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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.

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Can We Afford Free Museums?

When did you last visit a museum?

Free admission to museums around the UK was introduced in 2001. These national museums are sponsored by DCMS, a government department for culture, media and sport. Every year, the Arts Council England (ACE) – who are funded by DCMS – invests £7.5 million in museums.

Since the introduction of free admission, numbers of museum visitors has increased significantly.

“The premise of free admission is to allow people to see the nation’s collections: those things that they already own with no economic barriers to entry.”

– Michael Dixon, Director of Natural History Museum

Admissions to museums which have always been free have also risen; as Michael Dixon suggests, the nature and perception of national museums has also shifted as a result of increased free admissions.

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Image source: National History Museum

But not everyone agrees with the funding of museums through public taxation and in our current political climate, the allocation of government funding is under the spotlight more than ever.

The ACE describes museums as an “integral part of everyday public life.” But is this really the case? Are museums as integral in the same sense as hospitals?

Probably not. And many argue that having free museums is an idealistic concept. But just because museums don’t affect our physical health doesn’t mean they don’t positively contribute to society in one way or another.

According to the ACE, arts and culture (including museums) are beneficial for 4 reasons:

  • Education: produces well-rounded adults, who contribute as empathetic citizens and creative workers
  • Health and wellbeing: positive impact on general wellbeing, health and life satisfaction
  • Society: creates cohesive communities, reduces social exclusion and isolation
  • Economy: contribution to the national economy and strengthens economies and communities outside of London

With constantly increasing pressure on the NHS, healthcare providers have begun to utilise the arts and culture. As a result, the reduced demand for GP and other mental health services could be saving the NHS £500 million each year.

However, some argue that museums being free of cost supports the idea that art is not worth much and is a second-rate culture. Similarly, others believe government subsidisation produces arts of a low cultural value:

“Not all art can be commercially viable, but the best will be – and the best is all we, the public, need. Subsidising the mediocre doesn’t improve anyone’s cultural life.”

– Douglas McPherson, Telegraph

But the ‘best’ that theatre critic McPherson is referring to is a purely subjective concept.

For instance, a current exhibition at National Museum Cardiff ‘Bacon to Doig: Modern Masterpieces from a Private Collection‘ allows the general public to view private collections of modern British art at no cost. The collection features work by many of the 20th century’s best British artists, including Francis Bacon and David Hockney.

Image source: Megan Sylvester at National Museum Cardiff

So would Douglas McPherson consider the works of Francis Bacon – who is recognised internationally as one of the best painters of the modern era – to be ‘mediocre’?

McPherson fails to recognise the economic barriers of the commercial arts evident in the increase of museum visitors from lower socio-economic groups as a result of free admissions. Therefore, removing government funding of the arts and museums would exclude those who do not have the financial means to enjoy them.

Removing this funding also supports the idea of the arts private goods rather than public, and as a luxury rather than a human right.

It is clear that those, like Douglas McPherson, who already have the financial means to access the arts may never appreciate the value of subsidised arts and culture. Perhaps it is down to us, the public, to take advantage of what is being offered to us for free while we still can.

Discover the UK’s top 20 free museums here.

Featured image source: mymodernmet.com, art by Sophie Cave

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

Earth without Art is Eh: The Importance of Arts to the Community

Recently, for the first time ever in the UK, a stunning collection of traditional Chinese flower and bird paintings, spanning 600 years, were on show at the National Museum Cardiff.

Chinese scholars have been painting birds and flowers for centuries and this exhibition shows the treasures of Chinese culture dating back to the late Ming dynasty of the 16th century.

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Photo credit: Albina Govic

There are ‘Four Treasures’ of traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy, these are: ink stones, ink sticks, brushes and paper. With the right artists, these can make up a vision of nature in which we can imagine the fragrance of flowers and the chorus of birds.

These paintings have a less decorative and more realistic value. It is not intended to be an imitation of nature, rather flowers and birds were given a symbolic meaning and different styles of painting were used to convey an artist’s personality and ideas.

Many of the greatest artists were also scholars and through time they developed a new freehand style of painting as a way to express their emotions. Scholar painters consider the arts of calligraphy and poetry as integral parts of flower and bird painting, giving their art a deeper spiritual meaning.

However, the exhibition was not just a room full of paintings of flowers and birds, it was an aura of soft music and dim lighting  – almost like stepping into a room of emotions through visual art.

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Come to think of it, would I have been able to experience this new perspective of culture if it wasn’t for museums and the arts? Being in this room made me consider the actual importance of arts to the community.

“Arts and culture make considerable and necessary contributions to the well-being of communities.

The arts and culture are powerful tools in which to engage communities in different levels of change. There are 5 roles of the arts that particularly stand out:

1. Arts and culture are means to public dialogue

Arts can raise awareness to important issues facing communities and educate the public in powerful and creative ways, they make considerable and necessary contributions to the well-being of communities.

“Art is a unique form of communication that takes as its subject the whole of human experience and that often engages an individual at the emotional and intellectual as well as the aesthetic level.” – McCarthy, Ondaatje, Zakaras, & Brooks, 2004

2. Arts and culture contribute to the development of a community’s creative learning

There is a strong relationship between arts, cultural engagement and educational attainment. For example, literacy, drama, library activities, maths and languages are improved when young people take part in structured music activities.

“Artistic activity that embraces the ideas and visions of different cultures can lead to new and innovative ideas and inventions.” – Voluntary Arts Network, 2005

3. Arts and culture create healthy communities capable of actions.

Participation in arts activities can reduce isolation in rural and urban area and help community members to reach out and socialise beyond their family boundaries.

“Arts involvement creates opportunities for people to develop positive social contacts in pro-social environments” – Department of Justice Canada, 1999

4. Arts and culture provide a powerful tool for community mobilisation and activism

The arts help reach out to many people in communities who are otherwise not being contacted. In most cases, the arts are the primary motivation for some to engage in a community activity or issue.

“The arts can reach people … the vital ingredient to any effort to build community capacity to act.” Rogers & Spokes, 2003

5. Arts and culture help build community capacity and leadership.

Getting involved in community-based arts projects may help people feel better connected and inspired to get involved and make a difference in their communities.

“Arts involvement opens pathways for citizens to make contributions and connections to their communities” – Department of Justice Canada, 1999

 

Art and culture simply make life better, as it helps to build diverse communities and improve the quality of life.

Featured image source: ‘Earth Atmosphere’ by NASA/GSFC

A secret Berlin: 5 things you really need to see

With its swanky architecture, creative vibes and outrageous parties, Berlin should definitely be on the top of your list. Since the fall of the famous Berlin wall (Berliner Mauer for you language folk), it’s become a place where “anything-goes” and by anything, they mean anything.

From Berghain to Aquadom this list will guide you through five of the best and most unusual sights of Berlin, starting with Spreepark.

Spreepark

Abandoned amusement park, Berlin (photographer: Jan Bommes)

Spreepark takes residence in the north of the Plänterwald in South East Berlin. It’s been abandoned for the last ten years now, and it doesn’t try to hide it. Every inch of the park is littered with the remnants of rides and life-sized dinosaurs, including a broken roller coaster leading into the mouth of a mysterious raving-rabid creature. But this doesn’t stop trails of explorers from venturing inside. A prominent setting in horror film “Hanna”, the park is admittedly difficult to enter but with the hop of a fence, anything is possible.

Berghain

Berghain at night (photographer: Michael Mayer)

Berghain is pure ecstasy in its physical form. It is a place of mystery, stimulation and hardcore booze, drugs and techno fuelled pleasure. A short walk from Berlin’s main station (Ostbahnhof), Berghain has made its mark worldwide, perhaps due to its exclusive selection process as well as its crazy powerful sound system. Literally anything DOES go there, so don’t be expecting any rules. Berghain has become a cultural icon, famous for being the techno capital of the current world but of course that all depends on if you can get in. Wear black. And lots of it. But don’t try and be something you’re not. Because they will know. The quite honestly terrifying bouncers will pry on each and every detail of your trying-not-to-be-edgy outfit. Click here to find out exactly how to get into Berghain. It opens at 10pm on a Friday night and stays open until 4am on Monday morning. Two final words: good luck.

AquaDom

Aquadom in the Radisson SAS hotel (photographer: Tobias Wutzow)

Berlin’s AquaDom is famous for being the world’s largest free standing aquarium in the world: standing at over 25 metres in height and 12 metres in diameter. Containing over one million litres of water, a coral reef and almost 2,600 fish, it really is a wonder to behold. Not a sight to be seen from ground-level, the ingenious attraction uses an elevator to allow guests a full 360 degree experience of the 56 species of fish as well as the divers who care for the tank. A visit to AquaDom promises you a real-life experience of a coral reef, so don’t miss out. I promise you won’t regret it.

Liquidrom

The large saltwater pool at Liquidrom (photographer: Aaron Muszalski)

Feel the future with a trip to the Liquidrom, where you can float around in a pool of saltwater amidst the rhythms of underwater techno. Designed by German architects GMP, the complex is shaped like an abstract tent erected so high it scrapes the Berlin sky. Ultra-modern spa facilities make up the Liquidrom, including an outsize sauna, an aromatherapy steam bath and a hot tub inspired by the Japanese hot springs. Offering a number of unusual yet soothing massage treatments, the Liquidrom’s centrepiece is the incredible salt water pool. Masses of neon lights filter into the dome, bringing colour and illumination into the dimly lit room. If you want to relax in the style of the future, you won’t want to miss this.

Design Panoptikum

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Design Panoptikum is a “surrealist” museum of industrial objects so, if you like quirky things, you’ll love this. Behind Torstaße is architect Vlad Korneev’s unique museum filled with a bizarre collection of crazy curiosities of the most eccentric kind. Amidst the shadowy rooms emerge an assortment of mechanical monsters made up of spare pasts and parts. Dolls, lamps and instruments of every industry come together to form a ghostly atmosphere beyond even a child’s imagination. For all things weird and wonderful, visit Design Panoptikum.

48 Hours in Aarhus

Copenhagen’s Cooler Little Brother

By Sean Earley

Denmark seems to be having a moment. With ‘nordic noir’ more popular than ever (The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge); Danish actors such as Nikolaj Coster Waldau (Game of Thrones) and Sidse Babett Knudsen (Westworld) taking Hollywood by storm; and the phenomenon of ‘hygge’ – the Danish concept of cosiness – there has been no better time to head north. Many suggest Copenhagen, but the capital is so 2016. The place to be seen is the 2017 European Capital of Culture – Aarhus. As Denmark’s ‘second city’, it’s less Birmingham and more San Fran, with impressive architecture, great coastal location, fantastic retail opportunities, and a cultural scene most cities would envy. The 2017 European Capital of Culture is set to put Aarhus on the map, with the year-long festival attracting huge investment and international attention. Make Aarhus your next weekend get-away and experience exhibitions, performances, concerts and events all-year-round.

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Stay

To fully experience the Danish way of life, the best option is to stay in an Airbnb. This allows you to become a fully-fledged local, allowing yourself to retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city, to a ‘hyggeligt’ (cozy) and stylish apartment above the cobbled streets. An Airbnb is also the cheapest option – with an entire apartment for two adults costing between £50-£70 a night. A hotel room could set you back upwards of £90.

See

The city is split into various quarters, each one different from the next. If you’re a fan of people watching and have an appreciation for architecture then head straight to the Latin Quarter. The area, located in the city centre, feels like a quaint French village with its winding side streets, smoky bars and boutique stores. Grab a beer and watch the world go by, or explore the alleyways whilst admiring the architecture of the nearby Cathedral and Theatre. 

IMG_3917(Aarhus Theatre)

Dine

After exploring the Latin Quarter it’s time to grab some dinner. For the Danish experience, with a Mediterranean twist, nothing beats Den Russtikke. Located near the harbour, the restaurant’s romantic candlelit ambience is the very definition of ‘hygge’. Find an intimate table for two and enjoy the pork-heavy menu over a glass of wine. Although it won’t break the bank, it is a little pricy and you will need to book. 

Lunch

A cheaper option whilst out-and-about is Aarhus Street Food. The converted parking garage, which houses the indoor food-hall, offers a host of international cuisines from Ethiopian to Korean. Grab a seat in the communal dinning area or ascend to a bar atop the many shipping containers (the food stalls). Dishes cost around £5-£7.

Party

If you’re looking for a more bizarre Danish night out then Shen Mao is the place for you! Known locally as the ‘Ping-Pong Bar’ the basement club has an unusual twist on the traditional night out. Large ping-pong tables can be found throughout the venue, around which crowds form circles allowing for mass games of table tennis. Cheap beer and 90’s house music make for a night to remember. Adidas tracksuit bottoms are compulsory.

Do

You can’t go to one of the major creative cities of Northern Europe and not visit a world-class museum. For art lovers, ARoS offers incredible exhibitions and is home to works by the likes of Ai Weiwei and Monet. Do NOT miss the iconic ‘rainbow room’ on the roof of the museum – an ‘Instagrammer’s’ paradise. For the history buffs – Moesgaard offers an interactive look at Viking life in Aarhus as well as other visiting exhibitions. 

IMG_3883(Moesgaard Museum)

Getting There

Ryanair fly everyday, direct to Billund Airport, for very reasonable prices. Billund Airport is the easiest option as flights are frequent (twice daily) and is located about 50 minutes from Aarhus. Billund offers car rental services and has coaches direct to Aarhus city centre.

App Review: Traces Olion, St Fagans

In an increasingly digital world, one in which museum attendance decreasing, there is a need for museums to adapt to a new audience. One response to this is the collaboration between National Museum Wales, Cardiff Universty and Yello Brick to create the app: Traces (or Olion for welsh speakers).

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The project for St Fagans National Museum of History aimed to find an alternative way to bring the digital experience into museums, and hopefully bring more visitors too. It is not an audio guide, or a digital map of the site. It is an interactive story that uses music and narrative to take you on an adventure around the castle gardens. The app can be used either by new visitors as a guide around the gardens or by people familiar to the site, to give them a new perspective of the space.

I went to St Fagans on a sunny May afternoon and was surprised to see nothing promoting the app at the entrance of the museum after seeing it being promoted on the website. However, after finding a lack of signal at the site, I understood that downloading it once you are there may prove to be difficult and so is best done beforehand.

A friend and I decided to do the partner experience. It is not necessary to watch your screen whilst using the app which allows you to appreciate the scenery rather than concentrate on your phone.

The walk took around 45 minutes to complete and was very enjoyable! The stories took me on a path I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen myself which was refreshing since I got to see St Fagans in a new light. The partner aspect was also a great addition, allowing you to be alone for a few minutes and then joining up again with different bits of information about the characters.

However, I would probably recommend the single journey option for family groups as a few times we ended up in different places due to not quite understanding the directions or walking at different paces. This made the walk more entertaining as we found ourselves speeding up and slowing down at points to match the thread.  Although it is clear they have considered pacing with the music, we still found that in some sections we did not walk at the correct speed and in one case a section was closed off so some improvisation was needed.

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The stories we heard conjured a number of emotions and all were interesting, they give you a sense of history of the area despite being fictional characters. At one point, I became especially immersed in the story when I looked down and found leaves in the shape of a heart, just as I had been told there might be. I wasn’t sure whether this was intentional but it made the story feel more authentic and effective by mixing the digital story with real life space.

Overall, the walk was very enjoyable and was a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. I would definitely recommend it to people on their own, in couples, groups or families. I would say as well, that a pause/ fast forward/rewind would be useful since if you mishear something you have to go back to the beginning of the chapter to listen to it all again and catch up. I think this is a great app for people both familiar and unfamiliar with St Fagans because it really does place you in a different reality. Going forward, I hope to see more publicity for the app as summer approaches. This app has proven to be a great attempt at incorporating a digital experience into St Fagans and I think it would be great if similar storytelling apps were developed for other sections of the site or even other museums.

Download the app for free on iTunes Store

 

Credit: Screen grabs taken from Traces Olion app.

10 creative places you need to visit in Cardiff

With Cardiff being one of the “fastest growing cities in the UK” it only makes sense that its cultural activity is increasing too. This list is not exhaustive of Cardiff’s creative venues however they are 10 of MANY places to visit if you’re looking to do or try something a little different.

1) Cocorico Patisserie

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Photo Credit: Cocorico Patisserie

Specialising in French pastries and sweets you only need to travel to Whitchurch road to get a taste of Paris. Their authentic desserts and handmade macaroons inspire you to learn more with Cocorico holding events to teach the art of macaroon making.

2) Depot – Street Food

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Photo Credit: Buzz Mag

The Depot is an interesting concept with a 24,000 sq foot warehouse being turned into a creative space giving it a cool urban, industrial vibe. The Street Food Social event is held every Saturday from 5pm showcasing food from Wales, this paired with craft beers and great Dj’s makes for an alternative night out

3) Clwb Ifor Bach

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Cate Le Bon. Photo Credit: Polly Thomas, Clwb Ifor Bach

Open since 1983 it’s one of the longest standing live music venues in Cardiff, which has seen the likes of Coldplay, The Killers and many more perform there. Located on Womanby street this laid back alternative club showcases local bands as well as promising touring groups.

4) Tramshed

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Photo Credit: Gareth Bull, Tramshed Cardiff

Cardiff’s old tram depot has been transformed into a creative hub of live music and entertainment, set within a historical building with cultural significance. The Tramshed also features a unique digital tech hub seeking to inspire and engage companies in the digital and creative fields to collaborate with each other.

5) NoFit state circus

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Bianco Production. Photo Credit: NoFit state Circus

Being the UK’s largest contemporary circus company, Nofit state circus has won a number of international arts awards. The group live eat and breath together creating a sense of community while they tour. The company also teaches creative, circus and youth classes, further information can be found on their website.

6) St Fagans National Museum of History

Museum Exteriors© WALES NEWS SERVICE
Photo Credit: Museum Wales

A world leading open air museum found in the grounds of St Fagans castle a 16th century manor house, gives an interesting glimpse into Welsh history, and how welsh people used to live. It’s a fascinating day out for all ages as craftsmen demonstrate their skills, with the art then available for purchase.

7) Cardiff Castle

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Photo Credit: Visit Wales

Another of many sites that provides an insight to the history of the city is Cardiff Castle, the castle’s culture and heritage can be found right in the heart of the City Centre. The top of the Norman Keep provides panoramic views of the city and it’s free to enter if you live or work in the city by applying for a castle key.

8) National Museum Cardiff – Art collection

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Photo Credit: Visit Cardiff

Home to the welsh collection of fine art its collection features some of the finest impressionist paintings in Europe including sculptures, silver and ceramics art. The museum provides interesting exhibitions that are well organised for FREE, also offering a free tour of the art galleries every day from 12.30pm

9) Chapter Arts Centre

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Photo Credit: Travellers Earth

The Chapter Arts centre in Canton hosts a variety of different art exhibitions, local creative projects and stand up comedy. The theatre puts on original and innovative productions with the cinema showing both major and independent titles. The venue has a good atmosphere with very creative vibes.

10) Porters – The Other Room (Pub Theatre)

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Photo Credit: Trip Advisor

Porters bar presents open-mic, live music, comedy and jazz events the bar has a great atmosphere with welcoming bar staff and management. It also houses a 47-seat, intimate pub theatre called the Other Room that showcases new and great modern plays, tickets can be bought online. More information about productions can be found on their website.

Photo credit for the featured image: Trip Advisor

Antwerp: From Diamond City to Creative City

In the past decade, many things have been said and written about creative cities and what exactly they must exhibit to be a part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network (UCCN).

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Image source: synergy-european

Created in 2004, UCCN was established “to promote cooperation with and amongst cities that have identified creativity as a strategic factor for sustainable urban development”. The ever expanding list of (currently) 116 cities make up a special network that works together towards a common objective: “placing creativity and cultural industries at the heart of their development plans at the local level and cooperating actively at the international level”.

According to UNESCO, Urban areas are today’s fundamental breeding grounds for the development of new strategies, policies and enterprises aimed at making culture and creativity a driving force for sustainable development and urban regeneration. This is done through the stimulation of growth and modernisation and the promotion of social cohesion, citizen well-being and inter-cultural dialogue. “A city appears as some sort of force of nature, a natural breeding ground for life cycles of economic invention and creativity.” 

Cities today are the home to more than half of the world’s population and three quarters of its economic activity which includes a large share of the creative economy.

That being said, I think Antwerp (Belgium) should apply or be considered/ to become part of UNESCO’s Creative Cities Network.

Why?

Well, Antwerp is a known worldwide hub of creativity, a place where innovative entrepreneurship thrives, as well as being the diamond capital of the world. Its creative talents and start up companies are part of Antwerp’s creative economy that are developing its dynamic sectors and providing exceptional investment opportunities for entrepreneurs. Antwerp’s creative scene is very vibrant and the main creative sectors are heavily presented in the city as they work closely together.

The main sectors include: design, ICT, new media, music, audiovisual, advertising and communication, print media, architecture and the cultural industry – together they employ 18,000 people.

FACT: one in every 6 companies in Antwerp operate in a creative sector.

Creative entrepreneurs feel at home in Antwerp, especially in the city centre! In contrast to other large cities Antwerp does not have a specific creative district, rather the entire cite centre is one large creative district with creative companies.

Creative Hotspots In Antwerp

There may not be any creative districts in Antwerp but there are creative hotspots. The most creative neighbourhood is situated around Leopold de Waelplaats and the Southern Docks. Here you can find advertising agencies, communication agencies, ICT companies and new media.

Video source: ‘Leopold de Waelplaats – Antwerpen’ by Herman Horsten

Antwerp stands out as the Belgian capital of fashion, the area around Nationalestraat is where you can find the fashion and jewellery industries.

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Image source:Antwerp Nationalestraat’ by Wouter Hagens

The cultural sector and print media tend to cluster in the Zurenborg district and the design consultancies and architect firms are found around the Academy and Mutsaardstraat.

So why invest in Antwerp as a creative city?

Antwerp has an international reputation and appeal as a creative hotspot due to its attractive and business-friendly city with a world port. Having a large port in such a central location means Antwerp has an international appeal and excellent connections with Paris, London and Amsterdam by train. In fact, the Antwerp Central Station is one of the world’s most remarkable railway stations and one of the main landmarks in Antwerp.

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Image source: ‘Antwerpen Centraal station 12-07-2010′ by Paul Hermans

A creative economy is closely interwoven with various sectors and businesses, largely relying on a global market. Antwerp has many crossovers and collaborations with the traditional sectors, such as diamonds, retail and petrochemicals.

Video source: ‘Antwerp, Belgium⎮Prada Handbag⎮Bike Tour ⎮Antwerp Central Station ⎮Diamond District & More!’ by fashionbeautybug

And most importantly, Antwerp’s resources and many start-ups will aid the initial period of growth within the creative sectors, leading to foreign expansion and Belgium’s second city becoming a creative hub for Europe.

Featured image source: MAS

 

Museums vs. the Digital: Storytelling Success?

Within a short period of time, digital technology has become ubiquitous within society. The Internet has become central to our lives as an information source, and we live in an increasingly mobile and digital world, which is characterised by personalised user experiences and services at our fingertips. Do heritage sites owe it to their visitors to meet them in a digital context, or do they even risk becoming marginalised if they choose not to embrace tech?

Over the past 20 years, changes in technology and society have shaped how museums deliver experiences and how their spaces are designed.  The rise of the ‘digital native’ and has left many questioning whether museums are on the wrong side of the digital divide, where they are unable to provide the digital experiences required by a tech-savvy (younger) generation.

Institutions around the world are facing the challenge of maintaining (and increasing) visitor numbers within a competitive attention economy. In times of digital advancement, museums offer a space of stillness and reflection, yet their immersive and contemplative characteristics are frequently posited in contrast to the speed and accessibility of digital experiences.

Many institutions have therefore utilised technology, delivering supplementary information to engage their visitors, using 3D replicas, augmented reality or assistant apps, to name a few. Digital storytelling is an effective way to present the often overwhelming and abstract ideas within museums with coherence and context, as well as offering a way to create experiences which promote visitor engagement.

Digital storytelling is traditionally seen as a practice whereby people use digital media to create short videos, usually offering a snapshot into their lives. Digital storytelling can be used to turn museum collections into sites of meaning, shown by the Culture Shock! project, taking place in the North East of England. The project, which allows everyday people to reflect upon museum objects, aims to make collections more relevant to the lives of those in the area by documenting and sharing their heritage.

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Image credit: Unsplash (Licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero.)

Yet the term ‘digital storytelling’ is also used as an umbrella term for a variety of digital narratives, including mobile storytelling. Mobile storytelling is being used to tell site-specific stories, guiding visitors/users to tangible places within the museum space in order to uncover them in real time. For example, Traces Olion is a mobile companion app inspired by the spaces and stories of St Fagans which takes users on a journey around the site. Drawing on the power of time and space, and ultilising the portability of digital devices (such as mobile phones), mobility becomes part of the narrative experience as users interact with the physical space. Focusing on ‘feeling not fact’ is a departure from the museum’s traditional organisational structure, but creates an emotive and immersive experience from the museum’s own narrative.

Storytelling through Augmented Reality (AR) has similarly opened up creative opportunities for museums by transforming them into active, participatory spaces. AR enables a fusion between the real and digital world, by creating a digital dimension over reality. This gives a new meaning to “bringing history to life” by juxtaposing real objects with digital content to create enriching, engaging experiences.

A typical audience for AR in museums is children. In this case, AR is used to present museum objects in a fun, interactive way. At the British Museum, the AR storytelling app, A Gift for Athena, helps children to engage with the museum’s Parthenon gallery by rewarding the user for identifying certain statues and artefacts in the gallery by their shape by advancing the in-game narrative.

These examples show that using digital tech can augment museum collections to create an engaging, personalised experience. Tech can be placed at the heart of the museum space, working in conjunction with existing collections to enhance them. However, the cost of creating these apps can be a significant barrier for many small/mid-sized institutions.

Museums will still maintain and retain their value as visitors are still drawn to heritage sites as places of shared inter-generational experiences. Yet, at the same time, the growth of the digital museum seems like an inevitable step and its potential for outreach and engagement is important.

Header image licensed for use under Creative Commons Zero.