Do you really need to be in a ‘Creative City’ to get some Culture?

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My first long road trip to Cornwall landed me in place called Falmouth, in truth I was expecting a quiet Cornish town that might have been something like Broadchurch. I was in for a surprise.

 

My visit was taking me to a friend studying Acting at Falmouth University, and it seemed to me that the tip of Cornwall was an odd place for the UK’s leading Arts Uni. But boy, was I wrong. It the perfect place for it.

Heading into the university, I was lucky enough to catch some of the Third-Year Final Dance, Music and Theatre performances. These formed part of the AMATA Department Festival, showcasing some of the best examples of individuals heading out into the Creative and Cultural Industries. Falmouth University is indeed to stranger to a famous face from our screens and theatres. Some of these names include singer Ben Howard, news presenter Sophie Long but its most impressive connection undoubtedly is its Chancellor, the wonderful Dawn French.

So, on this particular evening I was to see some very raw and engaging theatre taking place. The students of the AMATA department gave performances that were truly outstanding. Whilst there I enjoyed a huge variety of performances from a variety of playwrights.  These included ‘Finding the Sun’ by Edward Albee, a haunting look at the love and loss endured by four couples. ‘The Resistible rise of Arturo Ui’, a play penned by the famous Bertolt Brecht in 1941, featured a story about a Chicago mobster, and acted as a satire of the rise of Adolf Hitler. Finally, I saw ‘Shoot/get treasure/repeat’, a play by Mark Ravenhill, an altogether different experience!

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After such an impressive display of theatre, we were in sure need of relaxing drink in the town centre. I may have thought that the that would be all for the display of creativity for the evening but once again I was mistaken. What I found upon my first night in the town was in fact a place so full of creativity and culture that it was surely on par with the leading cultural cities of the UK. In such a small high-street I had never quite seen such a huge range of creative expression. As an example, I could describe the ‘The Hand’ Bar. Each week some of the best pieces of expressive art, be it photography, painting or sketch, are displayed along the walls of the bar. Best of all its sourced very locally, all coming from the University itself.

Heading elsewhere, I saw probably the quirkiest bar I’d ever seen. Called ‘Hillbilly’s’, I found me and my mates sitting in roll top bathtubs, perching on beer barrels, and making a fuss of two resident miniature dogs who live above the pub with the landlord. Further along the street I was then at ‘Beerwulf’, a book shop and bar rolled into one! I’m not beginning to mention that all primarily sell locally sourced and very individual craft beers

So, tick to just a few examples of Theatre, Dance and Visual Art. What about music, if I wanted even more? Falmouth has that too. Many a venue host a wide variety of music, not limited to live jazz music in 5 degrees west, and an open mic folk night in Finn McCouls.

 

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Due to the fact I enjoyed my first visit so much, I was in no way hesitating to fill up the tank and make the trip back. In a town that saw its main function as once being a huge naval port, it may still seem a surprising place for a such a culture hub. To me it’s everything you could want in a creative city. It has culture, its developing swiftly, it’s an arts haven and a hub for expression. However, it isn’t actually a city, sometimes to find these things you don’t have to be in one, you’ll just have to take a look yourself!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When In Rome…

 Rome, the “Eternal City”. For centuries, people have travelled across continents to marvel in the heart of Italian culture, wander through idyllic cobbled streets, and taste authentic Italian cuisine. Italian director Federico Fellini once said, ‘Rome does not need to make culture. It is culture’, having visited Rome twice in the space of two years, I am guilty of having a love affair with the city.

Unconsciously getting lost in the ancient City is an experience in itself, every corner you turn, photograph you take, captures Rome’s artistic heritage from all angles. Rome’s cityscape alone is unforgettable, seizing the hearts of many.

As I walked across the city from St. Peters Basilica to the Colosseum, I was not only distracted by the aroma of freshly prepared pizza, but by the finest creations of Western art – from towering sculptures, astonishing architecture and mesmeric fountains. Home to the renowned Michelangelo, Raphael and Bernini; the city is a playground for artistic enthusiasts, culture chasers, history lovers and budding wine connoisseurs. I could not help but feel a sense of incredible jealously towards the Italian culture, longing to have what they have…

Religious, or not, St. Peters Basilica and the Vatican Museum absolutely cannot be missed when visiting Rome. As you walk through the Museum you are greeted by an Exhibition of historical monuments and vibrant Renaissance frescoes, immediately being left bewildered by the endless possibilities of humanity! Upon entering St. Peters you are welcomed by the echoing of angelic voices bouncing off the cool marble floor, enormous domes, and historical artefacts. You are able to climb to the top of Michelangelo’s dome but this is not for the faint hearted (or claustrophobic), it takes a total of 491 occasionally steep, narrow and exhausting stairs to reach the top. But the view makes it worthwhile.

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(The view from the top of Michelangelo’s dome)

Ancient architectural constructions such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Pantheon prove how Rome has always excelled in innovation and creativity. The Colosseum and the Roman Forum will take up the best of a whole day to explore in depth, nevertheless this will be a day well spent.

Many people will say that Piazza di Spagna is nothing but an exhausting trek of steps with a mediocre view of Rome’s elite shops. But it is so much more, when visited at the right time (between 9-12 pm) the Spanish Steps become a place of live music, entertainment and romance.

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(Piazza di Spagna)

With all that Rome has to offer, how could there possibly be more?

According to the UNESCO Creative Cities Network, Rome’s affluent reputation in film production dates back to the early 20th century, with the creation of the Cinecittà Studios. Since then, the Capital city has flourished to become the hub of Europe’s leading film production.

The Rome International Film Festival (RIFF), is running for the 14th year this coming November, and has been awarded among the top film festivals in the world. The RIFF encourages filmmakers from all cultural, ethnic and global backgrounds to share their independent work to the festival audience. In doing so, the festival provides the filmmakers with the exciting opportunity to make professional connections in the industry. The creative economy is thriving in Rome, generating 750 million euros each year from the film sector alone.

The Italian culture inundates tourists from across the world. The “Eternal City” will never stop expanding, adapting and surprising us with new innovations, creativity and concepts, that cannot be rivalled with.

The Magic of The Minack

 

The Minack Theatre is a bespoke cultural offering and an absolute must-see attraction when visiting Cornwall. Where else in the country can you sit in an open-air theatre, carved into the granite cliffs that overlook the stunning panorama backdrop of Porthcurno Bay?

Following a recent visit to this idyllic location, I have compiled together the top reasons why the Minack Theatre holds such cultural significance and is a theatre like no other.

The History

The enchanting history of the Minack Theatre lends itself to the remarkable experience, creating a cultural experience like no other. A visit to the theatre by day provides an insight into the fascinating history of how Rownea Cade, a visionary theatre lover, moved tons of granite over the winter of 1931 and 1932 to build the foundations of the theatre that stands today, with only the help of her gardener. The very first performance was performed on the 16th August 1932, where members of the local village community staged a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. From this unprecedented success, the theatre has grown and grown, to the point that today the theatre stages 20 plays in the summer season from Easter to September, all of which are a sell out success at the box office.

aRowena Cade

Photo credit: Cornwall Guide

b.pngA Midsummers Night’s Dream 1929

Photo Credit: The Minack Theatre

The Architecture

The theatre itself is as enchantingly archaeological as it gets. Made entirely of granite building stones, the theatre has the Atlantic Ocean as an interchangeable background to the sun-spilled terraces where the performances are staged. The views are absolutely breathtaking. Prepared to be as fixated on the stunning surroundings as the incredible performances. And if you can’t get enough of these beautiful ambiances, Porthcurno beach is just around the corner if you fancy a visit.

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The Performances

Whether you want to soak up some of Cornwall’s finest weather during the day, pasty in one hand, Cornish cider in the other, or enjoy the gorgeous sunset over Porthcurno Bay at a matinée performance with some wine and cheese, the theatre offers a diverse range of performances to be enjoyed day or night. Performances range to suit that of a family audience such as Hansel and Gretel, to other productions which include an annual performance of a Shakespeare play as well as musicals and comedies. Examples of current performances for 2017 include Hansel and Gretel, Pride and Prejudice and the Vicar of Dibley.

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The Location

Better known for being the home of surfing, pasties and ice creams, (also very important attributes), Cornwall as a hub for cultural activity is often forgotten about. When we think of creative cities we typically think of London and its exciting buzz of creative activity. Or perhaps Glasgow, the music capital of Scotland. But actually, Cornwall has on offer an increasing amount of creative activity that replicates that of a large city, making Britain’s most southerly country a unique cultural region that sets it aside from anywhere else in the UK. 1Photo Credit: Visit Cornwall

Cornwall as a Cultural Capital

It is any surprise then that Cornwall is set on becoming European Capital of Culture in 2023. An ambitious move you may think, but with its unique environment that allows culture and creative activity to flourish, what’s to say Cornwall cannot succeed in obtaining the bid for European Capital of Culture by the end of the decade. After all Cornwall is thriving with cultural industries that offer wonderful diversity of creative talent such as the Tate St Ives and Newlyn Art Gallery. Cornwall is also home of the renowned Kneehigh Theatre Company that tours all over the country. These cultural industries combined with the magic that is the Minack Theatre aid in cementing Cornwall’s place within the cultural sector.

2 Photo Credit: Cornwall Live

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paris’ Creative Corners

Despite it’s reputation as a city which people visit to inspire their creativity, whether that be in literature, art or fashion, Paris is still not a city recognised by UNESCO as a creative city. After a recent visit there I was really surprised at this, given the rich French culture and heritage at every corner – as well as the crepe stands, a personal highlight of the trip! The general atmosphere of Paris oozed creativity, with street performers showing off their magic skills, bakers making yummy macaroons, and the beautifully designed bridges (the famous lock bridge is worth a visit) taking you across the River Seine.

The Eiffel Tower was the overall highlight, especially seeing it lit up at midnight, which I would definitely recommend going to do, but if you’re looking for some of the more creative hotspots of Paris, here is what I would recommend:

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Photo credit: Own photo

  1. The Old Artist’s Quarter, Monmartre

 

This little corner of Paris was really something quite special. You can tell that the whole of the village of Monmartre had become very touristy, and has arguably fallen into the gentrification trap, with the artists now unable to afford to live there. However, if you look beyond the keyrings and the ‘I Heart Paris’ t-shirts, there is a wealth of creativity and artistic talent within the square where the artists sit painting and selling their works of art – which are definitely worth the uphill trek to see. Each artist has a different take on all of the Parisian scenes, some more modern and abstract, others which could easily be mistaken as photographs, and everything in between.

The pretty streets which surround the Quarter as also worth a wander, as it gives you a chance to escape from the tourist trap for a while a gain beautiful views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower. Of course whilst visiting Monmartre, the beautiful Sacre Couer basilica and the Moulin Rouge are must see attractions, as with the Eiffel Tower it seems that none of the tourist spots are overrated, which I find to be a rare attribute.

 

  1. The Louvre

 

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Photo credit: Wikipedia

Continuing on with the art theme, the Louvre had to be included. As the world’s largest museum and home of the infamous ‘Mona Lisa’ painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, it was top of the list of places to visit. We also discovered upon visiting that there is free admission for Europeans under 24, which was an obvious bonus. You could walk around the gallery for days looking at all of the paintings, sculptures and various exhibitions, with Monet’s paintings my personal favourite.

 

  1. Shopping Destinations

 

We took a wander down Avenue Champs Elysees, which offered brilliant shopping, both high street and high end, which was to be expected given that Paris is often known as the ‘Fashion capital of the world’ and is the birth place of luxury brands such as Chanel, Louis Vuitton and YSL. The buildings were all beautifully designed (as with all the Parisian architecture) as well as the clothes inside. Although sadly my student loan didn’t quite stretch to a €7,000 Dior dress, there is also an array of bargains to be discovered in Paris’ many flea markets. We visited the Marché aux Puces St. Ouen de Clignancourt where shopping became an adventure, it was a lot of fun wading through the mountains of items and very satisfying when you found a gem!

These recommendations are just a drop in the ocean of all of the creativity which Paris has to offer. With an abundance of museums, galleries, theatres and stunning architecture, the city definitely has something for everyone in whatever form of creativity you are looking for!

 

36-hour theatre marathon – What? Why? Where?

When I think about creative cities I picture places like London and Paris, where someone’s creativity would have no other choice but to be sparked by everything the city represents –architecture, quirky little shops and traditional cuisine served at hip, exciting restaurants. When I think about creative cities I do not think about my hometown. Luckily, UNESCO isn’t as pretentious as I am. The people behind the creative city initiative had a mission to connect places that have “identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”. What that basically means? Cities do not necessarily need to be creative in order to get in the list, they just need to be working towards the goal of creativity. In fact, I was surprised to find out that the places I was envisioning – Paris and London weren’t even on the list. Presumably because they do not really have a lot to work towards. On the other hand my hometown – Sofia, was there. At this point I’m thinking that UNESCO has lower standards about what qualifies as a creative city than I do about… pretty much anything. Once again, I try to not be so obnoxious and I open Sofia’s page to find out what made it qualify. The cities on the website are all divided into categories, and the category that Sofia falls under is ‘Film’. And I have to admit, the more I think about it the more sense it is starting to make. The page talks about the Sofia Film Festival – the largest one on the Balkans! It also mentions NATFA – Sofia’s biggest film school. From a close friend of mine I know how difficult it is to get into it, despite the relatively few people who live in Sofia (about 2 million) anybody who wants to get into the theatre and film industry applies there. Not only is it difficult to get into – it’s challenging to get out of. The final piece of work the students have to do at the end of each year is a 36-hour non-stop theatre and film marathon. Naturally, the cultured journalism student that I am (and for moral support for the already mentioned friend) – I attended the marathon. It was one of the most spectacular, wonderfully weird experiences I have ever had.

 

There was everything from a music cabaret-inspired show to an interactive Shakespeare play where the audience was sitting on the stage.

 

As already mentioned, everything I saw was the product of the students’ work (and their professors) so I did not have many expectations. I was more than amazed at the talent and the creativity these people had. As well as their contagious energy – after watching a play that finished at 1 a.m. I was buzzing and ready for the next one, however I could not get in the 2 a.m. play, simply because there were too many people and theatre filled in. That was another thing I wasn’t expecting – sure, Sofia has 2 million people and sure, the event was free, but the amount of people there surpassed even my wildest anticipations. So I guess Sofia is creative, or at least it is trying very hard and has a lot of young people working at the goal of making it creative. Such an ambitious even, funded entirely by third parties (the National TV, National radio, a website for theatre lovers, one make-up brand and the National student council) so that it would be free and so that it would attract as many people as possible makes me a bit more optimistic. Maybe there is chance for every city out there to one day be creative!

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Building a creative gem in a commercial city

Downtown Atlanta is the city’s central business district and home to multiple major global business corporations: The Coca-Cola Company, Delta Air Lines, United Parcel Services… the list stretches on. Home to the world’s busiest airport and a heap (2.5 million m2 to be exact) of office space just in downtown aloneit’s safe to say that Atlanta is kind of a big deal when it comes to talking business in a busy city. Also classified as one of the world’s ‘alpha-world cities’ ,this metropolitan giant contributed its fair share towards the global economic system. However, while Atlanta may live up to their alpha status within the business arena, it can sometimes be easy to miss the thriving art and creative community that is dampened by all the surrounding commercial noise.

Situated just a short-way east of downtown is an up-and-coming creative and cultural hub. Little Five Points (L5P) has not only developed a reputation for the arts but also as a well-known gathering spot for all sub-cultures around the city. But the path to gaining reputation as a creative community is not an easy one. During its past, economic development and gentrification saw L5P struggle with issues of abandonment and economic and structural disrepair, which challenged L5P’s existence as a retail and art scene. Fortunately, restoration in the neighbourhood in the late 80s and 90s welcomed a new community with new energy; artists, creative-ists and student, who redeveloped L5P into an ‘intown cool’, alternative local marketplace bursting with arts, unique fashion, delicious food and live music

Here are some spots that make L5P unique:

1. Vortex Bar & Grill

The skull-shaped entrance has increasingly become recognised as the iconic ‘entrance’ of L5P. True to its eye-catching colours architecture, Vortex captures the eccentric qualities that encapsulate the area. They also serve Atlanta’s best burgers!IMG_4336.JPG

2. Junkman’s Daughter

Junkman’s Daughter is one of the oldest in the community and perfect for a throwback – there is something for every generation. Named the ‘Alternative Super Store’ by its owners, it’s a testament to the diversity and creativity that L5P represents. Its peculiar yet remarkable exterior is also a marvel in itself.

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Junkman’s Daughter Entrance
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Junkman’s Daughter Exterior

3. Variety’s Playhouse

Home to famous live-music acts in the Atlanta area, Variety’s Playhouse was once a 1940s theatre that has now transformed into a local live-music venue showcasing national and local acts. It has retained its vintage art-deco interior and exterior, making it the distinctive and popular music venue it is today.

Variety Playhouse (Image Credits: Jbarta via Wikipedia. Licensed under Creative Commons 3.0) 

4. Everywhere and Anywhere! The streets of L5P are filled with unique and expressive murals and art displays that add to the vibrancy of the area. Colourful and inspirational, even adverts are not adverts are not your typical ones at L5P!

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Street Art/ Sun Trust Advert in L5P
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Street Art in L5P
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Art Mural in L5P

L5P is uniquely located between two affluent neighbourhoods that urged the community to integrate alternative ideas of culture, style and community, and to contribute to the overall development of L5P’s creative scene and identity. Free from any big-box brands, it allows opportunities for local independent businesses to strive, reflecting the various mixture of cultures and ideas present in Altanta’s growing creative community.

Atlanta may not be on track to become the next global creative city, but by embracing subcultures and celebrating overlooked communities, it has cultivated a creative hub that is symbolic and representative to the area’s rich history and allow L5P to define their own sense of ‘creativity’. This perhaps foregrounds the notion that it is not always about striving for global recognition for creativity, but about being recognised as a city that is home-grown and nurtured, and reflects personal history and community. As the NBA Atlanta Hawks would say, “the people of the city are definitely #TrueToAtlanta”

Header image credits to Wally Gobetz via Flickr (Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

All other photo credits to Lorria Sahmet unless stated otherwise.

Cardiff’s Creative Collaboration Through Independent Venue Week

Cardiff has become a hub of creative flair, showcased through a number of different platforms and events. A particularly successful feature of Cardiff’s creative scene has been its involvement with Independent Venue Week.

Independent Venue Week is funded by the Arts Council and celebrates the spirit of independence and culture of live music at small venues around the UK. Lasting 7 days, the event allows artists to experience playing live in cool, funky venues that draw in big audiences. This included 5 venues in Cardiff: Buffalo Bar, Clwb Ifor BachGwdihw, 10 Feet Tall and Undertone. All these venues have a unique vibe and lively atmosphere but most importantly, a forward-thinking music scene.

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Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz take to the stage

A large amount of support for this event has been gained, evidenced by Frank Turner who emphasises the importance of local venues:

“Without small, independent venues, there’d be no small, independent bands, and without them there’d be no big acts either; these places are the lifeblood of any music scene, and any music fan should care about them and support Independent Venue Week.”

Indeed, by working with Independent Venue Week, it brings together Cardiff’s local businesses, creative musicians and music lovers. Additionally, Cardiff is able to network with many other creative cities that are also involved with Independent Venue Week, creating a nationwide creative collaboration.

These collaborative ideas are reinforced by the Creative Cardiff Network, who suggest that by working together “we can make Cardiff the most creative place it can be”. It is this collaboration and sharing of ideas that Creative Cardiff promotes through events which “encourage more innovation and creativity in our city”. Independent Venue Week has certainly achieved this aim, evidenced by the popularity and success of the week-long event. It is these experiences that are driving Cardiff’s creative ambition to turn the city into a “capital of creativity”.

The Welsh Government are also behind Cardiff’s creative aims and focus particularly on the creation of digital creative content to grow alongside industries and businesses. This is especially important for small businesses, like the Cardiff bars that are involved with Independent Venue Week, as it allows them to “compete with the largest and the best” of the companies (Ron Jones, Creative Industries Sector Panel Chair).

These interactive and creative business models can be seen by the independent bars in Cardiff. They all have a strong social media presence to engage with their audiences and post regularly. This interactivity is key for digital creative success, a must in the age of social media. This, of course, is aiding Cardiff’s creative aims and in turn, promotes the various events that symbolise the cities progressive approach.

Alongside Cardiff’s venues supporting its creative ambition online, the Creative Industries team within the Welsh Government are also especially enthusiastic. Keeping Cardiff’s citizens up to date with all things creative, their Twitter feed engages with their followers to get involved through the hashtags  

It is this continued collaborative force of not only Independent Venue Week but also the various events held in Cardiff’s local venues and the Welsh Government that is driving Cardiff to be one of the most creative cities in the UK. We applaud you, Cardiff!

Check out Cardiff’s bustling music venues or see what they’re up to online…

And don’t forget to have a listen to the Independent Venue Week music on Soundcloud!

 

 

Photo credits:

Featured Image – By Independent Venue Week – Copyright © 2011 – gained permission through Laura Bradley (Independent Venue Week Press and PR)

Love Buzz performing – By Paul Hudson (Independent Venue Week: Love Buzz at the Horn [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)%5D, via Flickr

Gaon to G-Town: story of Gurgaon as the Millennium City of India

As someone who has grown up in Gurgaon it is hard to imagine the place that is home to funky hang-out spots such as ‘Molecule Air Bar’ and ‘Downtown Beer Café’ was once nothing but acres of farmland. In fact, it is even harder to imagine that Gurgaon gained its title as the Millennium City during my lifetime.

This alga like growth in service sector industries has been a direct result of the government loosing its policies affecting Indian’s tariff and duties on exports and foreign investment.

It all started in 1997 when General Electric became US’s first company to outsource its software work to India. DLF, an Indian real estate company, persuaded Jack Welch about benefits of setting up office in what was nothing more than a village near Delhi back then.

The rest, as they say, is history.

From banking to automobile to telecom, almost all important brand names have an office in Gurgoan. This has led to the creation of about half-a-million new jobs and India owing about 50% market share of worlds IT outsourcing industry.

But before you start imaging an American sit-com scenario with lots of road side food stalls and auto-rickshaws; remember with more employment comes more income.

A rise in employment has led to a rise in young professionals disposable income. With few to no dependents and a lot of cash at hand, rising demand has made Gurgaon an entertainment hub.

Now Gurgaon is the mall capital of Indian with high-end global brands such as Canali and Bottega Veneta setting up shops here. There has also been a surge of international food companies such as Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts’ opening restaurants in Gurgaon’s most significant mall, Ambiance.

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Source: WikiMedia commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mango_atrium_at_Ambience_Mall,_Gurgaon.jpg)

 

That’s not all, there has also been an increase in cultural activities throughout the city. For instance, the Epicenter has been home to great productions such as Colour Blind with Bollywood star Kalki Koechlin and famous Pakistani theater group Ajoka. Plus,  Kingdom of Dreams not only an entertainment destination, home to food and fashion shops from around the globe but also host’s All India Dance and Drama Festival every year in November. Gurgaon has also been home to one of India’s biggest art fair-The Art Exhibit 2014-which showcased works of various contemporary artists from eight different galleries around the country.

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Source: WikiMedia commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Culture_Gully_and_Nautanki_Mahal_auditorium,_Kingdom_of_Dreams,_Gurgaon.jpg)

 

However, it is not just fun and games.

In a city of skyscrapers, it is important to acknowledge that some people are deprived of basic facilities such as functioning sewage systems.

Gurgaon is a prime example of what happens when development is fully privatized.

Companies like Genpact are trying to help develop the city and fill in infrastructure gaps left by the government. Yet It is important to understand that these facilities are only available for those who can afford them i.e. educated urban-professionals. This excludes about 40% of the population living in the city.

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Source: WikiMedia commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Girl_playing_drum,_Gurgaon_railway_station,_India.jpg)

 

This great income gap  has led to a rise in crimes such as armed robbery and theft. In fact, so much so that Gurgaon’s safety index is astoundingly low at 34.42.

Growth is a holistic phenomenon which trickle downs into various aspects of a society. In Gurgaon’s case, economic development gave rise to cultural growth. It then becomes important to have an open dialogue about insuring that this growth is available to all strata’s of the society.

Five lesser known gems that make up Cardiff’s cultural crown.

It’s 2017 and believe it or not, Cardiff is up there with the pioneering European Cities. Admittedly it isn’t the biggest metropolis around, but what it has to work with packs quite the cultural punch. Everybody who’s anybody is aware of the main attractions, but here are some of this booming creative city’s more discreet treasures.

Cocorico Patisserie  – 35 Whitchurch Road – CF14 3JN.

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Photo Credit: Cocorico

Among the chip shops and takeaways of Whitchurch Road lies the most authentic French experience this side of the channel. Laurian Veaudour and his team have set up the number one patisserie around, pushing the boundaries of gastronomy by creating the most delicious cakes and desserts. This now 7 year old eatery will satisfy your taste buds in ways you never knew possible. If my word isn’t quite enough to go by, the team have recently reached the semi-finals of BBC’s Bake Off Creme de la Creme. Support the team every Tuesday on BBC 1.

Sunflower and I – 1 Mount Stuart Square – CF10 5EE.

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Photo Credit: Sunflower and I

Arguably Cardiff’s most secluded triple threat, this florist/cafe-bar/concert room combo is unprecedented in terms of style and quality. Described as “A place created from love of flowers and music”, an hour or two in this friendly, enchantingly decorated space will transport you miles away from the hustle and bustle of its actual location. From live string quintets to incredible hand tied bouquets, this place is one in a million.

Spillers Records – 27 Morgan Arcade – CF10 1AF.

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Photo Credit: Urban 75

Calling all music lovers. When they say “The oldest record shop in the world”, this is no marketing ploy. Since 1894, Spillers has lead the way for vinyl collectors and music enthusiasts alike. Situated in the nooks and crannies of The Morgan Arcade, whatever sound tickles your musical taste buds be sure to flick through its bottomless supply of records. And what with vinyl making a modern resurgence, this musical institution will be here for many years to come.

The Dead Canary  – Barrack Lane – CF10 2FR.

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Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Don’t let the name fool you, there is nothing dead about this swanky sequestered cocktail bar. Located around the outside entrance to the St.Davids food court, for some time this was very much a place to keep on the down low. Since its launch in December of 2015, the canary’s out the cage and is now Cardiff’s worst kept secret. The TDC staff pride themselves on their ability to innovate cocktails according to your preferences, so don’t be afraid to put them to the test on your next visit.

Chapter Arts Center – Market Road – CF5 1QE.

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Photo Credit: Chapter Arts Center

Although Chapter attracts almost a million visitors a year, it is relatively off the radar in comparison to some of Cardiff’s other attractions. Nevertheless, this multi-purpose arts HQ is an institution of the creative community, and one that capitalizes on the boundless nature of creativity. Film, theatre, art, raves – you name it it’ll be there, and to such a standard that has seen this epicenter of creativity last over 40 years with no end in sight. With over 100 volunteers to help run Chapter, the sense of friendly community is always strong, welcoming everyone from everywhere.

Feature Photo Credit: Visit Wales

 

 

 

 

 

Six Spots to See in Sydney

Sydney is a cosmopolitan city that is surrounded by iconic beaches, a UNESCO World Heritage site, as well as celebrated wine regions. Contrary to popular belief, Sydney is NOT the country’s capital. It is, however, Australia’s largest city, acting as the nation’s financial capital and has been labelled as a UNESCO Creative City. With a vast variety of attractions and sights, including the illustrious Bondi and Manly beaches, it is no wonder that Sydney is the country’s most visited city. With so many incredible sights to see, where does one start?

With that in mind, here are my Sydney top six, to help you get the most out of your visit:

The Rocks – The Rocks district is the oldest part of Sydney. Made up of narrow lanes, colonial buildings, sandstone churches, and some of the oldest pubs in Australia, this district is where Sydney first came to fruition when the British first landed. Nearly demolished in the 1970s to make way for modern high-rises, it had a lucky escape when citizen action saw it preserved. The Rocks plays host to renowned weekend markets, art galleries, street entertainment, incredible food, and stunning views of the harbour, Opera House, and the Bridge, surely making this one of the coolest parts of Sydney.

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The Rocks

Sydney Harbour Bridge – Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in 1932 in response to the Great Depression, as a way of creating jobs. Since then, it has become an iconic symbol for the city, along with the nearby Opera House. If you feel like splashing some cash, tours to climb the bridge are available (160 AUD), otherwise it is free to walk or cycle across it for incredible payoff of panoramic views of the harbour and Opera House.

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Sydney Harbor Bridge

The beaches –  Considering the city’s warm and sunny weather, there is a strong beach culture. Every weekend, there is an influx of locals, and most weekdays too, to be honest. The city’s renowned beaches also attract tourists from around the globe. Whether you are hitting Palm Beach and Manly in the north, or Bondi and Coogee in the south, there is enough beach for everyone. All Sydney’s beaches are accessible via public transport or car, as well as being surrounded by numerous restaurants and bars. However, if you fancy less bustle, Bronte is a smaller and quieter, yet equally spectacular beach.

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Bondi Beach

The museums – As with most cities, Sydney has a wide range of museums. Whether it be modern art at the Art Galley of New South Wales, or local history at The Rocks Discovery Museum, Sydney covers all the bases. The one I would recommend is Hyde Park Barracks. It’s a museum established in the city’s old convict barracks, and does a stellar job of chronicling colonial life in the city, with tales of early settlers. It’s well worth the 10 AUD entrance, and a little education never hurt anyone.

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Art Gallery of New South Wales

Cultural events – As two of Australia’s largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne have a sort of sibling rivalry going on. Whilst Sydney has been designated a UNESCO Creative City, Melbourne holds the honour of being Australia’s ‘culture capital’. As a result, Sydney makes great efforts to try and out-do its rival by playing host to over 30 official festivals and events each year. Check out what’s happening when you’re there on the Sydney tourism website.

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Sydney Festival

Party into the early hours – At the end of a long working (or travelling) week, Sydney dwellers like to let off some steam. If you’re looking for a wild that won’t break the bank, then head to King’s Cross. Here, the beer is cheap and the backpackers and locals, alike, party late into the night! My recommendation: head to World Bar, it’s where most of the action happens, and what’s more, the drinks are cheap and there is a huge dancefloor. Don’t fancy the backpacker hotspots? Head over to Manly, The Rocks, or the Central Business District, there you’ll find a load more locals and fewer travellers, the only downside is that the prices are higher.

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Manly Beach nightlife

Image credit:

The Rocks: Max Pixel

Sydney Harbour bridge: Wikipedia 

Bondi Beach: Wikimedia Commons

Art Gallery of NSW: Wikimedia Commons

Sydney Festival: Wikimedia Commons

Manly Beach: Jay’s Thought Stream