Linz, 2009 European Capital of Capital

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Austrian city of Linz is in the news at the moment, as it's holding a No Music Day on Saturday. The project is all part of Linz's time as the 2009 European Capital of Culture, a title it shares with Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

I visited Linz over the summer during the Pflasterspektakel festival - a five day celebration of street theatre. And what a celebration it was, with theatre taking over the streets. Comedians, clowns, acrobats, gymnasts, trapeze artists, jugglers all vye for attention, with great busking and music performances too.

Tumble Circus, Linz

Street performers, Linz

Away from that weekend, a vibrant series of events were talking place in Linz including plays set on buses and public transport and headphone-led plays through the city's streets.

In the midst of it all are Linz's outstanding venues, the neon clad Lentos Art Museum (below), the concert hall Brucknerhaus and the museum Ars Electronica Center with a great series of exhibitions, shows, plays and concerts.

Lentos Art Museum, Linz

There is also a ferris wheel and skywalk high above the city's rooftops, as well as a vast array of symposia and projects about Europe and European identity.

Ferris wheel at Höhenrausch, Linz
Image by knorp

I really enjoyed seeing how the graphic identity of Linz09 was incorporated in to familiar images of the city like Linzertorte, the local speciality.

كرة القدم! Football with London's Algerian fans.

Monday, November 16, 2009

I wanted to watch Bosnia & Herzegovina -v- Portugal on Saturday, but finding Bosnian fans proved difficult. Phone calls weren't answered, cafés and restaurants seemed to have shut down.

I called a Bosnian charity shop in Hackney, and spoke to a very excitable man with very broken English which yielded directions to a café showing the match. They went something like, "Go to Kilburn. Or Cricklewood! Get on a bus, 5 or 6 stops, there's a McDonalds, traffic lights, go left and it's 50 or 100 metres. And a Charity shop! No! Willesden!"

They were vague but I did find a Bosnian charity shop near a McDonalds by some traffic lights in Cricklewood. However, nobody there knew anything about football.

All was not lost, though, as right next door - and in two other nearby cafés - were throngs of Algerian fans watching Algeria -v- Egypt. Huzzah!

Algerian football fans, London

When I arrived, I thought Algeria had won, such was the excitable cheering and whooping. It turned out the match hadn't even started, they were just very excited. I do like a festive atmosphere.

The bonhomie continued throughout the match with oohs and aahs, flag flying, hands flung to the sky, and all manner of expressive reactions. They sung "Viva Algeria!" with giddy abandon.

Algerian football fans, London

World Cup qualification rested on the match's result. I could tell it was an important match as there was a "Special Big Day Menu" on display. When Egypt scored in the last minute to force a further match, the mood changed considerably. They all fell silent straight away, with many limping off quietly home, showing no signs of the violence that seems to have marred the fall out from the actual match.

And, with still no sign of any Bosnians, so did I.

The A & Z of Pop

Friday, November 13, 2009

With all the music I have in so many genres (3,500 tracks and counting), I like a nice, simple classification system - I stick to alphabetic by artist.

I was thinking recently who my first and last are, the bookends to all my music: who are my A to Z of pop.

So, first on the list is A Taste of Honey with their ace disco song Boogie Oogie Oogie. I danced to this loads as a young chap at Freakscene, a funky night in Cork that was one part big gay disco, one part indierock moshpit. I regularly begged the DJs to play it. It makes me wanna dance!

The final artist on my line-up is Zuma, a Norwegian group who took part in their Eurovision selection in 2008. They didn't reach the final, but the song Always Always is nice electro-lite midtempo-ballad-ish europop. The lyrics mention sprouts. More vegetables in pop, I say! Zuma's singer came back to Melodi Grand Prix this year as Alexander Stenerud, coming fourth.

So, who are your A & Z of Pop?

Work in Progress, ice Berlin Wall at German embassy

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Yesterday, to mark the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall's fall, the German Embassy in London installed Work in Progress, a fragment of a wall, made from ice blocks, slowly and surely melting away.

Ice Berlin Wall - Work in Progress

Ice Berlin Wall - Work in Progress

Fall of the Berlin Wall exhibition

Monday, November 09, 2009

It has been twenty years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. To mark the occasion, the Goethe Institute in London are holding an exhibition of Norbert Enker's photography taken in and around the wall and what remains of it.

Taken from December 1989 to March 1992, the photographs document the wall's removal, destruction and the changes in the way it was used. The pictures are haunting and poignant, and give a real sense of the physical mass of the wall, particularly the third image below.

The exhibition continues until December 18 at the Goethe Institute on Exhibition Road.