of the few airlines in the world to receive cruise liners during the pandemic, and further scheduled arrivals remain in place.´

It is instructive, perhaps to remind ourselves how cruise line operators ´sell´ Lanzarote as a destination.

Located on Lanzarote’s east coast, Arrecife is the capital city of this tropical volcanic island, and is the gateway to a world of rugged landscapes, stunning beaches and amazing wildlife. Understandably, most people come to this part of the world to do little more than lounge around on the shore while basking in the year-round sunshine, although there is a lot more to discover here if you’d rather do a little exploring. A quarter of the island’s surface is covered by the Timanfaya National Park, which is a moonlike region of volcanic rock, punctuated by the stunning Montañas del Fuego – or Fire Mountains. The views across this island from the tops of these geological monsters are simply breathtaking. Alternatively, you may want to stick to the coast, where you’ll find no shortage of superb beaches that are perfect for soaking up some rays as well as getting active in the water. Indeed, the island is famous for its water sports, as the winds that circumnavigate the isle are perfect for activities like windsurfing and kite surfing. There is also a fantastic array of marine life to discover beneath the waves, with whale and dolphin watching excursions available at certain times of year.

It is good to be mindful of that, rather than simply, if understandably, lamenting what we have lost from our recent past, such as live arts and sports events, Yaiza Castilla and her team have, after all, been hard at work seeking to not only protect that glorious past but also to create an even brighter future.

Despite her AUA (Annoying Use of Acronyms) and technical jargon she sounded, nevertheless, to have her finger on the pulse, and to be calming and reassuring in a way that politicians in the UK have patently not been.

ART ATTRACTS AT NAUTILUS.

It was interesting to learn that Yaiza Castilla believes the arts should be part of our new and improved tourism offer. We noticed the flourishing arts scene on Lanzarote when we first holidayed on the island more than twenty years ago. We learned very quickly that the people rightly held the late Cesar Manrique in high esteem, not only because of the wonderful work he produced but also for the installations of caves and wind toys and his concept of how art and this landscape could live together and somehow nurture each other. By the time we had enjoyed another fifteen or so holidays here, and have since lived her for the last six years, even we (British) now think of Manrique as a National Treasure. My work in the UK had been in serving in, and championing, the role of a community artist. It seems that a new initiative called Lanzarote Iman 3 is attracting artists to the island.

It was thanks to the work and initiatives of Cesar Manrique the arts scene first Bergan to flourish here in the nineteen eighties. It was a period during which many artists from not only all over the world but also from a wide range of artistic disciplines, came to visit or even to settle on Lanzarote. They came because of their awareness of Manrique and how he was re-shaping an island with a burgeoning reputation for creativity. The island, in the years preceding this, had gathered around itself an air of mystique, as a retreat, almost, and certain exclusivity prevailed until the mass arrival of sun, sea and sand seeking tourists.

It was in 2004 that The Nautilus Hotel responded to this by opening its doors with the humble idea of creating an artists´ residence on Lanzarote. They called it, appropriately la Casa del Artista. Since then seventy artists from a score and more nationalities, and a breadth of different disciplines have enjoyed its hospitality. The project is managed by Res artis, the world´s leading network of international artists´ residencies, which has over 700 approved members in eight five countries around the world.

La Casa del Artista offers artists a creative environment where their every need is taken care of, whilst they work on a project previously mutually agreed with the management of Res artis. the average length of stay agreed with of an artist is of between 21 to 45 days and during that all the artis has to think about is letting his creativity flow.

As a result of this initiative The Nautilus is a unique space; a venue brimming with works of art, including original paintings and sculptures. It participates in various international art fairs, like JustMad and collaborates with galleries and Arts Association, Itzal Aktiboa, and with schools, such as the particularly well known education centre here, owned by artist Pancho Lasso.

Nevertheless, the work of this this private, small scale operation is but a drop in the island´s surrounding ocean when compared to the tourist campaigns run by the local authorities on Lanzarote. That small droplet, though, has a rippling effect and sees guest artists convey, through their art, their experience and enjoyment of the island. The project´s scope of influence, then, is continually expanding. This combines with and complements other tourism models that focus on sport, family, nature or other aspects of the industry.

There is a resurgence in the magnetic effect of this ´retreat´ that sees it attracting more and more creative hands and minds. We are witnessing the start of another Renaissance period, perhaps.

Not only is Casa del Artista well known here on the island but its fame is growing again overseas, too. This is an important factor if Lanzarote id to grow again in the new, and ever more competitive elements that no doubt lie ahead in post lock-down days. Visiting artists from all over the world are coming to Lanzarote and making important connections here. Word of mouth publicity is helping Nautilus, and thereby Lanzarote, to build its reputation as an ideal destination for artists. This bespoke arena for artists provides is ready to provide a tourism model to attract an alternative tourist market perhaps more interested in our island´s arts and culture than in its sun-loungers and parasols.

It seems certain that, as far as the arts world is concerned, Lanzarote is already re-emerging as an exclusive destination that is becoming an even better version of tis previous self.

Rochdale town Hall I remember from my years of working as a community artist )poet and creative writer) in the UK so many wonderful events at which we brought together a variety of art forms in an effort to restore the reputation and image of Rochdale, a town then buckled by the Cyril Smith stories, the awful grooming case that shocked the world, British National Party marches (recruitment drives) along its High Street of empty shops and desolate open land. As artists, bringing together our diverse art forms, we knew that arts should not and probably could not survive in isolation. Arts are an integral part of a community, and harnessed correctly a town’s artists can help change outside perceptions, attract inward investment, and invite spending from beyond its own population. There is evidence of successful such regeneration in towns and cities across Europe.

Lanzarote doesn´t have anything to apologise for: there is nothing to hide, However, we cannot stagnate as the world re-aligns in a much fiercer playground than ever it was. The arts and their artists, whether indigenous or visiting, can do much to remind the rest of the world of our vibrancy and energy, and if we offer something different (even if only ´new wine from old bottles´ as Angela Carter put it), we can bring back our tourists.

There has also been a boost for Lanazarote recently, in seeing one of its favourites sons nominated for a major music award.

The jury appointed by the Professional Association of Composers of the Canary Islands – which brings together a score of creators of the sector in the Islands – has already determined the nominees of the fifteen categories included in the third edition of The Canary Islands Music Awards. The announcements of the winners and presentations were part of special ceremony that took place on June 5th, at the Miller building in the capital of Gran Canaria.

Nominated for the award for ´Best Jazz And Fusion Album was Lanzarote born Tonin Corujo.

I wrote of Tonin on these pages on Lanzarote Information in April of last year when a special concert we had long been looking forward to had to be cancelled due to covid.

We spoke of how Toñín is held in high regard for how he bases his programmes on tradition, but remains open to the musical reality of ´world music, and ´delivers traditional and contemporary music played from heart.

Until the lockdown he had played almost every Saturday, from June 15, 2013, with the Tonin Corujo Quartet at the weekly Nights of Jameos a concerts with Carlos Perez: Saxo, Yarel Hernández: Guitar, Israel Curbelo: Piano and Percussion and, of course Tonin playing the timple.

Toñín Corujo is a Canaria musician, born in 1960 in Arrecife, and his instrument is the timple. His passion for music was transmitted to his own family, his grandfather being the one who taught him the first chords on a guitar and his father who started him on timple.

In 1975 he was part of the Awañac group, dedicated to ethnographic research, carried out different rescue work, among them the recovery of the coplas of Víctor Fernández Gopar, popular copist of palpable quality and ingenuity, born in 1844.

In those years he began teaching as a music teacher, although he combined that with his own training. This became much more serious and constant in the middle of the following decade. First he received guitar lessons from professor Silvestre Alvarez and then traveling to Paris where he would study classical guitar, harmony and composition. There he met Blas Sánchez, Cristian Salmón and Didie Prat, his teachers. With Blas he enlisted in Guitar Consort and with this training gave several concerts in Kladno and Prague. Also in Paris he had the opportunity to share experiences with Juan Carlos Pérez, Domingo Rodríguez and to receive classes from Michelle Ponce and Roland Dyens.

In 1991 he returned to Lanzarote, where he opened his own music school and made music teaching his main profession and livelihood. Soon he worked on the production of the album “Rancho de Pascua de San Bartolomé”, then appeared on the first album of the group Antenara.

To learn more of Corujo´s career since then check out my archives here at Lanzarote Information for Introducing Tonin Corujo, or simply type his name into Google for further details and you will find our Lanzarote Information article is there right at the top of the list of entries !!

Tonin´s nomination is for an album that, as the title suggest, celebrates the late genius who was Cesar Manrique. The album, available on Spotify, contains eleven tracks. Their titles alone are almost chapter headings of any Manrique biography, and listening to the likes of The Warehouse (of Cic Almacen) and Wind Toys and Paths Of Fire reminds us again of the extraordinary vision of Lanzarote´s best loved artist.

The Canary Islands Music Awards is sponsored by the City Council of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the Government of the Canary Islands and the collaboration of Canarias Radio Autonómica. Tonin certainly finds himself in the good company of excellent nominees covering the full extent of music and its dissemination.

ON YOUR MARKS, GET SET, GO !

Only a few days after our Minister For Tourism outlined her plans about how the new and improved offer from The Canary Island would not only be aesthetically supported with the arts but would also ride in tandem with sport.

So it was that a thousand came to Lanzarote. They swam, they pedalled and they ran non-stop in the hot sun around a long and immensely challenging route. And we sat in our folding chairs and watched them, close up and personal, before waving off the last of the riders to arrive at our part of the course. Then off we went, not very sportingly, for brunch and a beer.

Even Ironman was helpless last year, when the island of Lanzarote, and the rest of the world was brought to a standstill by Covid. However on Saturday 3rd July 2021 the 29th annual event of the island´s biggest sporting spectacle took place.

Knowing the starting and finishing lines would be packed solid by around a thousand athletes as well as medical staff, officials, stewards, press and spectators, we thought we´d set off early before the roads were closed, as the running and cycling formats of the triathlon are held mostly on the roads of the island. This years ´route brought the cyclists very close to our local town of Playa Blanca and we managed to park the car off-road, and stroll across the by then closed LZ2 ´motorway, plonk our chairs in the central area and wait for the cyclists to arrive. By the time they reached us they would have completed an ´three point eight kilometre swim in the ocean and already have cycled a further forty kilometres or so to here, where we were sitting beside the tight U-turn that would take them back uphill to continue to Uga and on to even steep and tortuous roads.

We saw around a thousand triathletes, from more than fifty countries spread across fiver continents, come hurtling down towards us over a period of a couple of hours, and we were positioned just at the point riders applied their brakes to take the U-turn. There were perhaps fifty spectators gathered in this area and a handful of stewards in high-vis jackets with a police car and an ambulance parked nearby.

The stewarding and policing were of the light touch we have become used to here on Lanzarote. We were miles away from the nearest bars or restaurants and whilst there was no shade there was a gentle cooling breeze for which we were as very grateful as, no doubt, were the athletes. It was all advantageous for good spectating, though, as the cyclists flashed by us, slowed, turned and went into the lower gears required for the uphill climb as they came past us again in the other direction thirty seconds later.

I was amazed by the variety of bikes (if it is ok to call them that at this level of elite sport). Of course, most were designed to look and behave like sleek, aero-dynamic machines, but some were on pencil thin tyres whilst others were on the squatter, wider, deeper-tread varieties. Some frames seemed Herculean, if I can make that reference to the bikes of my youth, and some looked somehow skinny and surely too weak to carry an athlete over such gruelling distances at such speeds.

Occasionally riders would reach us in a cluster all battling for position at the bend, but it really seemed as if each individual competitor was being given a personal round of applause of encouragement as recognition for their efforts. Those riders who were challenging for finishing times that would see them selected for subsequent events around the world kept their heads down and their eyes on the road, ignoring us they prepared for the 100 kilometres still to come. Others, less ambitious perhaps, applauded us back or urged us to even more fervent support, some even engaging in a little banter with recognised friends in the small crowd.

We had been made aware of this by the preceding press coverage of Lancelot Digital and Lanzarote Information that the usual figure eight route would, for the first time in the event´s history .come to the finishing line in Plaza de las Nations of Avenida de Los Pocillos in Puerto Del Carmen. This decision had been taken to comply with covid restrictions, but Fabio Eligio Cabrera, head of Sports Club Santa and director of this event, had told the press that he was certain that when athletes arrived on the home straight there would be thousands of people lining the street to cheer them home.

He also informed us that another change to this year´s event was that finishing times would be taken into consideration as offering points for those athletes also taking part in the Long-distance Military World Championships, for which there were soldiers participating here from fifteen countries.

Every year the Ironman Lanzarote is the first of a series of these events held throughout Europe, and as always the 2021 event will be employed as a qualifier for the Hawaii World Championship by granting forty qualification places across the different age groups of the event.

Actually, my editor at Lanzarote Information, for which I write a weekly Lanzarote Information arts column, has for many been heavily involved with Ironman in one way or another. After seeing their first race in 2002 he and his wife Julie became part of the live broadcast team with Power FM for a few years, then they worked with the official broadcaster Ironman Live for three years. Since then they have helped with the general organisation and both have been part of the huge volunteer teams, in water and on land. In 2014, ´Miguel´ and Julie even competed, and with some amazing training from their coach, Bella Bayliss, did themselves proud, and apparently both have a small tattoo as a memory. In empathy with those who still compete each year, Miguel and Julie are well aware of what effect weather conditions can have on the sportsmen and women. Based on what they had told me, I looked up into an already hot and high sun and held my finger into the wind the way that I´m sure the weather forecasters do, and concluded that, as Miguel had predicted, today was very hot and quite windy.

´That will have made for a choppy swim´, I informed those around me, who wouldn´t know I was simply repeating what I had read in a communication from Miguel. ´This will a really tough first 90KM on the bike, and will be followed by a searing marathon. Lanzarote has a reputation for being the world’s toughest Ironman, and I think there will be a high attrition rate today. And now back to Huw Edwards in the BBC newsroom´.

For us, though, this was strictly a spectator sport. From our roadside chairs we noted the vast array of different helmets, some of which were very like one of those Dan Dare of the Eagle Comic illustrations, some of which were of the long sloping back at the neck variety which always somehow seem a bit sinister. The clothing was all varying colours, representing teams or countries in some ways all the competitors had a clearly visible number on their shirts, so it was in some ways like looking at a blurred abstract collage, he said trying to sneak in an artistic reference to justify the inclusion of this sports event on these pages. It was a kind of audio-visual event. Some bikes sounded as if they zipped past, wheels whirred round and there was a bop and a clunk at the gear change. It was a bit like the description Tom Paxton offered in The Marvellous Toy, the best song for dads and sons ever written. The folk singer also used to sing of being Bound For The Mountains And The Sea. So here we go, already heading for a suggested soundtrack to next years IronMan Lanzarote.

Suggested Soundtrack IRONMAN LANZAROTE 2021

a sidetracks & detours suggested compilation

SWIM

Into The Ocean by Blue October
Swimming Lesson by Florence And The Machine
Nightswimming by REM
Stop Swimming by Porcupine Tree
You Crawled Out Of The Ocean by Laura Marling

CYCLE

Obvious Bicycle by Vampire Weekend
Nine Million Bycycles by Katie Melua
My White Bicycle by Tomorrow
Bycycle Song by the red Hot Chilli Peppers
I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose by Bombay Bicycle Club

RUN

The Runner by John Stewart
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen
Keep on Running by The Spencer Davis group
I Ran So Far Away by A Flock Of Seagulls
Tougher Than Leather by Run DMC
AND ENJOY THE VIEW
Land Of The Sea And Sun by Harry Belafonte
Everlasting Sea by Donovan
Volcano (album) by Jimmy Buffet
Keeper Of The Mountains by The Flatlanders
Dance of The Mountain King´s Daughter by Edvard Greig
all titles above available at various sources on line

The prime sources for this feature included a piece written by Angela Aracocha BA, who with her degree in Tourism from the University of Plymouth clearly speaks with some authority. Her work was published in Lanzarote viva magazine, and I really wish she had been around in Rochdale twenty years ago when local artists were fighting so hard to build cross sector partnerships to re-energise a town perceived as being down on its knees, but that had, in fact, an incredibly strong infrastructure of arts and culture. I also referenced an article from the same publication by Yaiza Castilla.