We Are Virtually There

We were thrilled to find the sea was still there when this week´s gentle easing of the restrictions enabled us to walk the mile from our house down to near the cliff edge beyond the light house at Playa Blanca. Once there, and I could watch the ´white horses´ stampeding in and hear their hooves pounding like giant waves on the rocks I threw my arms in the air air and yelled out my best Masefield impression of ´I must go down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,´ for that is a promise intend to keep. Surely one result of the lockdown will be that none of us could ever again take for granted what Lanzarote offers us every day.

I am hearing from ´reliable sources´ (an industry phrase for chatty friends on social media), that on round about the 11th May we might hear announcements of a few restaurants opening to a permitted 50% capacity so long as sensible social distancing is observed. Under the same circumstances occasional gatherings of up to perhaps ten family or friends might also be feasible, so elements of our former lives might soon return.

There will, nevertheless, be irrevocable changes to our way of life, some of which could actually be very positive. Those of us who so enjoy the arts and cultural offer on Lanzarote, have of course, not seen quite so much of that in the last few months. There was a recent press release from The Department Of Culture at The Cabildo, however, that reminded us of how intrinsic arts and culture are to Lanzarote and that promised some exciting developments.

The Cabildo and town halls of Lanzarote are to coordinate the enhancement of online cultural programming.

“We will try to offer, preferably, programming of local artists to raise awareness of, and improve the sector,” says Alberto Aguiar, the Director of Culture.

Some of the lesser measures of lockdown have been lifted in the last week or so, but there is no signpost pointing towards us congregating again large crowds for live events on the arts and cultural in the foreseeable future. Instead, the island government and seven town halls have already begun work to provide a co-ordinated package of online cultural content to the citizens of the island.

This will be assembled during a series of ´virtual meetings,´ conducted by video-conferences, to be held every fifteen days. The Director of Culture and the Councillors of Culture of the municipalities of Arrecife, Tías, Teguise, Yaiza, San Bartolomé, Tinajo and Haría, will enjoy regular contact seeking to co-ordinate the programming of online cultural activities. Mr. Aguiar also tells us this committee ´will schedule joint activities between the eight administrations.´

The first meeting took place last week, during which Cabildo and town hall representatives laid the foundations upon which they will work together. The Director of Culture told us that this organisation will be ´coordinating the programming of online content, scheduling joint activities and enhancing the profile of local artists and cultural activities.´

Alberto Aguiar placed great emphasis on this last point, stating that ´all administrations have agreed that, even if we share online content at regional or national level, it is very important that we promote, above all, the industry and local artists. We must help give them visibility.´

In that sense, Aguiar was keen to remind us that, from the website of and the social networks of Cultura Lanzarote, a lot of online programming is already being shared with content from Lanzarote artists.

´We are sharing on the web,´ he points out, ´experiences as diverse as plays (and dramatic performances) to virtual tours of the CIC exhibitions at El Almacén, or videos of local artists (and the provision of) books and catalogues in PDF format.´

The Spanish and Canary Island and Lanzarote newspapers and radio stations will carry news of all these developments, of course, and we intend to continue updating our English speaking readers here in these pages on Lanzarote Information and also through my own sidetracks & detours blog.

In recent weeks both these outlets have carried news of a fantastic virtual concert by the Tonin Corujo Quartet, as well as a dramatic performance taking a biographical look at Cesar Manrique. I have even shared, with those who might not have received it, some of the President´s facebook support of arts and cultural events.

I absolutely applaud the initiative described above and it is imperative that local artists, in these lockdown times, are able to enjoy some sort of presence with not only their fellow artists but also with the wider public. However, I hope, too that we can somehow include some of the visiting islands who have sent wonderful treats to these shores over the past few years. Artists such as Pablo and Humberto, Maximum Ensemble and Russian violinist Iya Zmaeva and Crimean pianist Natalia Nicolayeva and other visiting classical musicians such as Murray McLachlan and Veronika Shoot all contribute to Lanzarote´s cultural offer in at least so much as they delivered artistic expressions that indigenous artists engage with and respond to.

That, though, is only a minor caveat I apply to what is a wonderful undertaking by The Cabildo that will not only eventually provide a Panavision vista of our arts and culture offer but will also, in the meantime, remind our arts practitioners and even those of who simply admire their work, that the sector is seen as being as important as any other along the sidetracks and detours we will have to take on the road to recovery.

We reminded you on these page pages on Lanzarote Information last week that similar initiatives are taking place in the UK, that might help preserve culture whilst changing forever the way the arts are delivered. I included on these pages news of a fantastic sounding on-line archive of readings of Wordsworth´s writings being created under the auspices of his great-great-great grandson and family to celebrate the 250 years since the birth the former poet laureate.

I also reported in my Sidetracks & Detours blog in the UK last week that current poet laureate Simon Armitage is co-ordinating plans for a new build National Poetry Centre in Leeds and has been busy doing so even whilst recording poetry to ambient music album with his band Lyr, on an album to be released next week.

In fact as one door is closed to keep out the coronavirus a window is opened to allow in light and heat to nourish the growth of new initiatives. Steve Bewick, my former co-presenter of all across the arts on Crescent Radio in the UK, had long been scheduled to have delivered two live radio programmes at The Ribble Jazz And Blues Festival, playing appropriate tracks and interviewing musicians playing at the event. When the festival was cancelled it was decided to go ahead with a virtual format to which Steve was asked to contribute instead, a freewheeling programme of appropriate music and chat about the effect of the lockdown on the arts.

He asked if he could use my blog for a kind of trial run, and so we spent a fortnight or so swapping e mails and facebook putting together an article called A Day In Lockdown With The Locked UP Blues, in which Steve and I, with our very different tastes, each selected a piece of music to accompany breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, and late night dinner. I posted the article on Sidetracks and Detours ten days ago and Steve then delivered it as ´virtual festival´ radio programme on Friday 1st May and included all our selected tracks, listed below

West Side Story by Stan Kenton Orchestra (Bewick)
Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens (Warwick)

Black Coffee by Peggy Lee (Bewick)
Black Caffiene by Emmylou & Rodney Crowell (Warwick)

Jazz Hop Café on radio (Bewick)
Lunch With Gina by Steely Dan (Warwick)

Right Said Fred by Bernard Cribbins (Warwick)
Tea For Two by Shostakovich (Bewick)

The Noise Upstairs by various musicians on You Tube(Bewick)
Tiny desk concert by Go Go Penguin (Bewick)
I Eat Dinner by Kate & Anna McGarrigle (Warwick)

Make Love To Me by Jo Stafford (Bewick)
Time After Time by Miles Davis (Bewick)
Driftwood by Between the Vines (Warwick)

All of the above were presented in my blog with direct links, but they are easy to find via your favourite search engine should you feel so inclined.

Steve Bewick´s second programme for the virtual Ribble Jazz and Blues altfest was an in-depth study of a lady who had been scheduled in for the live event. I had never heard of her before, as jazz is not always my first music of choice, but I listened to his show on fcum radio on line and followed his directions to the excellent website of Beverley Bierne.

A wonderful singer, surrounded by great players and produced by some great names in the field, she is a sassy live performer and superb recording artist, and if ever restrictions are sufficiently lifted to allow visiting musicians to take on international tours of Spain and The Canary Islands she would surely enjoy a warm reception from the large jazz fraternity on the islands. She will be mentioned again in these despatches so keep your eyes and ears peeled.

Meanwhile, keep being careful and stay safe.