In her six years at the helm, this 5ft dynamo has won praise for her
championing of Britain’s diverse heritage – although it has been too diverse
for some. Last year, the HLF was branded “absolutely disgraceful” by one
Tory MP for turning down the Royal British Legion while handing out £95,800
to the Peace Pledge Union, which honours conscientious objectors.

With facts at the ready – she strikes you as a woman who is seldom unprepared
– Dame Jenny puts forward a robust defence.

The HLF has given £57 million to 711 First World War projects, she says,
including a £6.5 million grant to the newly reopened Imperial War Museum.
“On that score, I think we have a very good story to tell,” she says firmly.

Dame Jenny, 67, is standing down next month. Her one sadness is the number of
worthy applications the HLF has to turn down. Eight years ago, it funded 70
per cent of applications. Now the figure is 35 per cent. “Sadly we’re having
meetings where we have 10 projects that meet all the criteria and we only
have the money for four. And we’re probably the only game in town now.”

In her swansong public speech, she warned this is “a pivotal moment for the
heritage sector”, which has seen government and other cuts of £2 billion
since 2010. Dame Jenny has dealt with five culture secretaries since taking
over, and is reluctant to criticise them – even the hapless Maria Miller –
but she believes other countries place greater value on their national
heritages than we do.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport, she reminds us, was formerly the
Department of National Heritage until Tony Blair changed it in 1997. This
gets her exercised. “I wish the word ‘heritage’ was still in the DCMS’s
title,” she says. “It was dropped under a real mistaken belief that heritage
was defined in a very narrow way. But it isn’t just about stately homes.

“You just go across Europe and see how recognised heritage is. I want a public
recognition that it has a broad definition. Government has a role in
protecting heritage.”

Asked to name the biggest threat currently facing Britain’s heritage, she
says: “The area I’m most concerned about is planning. It’s something people
do need to keep a very wary eye on. It’s really important and I worry.

“Local communities need to be aware that they have rights, and they need to be
able to get involved in developing strategic plans and visions for their

“This is not about listed buildings. Actually, there are huge swathes of towns
and villages where the buildings aren’t listed and they make up a sense of
what the community is. And they don’t want to lose it.

“We do not want to go back to that era where everybody believed the new was
more important than the old. I say that town planning in the Sixties and
Seventies did more damage to the towns and cities of the UK than the
Luftwaffe. Let’s not go back to that.”

A day after our meeting, the Government’s planning minister Brandon Lewis
claims there has been a huge rise in community support for new housing
developments in their area. One wonders what Dame Jenny would say to him
about that.

Warm though she is, she does not strike you as a woman to be trifled with.
During her 40-year career at the BBC before joining the HLF, she became the
first woman editor of the Today programme, then launched Five Live during a
decade as head of radio. Greg Dyke called her an “infuriating person” to
deal with, but former colleagues sing her praises as a woman who got things
done and created, in Five Live, a place for entertaining and intelligent

So what does she make of recent changes at the station, where Victoria
Derbyshire and Shelagh Fogarty are departing and their timeslots being taken
over by male presenters, such as Adrian Chiles, who have mastered the art of
football banter?

When she launched Five Live, she says “people immediately said: ‘Oh, it’s
going to be Radio Bloke,’ and I was determined that it wasn’t going to be
Radio Bloke.

“I was also determined that we were going to have women all across the
network. Jane Garvey was the first voice. I do think people like Shelagh
Fogarty and Victoria Derbyshire are fantastic broadcasters. I would be very
sad to see that lost. It’s very important when you think about how you cast
your voices across a network – particularly one dealing with news and sport
– that you make sure both sets of voices are equally dominant.” She sits
back in her seat. “That’s probably where I should leave it – being

Dame Jenny remains “a BBC person through and through”. It has been said that
she would be director-general of the BBC by now if she had been a man (she
applied, but claims her heart wasn’t in it). She can’t suppress a smile when
I mention this, and is diplomatic once more. “I think they’ve got a very
good director-general, who is a very good friend,” she says of Lord Hall of
Birkenhead. “And I think it’s an almost impossible job.” She doesn’t mind
passing on a few suggestions, though, such as the BBC upping its science
programming. “This country doesn’t do enough science and the BBC has a
responsibility there.”

With a £4 million pension pot from the corporation – said to be the biggest
ever awarded in the public sector – Dame Jenny could see out her days in
splendid retirement. She recently became a grandmother and looks forward to
babysitting duties. But instead she is moving on to a new post as chair of
the Royal Academy of Music.

“I had a father who did not stop working until his eighties, and I think it
kept him young,” she says. “I’m not saying I’m going to be working like I
did at the BBC, because I’m not. But I do believe in carrying on.”

Article source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/architecture/10992657/Jenny-Abramsky-Heritage-isnt-just-about-stately-homes.html

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Ministers will give the go-ahead on Monday for a big expansion of fracking across Britain that will allow drilling in national parks and other protected areas in “exceptional circumstances”.

The government will invite firms to bid for onshore oil and gas licences for the first time in six years, with about half of the country advertised for exploration. Ministers are also clarifying the rules on when drilling can take place in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs) and world heritage sites, following calls by environmental campaigners for an outright ban on drilling in them.

In a tightening of the guidance, the government will ask energy firms to submit an environmental statement that is “particularly comprehensive and detailed” if they want to frack on or near protected countryside, forcing them to demonstrate their understanding of local sensitivities. It will make clear that the applications “should be refused in these areas other than in exceptional circumstances and in the public interest”.

In addition, Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, is likely to make a final decision on more appeals related to protected areas over the next 12 months, instead of leaving it to the planning watchdog.

The competition for licences is likely to attract significant interest from energy companies keen to explore Britain’s new-found shale reserves, particularly in the Bowland basin of the north-west, a central belt of Scotland and the Weald in the south-east. It is the first time the government has offered up areas of the UK for onshore exploration since experts confirmed the scale of the UK’s shale resources and protests erupted in places from Blackpool to Balcombe about the potential for environmental damage.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a Tory communities minister, will present the licensing round in the House of Lords , as MPs have broken up for their summer break.”We recognise there are areas of outstanding landscape and scenic beauty where the environmental and heritage qualities need to be carefully balanced against the benefits of oil and gas from unconventional hydrocarbons,” Lord Ahmad will say. “Proposals for such development must recognise the importance of these sites.”

The licences are the first step towards exploration but firms will also have to obtain planning consent, permits from the Environment Agency and a sign-off from the Health and Safety Executive.

Over the weekend, Matthew Hancock, the Conservative energy minister, said he wanted to speed up the process so companies are able to start drilling within six months of putting in applications. He also said the guidance published on Monday would “protect Britain’s great national parks and outstanding landscapes”.

This promise is likely to face one of its first tests in Sussex, where a planning decision on a prospective Celtique Energie fracking site in the South Downs National Park is due within weeks. The county council has rejected a separate application from Celtique in nearby Wisborough Green, just outside the national park, because of traffic concerns, which may now be appealed against by the company and end up in the hands of Pickles.

The Conservatives in particular are facing unrest on the backbenches about the prospect of fracking in rural constituencies. The government will hope that its tightening of the rules on national parks will placate local residents, MPs and green campaigners concerned about the impact of fracking on the landscape, drinking water and environment.

But the announcement met with mixed reactions. Louise Hutchins, a Greenpeace energy campaigner, said millions of homeowners have been stripped of their right to stop companies drilling under their property and now communities will face a “fracking postcode lottery”.

“The government has fired the starting gun on a reckless race for shale that could see fracking rigs go up across the British countryside, including in sensitive areas such as those covering major aquifers. Eric Pickles’s supposed veto power over drilling in national parks will do nothing to quell the disquiet of fracking opponents across Britain,” she said.

Hutchins also criticised the timing of the announcement, saying ministers “waited until the parliamentary recess to make their move, no doubt aware of the political headache this will cause to MPs whose constituencies will be affected”.

Caroline Lucas, the Green party MP for Brighton, who was arrested for protesting against fracking in Balcombe last year, also raised concerns that there is no outright ban on fracking in protected areas.

“If this still leaves the door open to fracking in national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, it completely undermines the protective status that those areas have been given and renders it meaningless,” she said. “Many campaigners have campaigned for decades to get national park status, and they are given for a reason. The idea that they could be offered up to the fracking firms is a scandal.”

But Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said the government’s change in rhetoric on protecting the countryside would be welcomed. “The government has previously stoked opposition by giving the impression that it is committed to fracking whatever the consequence and however sensitive the location,” he said. “If fracking is to happen, we need to proceed with great caution and with the highest possible safeguards.”

The National Trust, which has previously campaigned for an outright ban, also had a positive reaction, saying it was “right that the government have recognised the concerns about fracking in special places like national parks and AONBs”. However, it called for the new rules to be extended to other special places such as nature reserves and sites of special scientific interest.

Industry groups were pleased the government is finally licensing more areas for onshore oil and gas exploration, after ministers have repeatedly promised a fracking “revolution” that they claim could reduce energy bills and boost economic activity. While there has been a huge amount of controversy about fracking, little has actually taken place on British soil beyond exploratory drilling.

The British Geological Survey last year estimated that deposits that could supply the country with gas for up to 40 years, although it is still unclear whether the cost of extracting it from the ground will be worth it.

Simon Walker, director-general of the Institute of Directors, said the announcement marks “another step forward on the road towards a dynamic, productive and well regulated shale industry in the UK”.

“There’s still a way to go before the industry really takes off, but opening up a new licensing round while increasing safeguards for the natural environment is welcome evidence of the government’s commitment to maximising the benefits of a British shale industry,” he said.

Ken Cronin, chief executive of UK Onshore Operators Group, said it should be seen as a positive sign for investors that the industry was “one of the heaviest regulated industries in the UK and acts as an exemplar for the rest of Europe.” Friends of the Earth’s energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said: “Today the risk of fracking has spread. This threat to the environment and public health could now affect millions more people.

“Those who thought that fracking would only happen in other places will now worry about it happening on their doorstep.

“Fracking is increasingly politically toxic and is far from being seen as the holy grail of energy policy by those local to proposed drilling sites.”

Article source: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jul/28/fracking-expansion-uk-drilling-national-parks-safeguards

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In March, voters in Paris elected Anne Hidalgo, the daughter of Spanish immigrants, to be their mayor, making her the first woman to hold the prestigious post.

Hidalgo, 55, was born in Andalusia, but became a French citizen as a teenager after her family moved across the Spanish-French border. She is a member of France’s Socialist Party and comes from a long line of left-wing republicans, including her paternal grandfather, Antonio Hidalgo, who fled Franco’s Fascist zone in Spain in 1937 by crossing the Pyrenees with his family on a donkey.

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Homesick, Antonio returned two years later, widowed and with four children. He was promptly thrown in jail and given a double death sentence, which was later commuted to life imprisonment.

His children, including Anne’s father, were outcasts in their hometown. The family moved to the French town of Lyon in 1961.

Anne Hidalgo’s parents have since returned to Spain. Her older sister, Marie, manages a company in Los Angeles.

Hidalgo spoke to The Times recently in her office overlooking the Seine.

Does it make a difference having a female mayor?

Paris was ready to have a woman mayor because it is a progressive city that likes to invent and innovate. It’s a mental progression that Parisians have made perhaps in advance of the country as a whole…. I have the impression that the Parisians I meet are happy to have a woman mayor and proud to live in a city where this happened.

Your father and mother came to France as immigrants from Spain when you and your older sister were children and you lived in a housing project. You have said this has given you a unique insight and approach to city problems. How?

I grew up on a working-class housing estate. It had a bad reputation, which it deserved. The flats were run-down and there were no bathrooms or elevators, but it was a happy Tower of Babel. The neighbors were Armenian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Russian, North African. French was the common language that united us. The flats on the estates were like rabbit cages that you just wanted to escape from. It taught me a valuable lesson in town planning and social housing.

There are very rich and very poor areas of Paris. How do you intend to address the inequalities?

There is a worrying lack of housing at a price that is affordable. I will continue building social homes and even secure private funding to create housing at prices people can afford. This was a campaign promise and I have made it my objective…. The social mix comes through housing. It’s the beginning and end of equality.

You took French nationality when you were 14. Do you now feel Spanish or French?

I feel European. I grew up in France, but at home we spoke Spanish to our parents and were raised with Spanish culture, dance, literature, music, all of which I treasure. I go back to Spain often…. The mix of these two can only be positive because the influences bring something new. My success is a little bit like a French version of the American dream. I think of France as a country that has allowed me to integrate, and this is an example for the world. This is the French republican model.

What is the global attraction of Paris? Positives and negatives?

Paris is a historic city with a great heritage. Having said that, the beauty of yesterday should not stop us developing the beauty of tomorrow. It’s a sensitive subject, but there has to be a balance between history and the future, especially when it comes to architecture. Paris has to move forward; it cannot be a museum.

What are your priorities for Paris?

My absolute priority is housing, without which all the wonderful opportunities that Paris has to offer its residents means nothing. I’m also determined to use the city’s capacity for innovation to become more ecological. And lastly, we need to have solidarity with the most vulnerable residents of our city, which in my opinion is the only way we will make any progress.

You went to New York and immediately hit it off with Bill de Blasio. Your sister lives in California. Do you have a special relationship with the United States? What can Paris learn from New York and Los Angeles?

My meeting with the mayor of New York was particularly rich and constructive. Our two leading cities are facing the same problems and have to rise to the same challenges. We are doing so in our own ways, but we have an enormous amount to learn from one another, not just in terms of innovation, but also in wide and various fields, including ecology, transport and even education. If the world’s major cities confront the challenges we all face together, we will send a vital signal to our governments of the way forward.

Willsher is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Article source: http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-france-paris-hidalgo-q-a-20140727-story.html

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For decades, Winston Churchill dazzled the world with his statecraft, military mind and oratory.

Then there was his painting.

For Churchill, art was a passionate hobby. Along with whiskey and cigars, it helped him handle the stress of leadership and cope with the rough-and-tumble of British politics and the crisis of global war.

Article source: http://online.wsj.com/articles/winston-churchill-paintings-to-make-public-debut-in-georgia-1406315524

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David Rhymer called from the artists tent at the Calgary Folk Festival, where he’s performing this weekend in This Little Piggy, the puppets and bluegrass show by Old Trout Peter Balkwill, with news.

Rhymer and Onalea Gilbertson are leaving Monday for Europe, to begin a six week tour of Europe of Mata Hari in 8 Bullets, the salon song cycle by Rhymer (with lyrics by Blake Brooker) that Gilbertson and Rhymer performed to sellout crowds at the 2013 New York Musical Theatre Festival (and an award to Gilbertson, for her performance as Mata Hari).

It starts at the Edinburgh Fringe, where the duo are performing at The Acoustic Music Centre throughout most of August. The tour carries on to Glasgow, Manchester, Dublin, London, Amsterdam, Paris, Brussels, Antwerp, Luxemburg and I probably missed a few.

“In a way,” says Rhymer, “it fits perfectly into this long range plan of how to – not sell – but manage expectations of what kind of show you’re going to see.”

Mata Hari in 8 Bullets begins with a monologue by Gilbertson, who explains who Mata Hari is, and the role she played in the First World War, which led, eventually, to her execution.

Then, it becomes a song cycle, in which each song represents a part of Mata Hari’s life. Each song also represents one of the eight  bullets that the firing line executed her with.

“When you move into a theatre,” says Rhymer, “often there are more expectations of more theatrical, dramaturgical features, but in a concert, it’s a whole different story.”

That’s an oblique reference to the experience he and Gilbertson have faced trying to develop the show with New York producers.

On the one hand, Rhymer is part of the small musical movement, practiced here by Forte Musical Guild’s Joe Slabe, who also writes and produces intimate musicals that can be staged with a half dozen people or so – making them more economical without sacrificing anything artistically.

(Slabe is currently putting together an early 2015 Off-Broadway production of Crossing Swords, his 2013 New York Musical Theatre Festival smash (it debuted in Calgary in 2012 as Jeremy de Bergerac), so some of those New York producers are coming around to the idea).

(And up at The Banff Centre, Toronto’s Against the Grain Theatre  are doing the same thing with #unclejohn, a contemporary version of Mozart’s Don Giovanni that they’re performing over the August long weekend in a canyon in Banff).

On the other hand, New York musical theatre producers still prefer big, multi-million dollar extravaganzas, and while they liked what they saw with Mata Hari in 8 Bullets, musically-speaking, they see something a little more lavish.

“They want a musical show a la Evita, or something like that,” says Rhymer.

Rhymer is fond of describing Mata Hari a salon experience – it’ s informal, intimate and personal.  Wandering in off 10th Avenue to the National Music Centre last April, where Rhymer and Gilbertson presented a dressed-down production of Mata Hari felt a little like wandering into a French nightclub in Pigalle, around 1930 – or at least my Hollywood-ized,  Ernest Hemingway-addled idea of what a Pigalle nightclub, circa 1930, looked like.

(Which is exactly the vibe Honens are looking to recreate, incidentally, in September at Heritage Park, where they’ll present Martha Wainwright in Hullabaloo, a Parisian-style cabaret, singing the songs of Edith Piaf to kick off their first music festival.)

That night in April, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Ingrid Bergman, circa Casablanca, wander in to enquire about some letters of transit, but alas – no luck. Although there was an Emmy winner – Dave Pierce – there, and, as luck would have it, a booking agent who liked Mata Hari so much, he set up six weeks worth of European gigs.

“This is great for us,” says Rhymer,  “because it means the people who are coming with concert expectations are being moved a little bit more into a theatrical mindset, as opposed to the other way around.”

When they return to North America in mid-September, it’s right back to New York, where they hope to continue that conversation with bigger-is-better Broadway producers.

“Hopefully, people will like the show (in Europe),” says Rhymer,  “and we’ll get a few more accolades.

“And then,” he adds, “we can tell New York (producers), hey New York, don’t thik about big musicals! Think about this one! And hopefully put some more power behind it.”



Article source: http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2014/07/25/mata-hari-in-8-bullets-heads-for-europe/

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COIMBRA (Portugal): One of world’s oldest universities, with an uncanny similarity to Harry Potter’s Hogwarts, has been declared a world heritage site, thanks to a major push from India.

The University of Coimbra, where students walk in black capes just like in Hogwarts and whose legendary baroque library, many believe, may have inspired JK Rowling to create the School of witchcraft and wizardry in her bestselling adventures of Harry Potter (just like in the book, the library is home to pet bats who help in keeping it insect free) was named by UNESCO as a global treasure.

Interestingly, India was among the main countries that backed the University’s bid.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, Luis Menezes — the vice-rector of the University which boasts of world’s greatest thinkers as its alumni and has its roots in the late 13th century said, “We were born in 1129 and so seven centuries of history is a lot of heritage. We also boast of the world’s oldest students union — 124 years old. We have now been designated a Unesco world heritage site. We are among the only five universities around the world who have such a status”.

Menezes added “India was very important for us in getting the tag. It was one of the main countries who proposed the motion to Unesco. We also had strong support from the Indian delegation during the voting”.

Situated on a hill overlooking the town of Alta in Portugal, the University of Coimbra with its colleges grew and evolved over more than seven centuries within the old town. Notable university buildings include the 12th century Cathedral of Santa Cruz and a number of 16th century colleges, the Royal Palace of Alcacova which has housed the University since 1537, the Joanine Library with its rich baroque decor, the 18th century Botanical Garden and University Press, as well as the large “University City” created during the 1940s.

Interestingly, over 300,000 tourists from all across the world visit the university. The university charges tourists 9 euros to enter its spectacular library and earns 1.5 million euros from it every year. The library holds over 250,000 books dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries, dealing mainly with civil and canon law, theology and philosophy.

The university’s edifices became a reference in the development of other institutions of higher education in the Portuguese-speaking world where it also exerted a major influence on learning and literature.

“Coimbra offers an outstanding example of an integrated university city with a specific urban typology as well as its own ceremonial and cultural traditions that have been kept alive through the ages,” Menezes said.

Unesco says that as the centre for training the elite for all the territories under Portuguese administration, the University played a key role in the institutional and architectural development of universities in the Portuguese colonies.

“The University of Coimbra-Alta and Sofia influences educational institutions of the former Portuguese empire over seven centuries received and disseminated knowledge in the fields of arts, sciences, law, architecture, town planning and landscape design. Coimbra University played a decisive role in the development of institutional and architectural design of universities in the Lusophone world and can be seen as a reference site in this context”.

Unesco says that in formal, architectural and material terms, each of the buildings of the University is representative of the historical, artistic and ideological periods in which it was constructed.

The university was first nominated for world heritage way back in 2004. Being one of Europe’s oldest university cities, it became the 15th site in Portugal to be designated a world heritage.

Founded by King D Dinis of Portugal and established by Papal Bull of Nicholas IV in 1290, the University of Coimbra is Portugal’s oldest and largest university.

With 20,000 students, the University of Coimbra hosts one of the largest communities of international students in Portugal. Every year, the university welcomes more than 1,600 international students.

Notable alumni include Portuguese Nobel Prize in Medicine Egas Moniz; Portuguese statesman Antonio de Oliveira Salazar; 16th century epic poet Luiz de Camoes; famous 16th century mathematician Pedro Nunes; German Christopher Clavius, the main architect of the modern Gregorian calendar and Aristides de Sousa Mendes.

Article source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/India-helps-Portugals-University-of-Coimbra-get-world-heritage-status/articleshow/39001465.cms

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Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/23/world/europe/reading-the-future-of-scotland-in-the-stars.html

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