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A little bit of culture does everyone a lot of good 

This month I thought I would try and bring a bit of culture to this column. Not before time you are most probably thinking, but the problem is I am not very cultured.

Hang on though. Am I doing myself an injustice? I read a lot, mostly fiction and I try to write, again almost all fiction, apart from this column, of course. In fact, this past year or so I have made a concerted effort to improve my cultural awareness.

I have been to countless art exhibitions and have quickly formed my own opinion. I know my limitations; have my own likes, nothing too abstract though, as art doesn’t speak to me; for me to like it, it needs to be recognisable. Perhaps I am a heathen after all as the truth is I much prefer photographs, as long as they haven’t been messed about with or ‘enhanced’ in any way.

I have been to concerts, listened to the Tenerife Symphonic Orchestra in the Auditorio. Have suffered nearly two hours of plink, plink, plink, by a famous timple player who was obviously well liked, judging by the audience reaction, but why did he have to play so many encores?

I have witnessed Gospel singing, Tenerife style, in La Orotava. Not quite what I was expecting, but nevertheless entertaining and very loud as one has come to accept, locally. The guest singer was out-standing, but then she did come from the UK.

Then there was an English Alternative Theatre Company performing in Los Realejos, for one night only. A Shakespearean spoof, the company only had two actors and relied on audience participation. I tried to hide while they scoured the audience for ‘willing’ volunteers, but was eventual dragged kicking and screaming to the stage to play my part. My last acting role was whilst at school, I played the village idiot, nothing much has changed.

You are wondering what I am doing. After all this is the ‘Puerto point of View’ and by now, over three hundred words in, I am normally ‘slagging off’ the local council. Sorry, a bad choice of words, what I really meant to say was ‘constructively criticising’. Bear with me, because there is a point to all this preamble. I am just trying to point out, using my diverse examples, there is a wide variety of cultural entertainment available, if you know where to find it and are prepared to travel.

Be patient as I have nearly completed the journey through my year of cultural development. Local culture next, museums, I have visited most of them. There is a good choice in the north centred mainly on La Laguna, Santa Cruz and La Orotava, with Casa del Vino in El Sauzal and Casa de Carta near Tacoronte. All of them are worth visiting and all are sadly under visited.

Artisan fairs are a good example of local cultures, I have visited many during the year and the ones that stood out were at Garachico, La Orotava and of course, Pinolere. Romerias are another insight into the island’s culture and customs and again I have been to a few, Garachico and La Orotava are once again amongst the better ones, for me, at least.

So where does Puerto fit into my cultural enhancement programme? A good question, after all it is my home and the tourist capital of the north, it should feature prominently and yet I spend so much of my time travelling elsewhere. Where shall I start?

I shall use as a prime example the recent Periplo Festival. Periplo, which translates as a ‘long journey’, an apt title as the festival is a celebration of travel literature and associated social media. A good time to host such an event, the town now full of it winter visitors, be they British, German or Scandinavian.

This international festival promised a series of concerts, exhibitions, presentations and talks. What could be better for a tourist town? Simple really, the organisers could have shown a little more consideration for its tourists and hosted some of the events in a language other than Spanish.

That aside, the art exhibitions were very good and the display of underwater photos, by local man Francis Pérez, in the newly reopened Castillo San Felipe are incredible, as is the location. It may have taken nearly two years to complete the refurbishment, but the end result was worth the wait, besides, in Puerto we are used to waiting to get anything completed.

However, Periplo did also provide the platform for two more wall paintings. These paintings and the thirteen others painted as part of the Mueca festival are now a tourist attraction in their own right and go under the name of Puerto Street Art. There seems a mixed reception to them, people tend to form two camps and either love them or hate them. I think they are great and an asset to the town, although saying that there are one or two which,, personally I would gladly volunteer to paint over.

The town can get it right sometimes. The annual Mueca Festival is a great success. The full spectrum of cultural activities can normally be found during the four day festival and all are performed in the streets throughout the town. Although, again to me this festival is aimed not at the tourists, but at the local population, so much so that it is hosted in May, traditionally one of the quietest months, when all the winter visitors have departed and the summer ones have yet to arrive.

Where is the town’s concert sized venue? A town as important as Puerto must surely have one. Sadly not, the nearest thing to it is Parque San Francisco, a venue that has been closed for a few years due to an unsafe roof, amongst other problems. I distinctly re-member former mayor Marcos Brito announcing that the building was to be renovated and that at the time the funds, surprising, were available to complete the work.

The irony is that not long before a substantial roof was constructed over the basket ball courts in San Felipe. Sport is obviously more important than culture in this town, but you wouldn’t know it considering the state of the municipal pool, although that’s a different story for another time.

We have a small museum dedicated to Guanche history and pottery. It is interesting, but there is not enough of it. My visit to it lasted all of twenty minutes and that included making use of their facilities. There is another on the upper floor of the customs house. A museum / exhibition hall, which I have visited on a few occasions, again as a venue it, is far too small. Where is the history of Puerto displayed? The nearest thing to it is the display of old photos, regalia and models provided by the fisherman’s cooperative in Calle Las Lonjas, which is well worth a visit.

It is many years since the town has had a cinema. There used to be two, one remains empty whilst the other has become the privately run Teatro Timanfaya, which provides a venue for a range of entertainment, mainly at the weekends.

What is next on the town’s cultural calendar? From 9th until the 15th November, CIT will present the Agatha Christie Festival to mark the 125th anniversary of her birth. Quite why the town places so much onus on this event is beyond my comprehension, as Agatha Christie only spent a short period of time in Puerto in 1927.Still any excuse for some cultural events is a good enough reason.

The festival will include films, conferences, a play, a guided tour, a surfing competition, (as allegedly Agatha liked to surf) afternoon teas, and displays, including one at the English Library of her books. At least this festival and most of the events will satisfy the needs of the English speaking community, but to be honest they had little choice as, of course, Agatha Christie was British.