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The Culture Vulture

About cultural things: music, dance, literature and theatre.

"Dead Poets' Society"
Saturday, November 4, 2023

Do you remember the 1989 Oscar-winning film of the same name starring Robin Williams as the teacher who was passionate about deceased poets? 

Williams is himself now dead, having committed suicide in 2014 at the age of 63. 

There are several writers, many of them foreign, who live/d in and around Ronda or who wrote about the town from abroad. 

Here, Ronda resident and would-be published writer, The Culture Vulture, casts his eye over some of them, whether dead or alive. 


Ronda Writers and Writers on Ronda 

By The Culture Vulture 

Dead or alive, there are a significant number of writers, mainly foreign, who have published novels, non-fiction works and poetry about the Ciudad Soñada (Ronda) and the surrounding area. Many still reside or did reside here. 

Of those still with us, in alphabetical order, are Ronda poet, David Aguilera; Polish environmentalist Eva Monica Bratek; Ronda businesswoman Charo Carrasco; Irish poet Michael Coy; English actress Emma Cherry; retired Canadian stylist Caroline Emmett; American journalist Edward Lewine; Norwegian journalist Karethe Linaee; Ronda novelist Miguel Ruiz Trigueros; and English newspaper publisher Jon Clarke

‘Late’ writers on Ronda include English historian Tony Bishop; Scottish peer Alastair Boyd; American Nobel-prizewinning author Ernest Hemingway; English walking guru Guy Hunter-Watts; and Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke.



Tony Bishop

Tony Bishop, a good friend, met the lady who was to become his wife, Eva Monica Bratek, here in Andalucía in the early ‘Noughties’. They moved to live in Montejaque where they ‘jumped the broom’ in 2011.

I was thrilled to be invited to the wedding and the subsequent ‘wedding breakfast’. Tony and Eva had been working on a walking guide to the area. Walking in the Ronda Mountains was published by Editorial La Serranía in the same year, 2011. 

Sadly, Tony died following a fall at home in 2013. He was just 74. 


Alastair Boyd

Alastair Boyd (1927 – 2009), who became the 17th Baron Kilmarnock on the death of his father in 1975, first came to Ronda in 1957 and lived in the partly dilapidated Casa de Mondragon, later to be restored and become a Palacio and the home of Ronda’s Municipal Museum

At first, Boyd ran a language school with his wife Diana. They had two horses which they rode around the region, culminating in several acclaimed books in English about Ronda. These include The Road to Ronda (1969) and Sierras of the South (1992). 

Both books were translated into Spanish and were re-published by Editorial La Serrania.  De Ronda a las Alpujarras (2007) is also available in Spanish. All three books are still available in bookshops and online. 

Alastair Boyd lived latterly in La Indiana, Ronda, until his death in 2009 aged 81. His son Jaime still lives here with his Spanish wife and family.  

Although I never met ‘Mister’ Boyd, as the locals called him, I attended his memorial service on behalf of The Olive Press, for which I was working at the time. 


Ernest Hemingway 

Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961) never lived in Ronda, but, like his contemporary Orson Welles he was a fanatical aficionado of the bullfight. A regular visitor to Pamplona for the bullfight festival of San Fermin and to Ronda which back then was the hub of los toros, he wrote several important books on the area. 

His novel For Whom the Bell Tolls, also a 1943 film starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, was about the Spanish Civil War and includes scenes set in Ronda

He also wrote two classic non-fiction books about the bulls, The Sun Also Rises (published as Fiesta in the UK) and Death in the Afternoon are must-reads. 

A troubled man, Hemingway shot himself in Ketchum (Idaho, USA) in 1961 aged 61. 

I was recovering in hospital in Germany from an appendix operation, aged 21, when I was introduced to Hemingway. His books about bullfighting kindled an interest in bullfighting which remains with me to this day. 

After Germany I subsequently went to the fiesta of San Fermín in Pamplona two years running in the early 1970s. It was there that I saw the young Paquirri from Ronda for the first time. He went on to become the top torero of his generation, but sadly died in the ring after coming out of retirement for one last corrida. He was 36. 

When I ended up living in Ronda some 35 years later, I got the opportunity to follow in Hemingway's footsteps, so to speak. 


Guy Hunter-Watts

Guy Hunter-Watts (1959 - 2023) was a celebrated author of some 10 walking guides based on southern Spain. A resident of Andalucia for over 30 years, latterly in Montecorto, near Ronda, he sadly died of head injuries in 2023 after a freak cycling accident. He was just 64. 

His books include Walking Coastal Walks in Andalucia, Walking in Andalucia, Walking in the Mountains of Ronda and Grazalema, Trekking the Andalucian Coast to Coast Walk, Trekking the GR7 in Andalucia. 

Originally published by Santana Books (now defunct), Cicerone Press has now taken over his portfolio.

I bought several of his books, one containing a personal dedication. I had got to know him quite well before his sudden demise. He was a very likeable and popular man. 

I attended Guy’s funeral service in a private capacity, along with some 200 relatives and friends. 

Obituary here: MEET THE 'LOCALS' - Help me, Ronda ( 


Rainer Maria Rilke 

Rainer Maria Rilke (1875 – 1926) was born in Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. His native language was therefore German. 

Rilke, a troubled man, unsuccessful with women, wandered aimlessly to Paris, Toledo, and Cordoba in search of inspiration to battle his severe case of writer’s block. When, on a whim, he ended up in Ronda, he was suddenly inspired by the town he called Ciudad Soñada (City of Dreams)

He stayed for two years in Room 208 of the Hotel Reina Victoria, and enjoyed the most prolific and productive period of his life. The hotel retains a small display dedicated to Rilke near the hotel bar. His poetry is highly regarded, although written in German

Three works have a Ronda connection: The Spanish Trilogy The Sixth Elegy The Raising of Lazarus.

For a longer article about Rainer Maria Rilke visit: RILKE. Who? ( 



Those writers still with us all live or have lived in the Ronda area. 

David Aguilera, Charo Carrasco, Michael Coy, Karethe Linaee, and Miguel Ruiz Trigueros live in Ronda; Emma Cherry in Benaoján; Carolyn Emmett in Montejaque; and Jon Clarke splits his time between Arriate and San Pedro de Alcántara, where his son attends school. 


David Aguilera

David Aguilera (1977 - ) was born in Ronda, raised in Marbella, and now resides in Ronda once more. He has three collections of poems in Spanish, all published by Platero Coolbooks

They are Club de caballeros, Confidencias a mamá and Ronda, retales del alma (2023)


Charo Carrasco

Charo Carrasco, born and bred in Ronda is the owner of a sports goods shop in the town, Intersport Cary. She is also a wife and mum to one son, Jesus. Her main hobby is acting. 

She is a member of the group Proyecto Platea, based in Ronda and run by professional Ronda-born actor Marcos Marcell. 

I know Charo well, having attended acting classes with her – she is a stunningly good actress. She is also a playwright, together with Emma Cherry, also great on stage, whom I also know. 

Emma is an English-trained professional actress who lives in Benaoján

Together Charo and Emma have recently published a collection of the plays they have written, called Yo soy teatro

The anthology is apparently selling like hot cakes, both in local bookshops and on Amazon, where it is already a bestseller in the genre.  

“Estamos muy contentas y un poco incrédulas porque en apenas unos días nos hemos colocado en el número uno junto a títulos como La Casa de Bernarda AlbaEs impresionante”, says Charo  


Emma Cherry

Emma Cherry is a Londoner, who trained as an actress at The Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, Kent. Coincidentally, the same drama school where my professional actor son Tom trained, although Emma was there a few years later. 

After living for a number of years in MallorcaEmma moved to Benaoján, near Ronda, where she joined local drama school Proyecto Platea. That’s where she met Charo Carrasco (see above). And the rest is history. See above.

 Emma Cherry and Charo Carrasco pose with a copy of their book [Photo courtesy of CharryTV]


Jon Clarke

Jon Clarke, a former journalist with The Daily Mail in London, moved to Spain around 20 years ago, where took over the Western Andalucia edition of The Olive Press, then a new and free fortnightly English language newspaper. 

He settled in Arriate with his wife Gabriela and they soon had two children. 

In fact, I got to know Jon back in the early days of the paper when I emigrated to Montejaque and was interviewed for a job with him. I worked at The Olive Press for about a year, cutting my teeth as a writer and selling advertising space, in order to fund the paper. 

As time has gone on, Jon took over the Eastern Andalucia Edition of The Olive Press, combining the two papers. 

Over the years the paper has also expanded to five further editions in English, and one in German which debuted in September 2023. 

As for books, Jon Likes his food, so his first publication, Dining Secrets of Andalucia, takes us on a journey to some of the finest restaurants throughout the region. 

Jon has taken a keen interest in the Madeleine McCann case over many years. Maddy was the three-year-old English girl who disappeared from a holiday resort in Portugal in 2007. Jon’s book about the case is My Search for Madeleine and it’s published by OP Books. 

The book charts Jon’s often-frightening journey from the Ocean Club holiday resort in Praia da Luz through many isolated parts of Portugal and Spain and finally on to Germany. He points his finger firmly at the new prime suspect Christian Brueckner and explains, in detail and with the help of the people who knew Brueckner best, why he thinks he did it. 

He traces the suspect’s grim upbringing, his ease of movement around Europe and also questions the integrity of the Portuguese police. He wonders whether someone, somewhere is covering something up. 

“A page-turner from chapter one… Loved it. The detail will stagger you. This is what proper investigative journalism is about.” - Patrick Hill, SUNDAY MIRROR 

“Jon Clarke’s book exposes the secret dark world behind the biggest mystery of the 21st century.”                       Mike Ridley, THE SUN 


Michael Coy

Michael Coy moved to Ronda over 20 years ago. The former teacher, then barrister, came to Ronda for love.

Irish-born, he worked in London, but shared a home with his brothers in Wrexham, N Wales, before emigrating. 

Fluent in Spanish now, Michael earns his living as a private tutor, and independent gestor, helping other foreigners sort out their affairs. 

He also writes poetry and inspired by a true story in Italy, he wrote and published an epic poem based on the case. It’s called The Luckless Girl and it was published by The Conrad Press in 2022. 

I’ve known Michael for over 20 years. We met in a bar in Ronda, as you do, and he has been a good pal over the years. Michael is the reason I am married to Rita - he introduced us in September 2008 at the Feria de Pedro Romero in Ronda. 

Back to his book, I attended his book launch in 2022 and bought a copy of The Luckless Girl in which Michael wrote a nice dedication. At over 800 pages (thicker than Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I think!). 

I must confess I haven’t got very far into it yet. However, I hear it’s selling steadily in a local bookshop, Librería Dumas, and also online. 


Carolyn Emmett 

Carolyn Emmett (1953 - ) and husband Kevin live in Montejaque in the Serrania de Ronda. They have had an exciting expatriate life, having lived in Canada, Indonesia, Botswana and South Africa before retiring to Montejaque in 2011. 

In 2013, together with local friend VictoriaCarolyn designed and produced The Cookbook and Village Guide (El Libro de Cocina y Guia del Pueblo), a bilingual recipe book that includes recipes from the locals, bars and restaurants and extranjeros

All proceeds from the cookbook were used for a social project in the village.


Edward Lewine

Edward Lewine (1967 - ) an American journalist, fell in love with Spain during a holiday here. He returned to spend time in Ronda where he wrote Death and the Sun (2014) about the bullfighter Francisco Rivera Ordoñez, son of Paquirri and grandson of Antonio Ordóñez Dominguín.


Part sports writing, part travelogue, this is a portrait of Spain, its people, and their passion for a beautiful yet deadly spectacle. A brilliant observer, Lewine reveals a Spain few outsiders have seen. There's nothing more Spanish than bullfighting, and nothing less like its stereotype. For matadores and aficionados, it is not a blood sport but an art, an ancient subculture steeped in ritual, machismo, and the feverish attentions of fans and the press. 

Lewine explains Spain and the art of the bulls by spending a bullfighting season travelling Spanish highways with the celebrated matador Francisco Rivera Ordónez (Fran, as he's known) through every region and social stratum. Fran's great-grandfather, the afore-mentioned Antonio Ordóñez, was a famous bullfighter and the inspiration for Hemingway's matador in The Sun Also Rises

Fran's father was also a star matadorPaquirri, until a bull took his life shortly before Fran's eleventh birthday. Fran is both blessed and haunted by his family history. Formerly a top performer himself, Fran's reputation has slipped, and as the season opens, he feels intense pressure to live up to his legacy amid tabloid scrutiny in the wake of his separation from his wife, a duchess. 

But Fran perseveres through an eventful season of early triumph, serious injury, and an unlikely return to glory. 

The New York Times wrote about Death in the Sun"May be the most in-depth, incisively written guide to bullfighting available in English.” 

"Lewine demonstrates knowledge of and respect for the matador's dangerous profession.” — Boston Globe. 

I was stunned by the book; I couldn’t put it down. Having seen Paquirri perform in Pamplona as a young man, and subsequently his sons Fran and Cayetano in Ronda, I found it easy to identify with the book.


Karethe Linaee

Karethe Linaee is Norwegian but lived and worked in Vancouver, Canada, for many years. There she met Jaime, born in Mexico, but of Basque heritage. 

I met Jaime in 2010 when he rented my apartment in Ronda to do a “recce”. Karethe and Jaime had decided to leave Canada and move to Spain, and Ronda ended up being their choice “for the time being”. 

They stayed in my place another time while they found their feet in their new home town. 

They are still here 12 years later, and curiously bought the house next door to my apartment. 

Karethe is an experienced journalist and is editor of and contributor to several Scandinavian magazines and journals. 

She also wrote a book in English about their adventure in leaving Canada and moving to Ronda. Called Casita 26, it was published in 2020. It has since been translated into Spanish and is available in both languages from Editorial La Serrania. 


Miguel Ruíz Trigueros

Miguel Ruíz Trigueros was born in Málaga in 1961. When he was very young his family moved to Latin America where Miguel studied at universities in San José, Mexico City and the USA.  

At that time he was spending a lot of time crossing the Atlantic from east to west. 

On this side of the Atlantic Ocean he writes regularly for the magazines “Tierra” in Málaga and “El Candil de Diógenes” in Ronda.  

He also travels frequently to South America on behalf of several NGOs (non-governmental organisations).  

Since 1997, he has lived permanently in Ronda. 

Miguel Ruiz Trigueros is the author of the novels Los bailarines de Kronvalda, La Noche de Arcilla, Los Motivos del Sueño and La Sangre de Colón. 

I met Miguel many years ago when a local builder brought him along to interpret when I was renovating a house in the Barrio San Francisco de Ronda. As it happens, I didn’t need Miguel, but the builder didn’t know that. 

I bump into Miguel around Ronda from time to time. In fact, I saw him a couple of weeks ago.



This was my selection of "Dead and Alive Poets" with a connection to Ronda. I am sure to have missed some, for which I apologise.



Editorial La Serrania, Freepik, Karl Smallman, Paul Whitelock, Santana Books, Secret Serrania, Snobb


© The Culture Vulture



Alastair BoydCaroline EmmettCharo Carrasco, Culture Vulture, David Aguilera, Dead Poets' Society, Edward LewineEmma CherryErnest HemingwayEva Monica BratekGuy Hunter-WattsJon ClarkeKarethe LinaeeMichael CoyMiguel Ruiz TriguerosRainer Maria Rilke, Robin Williams, Ronda writers, Tony Bishop

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RondARTE – new art association holds its first ever exhibition in Ronda
Saturday, October 14, 2023

There is currently a fantastic exhibition of work by artists local to Ronda and the Serrania at the Convento de Santo Domingo in the City of the Tajo.

There are more than 150 exhibits by 78 artists.

These works include paintings, lithographs, cartoons, photographs and sculptures, produced by artists living and working in the area.



Amongst the exhibitors are a number of international artists who live in the Ronda area. I spotted works by artists from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as from other Spanish-speaking countries such as Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

I know a few, such as Udo Burkhardt from Germany, a Ronda resident, Sebastian Hedgecoe, from England, who lives in Genalguacil and Elaine Moore also from England, who lives in Ronda.

And, I know local "lad", Emilio Garcia. Emilio made a great video of the exhibition, which you can view by clicking here.




Emilio Garcia











   Udo Burkhardt (L) [Photo: Charry TV]                 Elaine Moore [Photo: Elaine Moore Artist]



RondARTE is a legal entity or association, which was formed and signed into law on 21 March this year, 2023. The aim is to promote and develop ART IN GENERAL in Ronda and the surrounding area.

They have a number of short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives, some of which are quite ambitious. Apart from promoting and sponsoring local exhibitions and providing activities, such as courses, they ultimately plan to create a School of Fine Arts, attached to the University of Malaga.






The Current Exhibition – “Colectiva”

The inaugural exhibition of artworks at the Convento in Ronda is entitled “Colectiva”. It opened on 4 October and runs until 21 October, so there’s still time to catch it.

Admission is just 1 euro or free if you are a Ronda resident or have a tarjeta sesentaycinco.

When I visited this week, I was fortunate to meet three of the artists: Francisco Javier Lopez Rubio (Pacol) from Ronda, Carmen Ruiz Gomez from Sevilla and Ana Maria Slebi from Colombia. They were very engaging and gave me lots of useful background information.

                        "Pacol", Carmen and Ana Maria pose in front of their work [Photos: Paul Whitelock Photography]


You could easily while away an hour at this fascinating exhibition. I urge you to do so, before the 21 October.


©  The Culture Vulture


Articles of interest:

“WHEN I’M 65…”: HOW TO ….. get a tarjetasesentaycinco (

Genial Genalguacil! - Secret Serrania de Ronda

Ronda expands its urban art route with four new murals | Sur in English


Websites and Facebook pages of interest:





Ana Maria Slabi

Carmen Ruiz Gomez

Charry TV

Convento de Santo Domingo, Ronda

Emilio Garcia

Elaine Moore

Francisco Javier Lopez Rubio ("Pacol")


Paul Whitelock



Charry TV, Colectiva, Convento de Santo Domingo, Culture Vulture, Emilio Garcia, Elaine Moore, Genalguacil, Paul Whitelock, Ronda, RondARTE, Sebastien Hedgecoe, Udo Burkhardt



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Música en vivo en Jimera de Líbar
Wednesday, October 4, 2023

By The Culture Vulture

Estación de Jimera de Líbar is a charming settlement that grew up beside the railway line from Algeciras to Ronda.

Down the hill from the mountain village of Jimera de Líbar itself, this arrangement is typical of Mr Henderson’s railway, the line built in the early 1890s by engineer John Morrison, backed by wealthy financier Sir Alexander Henderson, later Lord Faringdon, to transport British tourists arriving by ship in the port of Algeciras up to Ronda.



Mr Henderson’s Railway

This whole stretch of line through the valley of the River Guadiaro has “double villages”, with a newish settlement establishing itself alongside the railway to serve the mountain villages tucked into the slopes higher up.

Working downline from Ronda we have Benaoján/Montejaque, Jimera de Libar, Cortes de la Frontera, Gaucin and beyond into Cádiz province.


Back to the music

Estación de Jimera de Líbar has developed a certain fame amongst live music fans of all nationalities. Bar Allioli, the brainchild for 15 years of Yorkshireman and entrepreneur Paul Darwent and his Danish wife, Synnove, has consistently put on live music at this charming bar in Plaza San
, opposite the station.

Bar Allioli continued to function as a live music venue even during the Covid-19 pandemic, subject to strict rules of segregation, of course.

Since Paul and Synnove retired in 2022, the bar has changed hands, had a makeover and altered its name slightly to Allioli Bar y Más.

The music tradition continues and Paul still helps out with the booking of the artistes.





Saturday 30 September 2023

A group of us were there last Saturday when regular Marcus Myers offered two sets of his brilliant “covers”. A former member of the band Alicia’s Attic, this trained plumber from London, is so busy with his musical gigs, he hasn’t welded a copper pipe in years.

The audience is mostly Spanish, with a healthy contingent of foreigners, residents and tourists.

Our table of “guiris”, two English and one Welshman, residents, were joined by an English lady and an American man, homeowners in Montejaque, but not residents yet, and three regular visitors to the area, a couple from Sheffield and an Ulsterman from Belfast.

I also spotted foreign residents at other tables, two English ladies, two Scots and the former landlords from Denmark and Yorkshire.

We had a great afternoon in the open air, enjoying the early autumn sun, the backdrop of the Libar mountain range and some fine music.

© The Culture Vulture



Diario Ronda

Karl Smallman

Marcus Myers Music

"Hovis" Brown


Other links:

MEET THE 'LOCALS' - Help me, Ronda ( Scroll down till you get to the interview.

What is a guiri? It's what the Spanish call us foreigners - but is it good or bad? (

Our green day out in the Serrania de Ronda's Guadiaro Valley - Secret Serrania de Ronda

BEST BAR NONE? Meet empresario Paul Darwent of Allioli (


Tags: Algeciras, Alicia’s Attic, Allioli Bar y Más, Alexander Henderson, Bar Allioli, Belfast, Benaoján, Cádiz province, Cortes de la Frontera, Danish, Denmark, Estación de Jimera de Líbar, Gaucín, guiri, Jimera de Líbar, John Morrison, Lord Faringdon, Marcus Myers, Montejaque, Paul Darwent, Ronda, Sheffield, Ulsterman, Yorkshire

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"YO SOY TEATRO" - Book review
Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Reseña de un nuevo libro concebido y nacido en Ronda: “Yo soy teatro”

Review by The Culture Vulture



Yo conocí a Charo Carrasco y a Emma Cherry cuando empecé a asistir a un curso teatral en Ronda durante la pandemia de Coronavirus. El curso se realizó en la Pequeña Compañía de Proyecto Platea  bajo la dirección de actor profesional rondeño Marcos Marcell

Emma, inglesa y también actor profesional, y su buena amiga Charo, mujer de negocios de Ronda, colaboran durante un par de años en escribir obras de teatro. Una de las primeras, “Novias”, vi yo tres veces en dos años en tres distintos espacios: en el Convento de Ronda, al aire libre en Atajate y en el Pequeño Teatro de Proyecto Platea de Ronda. Es una obra muy entretenida con música y humor. 

Ahora acaban de publicar estas amantes del teatro un libro, “Yo soy teatro”, que es una antología de obras de pequeño, mediano y gran formato que han escrito juntas estas dos mujeres talentadas. Emma y Charo son dos mujeres independientes con el deseo de contar historias en la que sus personajes siempre tienen algo que decir. 

Según Charo Carrasco“Tras más de cinco años de colaboración, mi compañera Emma Cherry y yo presentamos esta recopilación de algunas de las obras de teatro que hemos escrito juntas.   

“Con toda la ilusión del mundo y recién salida del horno, este libro representa la pasión, el esfuerzo, el amor y nuestra pasión infinita por el teatro.”  

“Yo soy Teatro” está disponible ya en AMAZON. 



Otros comentarios: 

Marta Pérez Tirado: 

“Mis queridas Charo Carrasco García y Emma Cherry Rolf acaban de estrenar su primera obra. Si sois amantes del teatro no os la podéis perder y si nunca habéis leído teatro tampoco porque descubriréis un mundo maravilloso. ¡¡Yo ya tengo la mía!! 

“Estoy orgullosa de vosotras, chicas.” 


Jose Antonio Rios: 

“Maravilla teatral. Una visión de futuro a las artes escénicas. 

“Quizás no sea nuevo pensar en una antología de microteatros, pero sí muy novedosa la apuesta de estas dos actrices en la escena literaria. 

“Son obras inclusivas, desde punto de vista humano y personal. A través de sus microteatros y sus personajes, estas actrices, ahora en el papel de dos escritoras independientes, nos muestran una visión de la vida y las relaciones humanas muy especial. Personajes, cada uno con su complejidad e historia y que conviven armónicamente en esta antología preciosa, lista para disfrutar e interpretar. “Ahora, YO también SOY TEATRO, gracias a ellas. Felicidades por esta apuesta y por mostrarnos vuestro arte convertido en un libro. What's next?”


Emma Cherry Rolf:

"¡Número uno en nuestra categoría!

"¡Inesperado y muy agradecido!

"¡Gracias a todos!


Note: This article was first published on the website on 20 September 2023.

Click here

© The Culture Vulture


Tags: Charo Carrasco, Emma Cherry, Marcos Marcell, Novias, Proyecto Platea, Ronda, Yo soy teatro

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Sunday, August 20, 2023

Tiredness, lack of sleep or boredom are ingredients in a melting pot of the tunes that we cannot get out of our heads. We call them “earworms”.


Some years ago the University of St. Andrews in Scotland compiled a list of the most persistent “earworms” in history, based on scientifically measurable factors which potentially make a song addictive. These included surprise, predictability, rhythmic repetition, melodic power and receptivity. 


Here is the St. Andrews’ list: 




XL Semanal 20/08/2023



© Paul Whitelock 



Baha Men, Bohemian Rhapsody, Bon Jovi, earworm, Europe, Gangnam Style, Happy,  I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), James Lord Pierpont, Jingle Bells, Livin’ On A Prayer, Never Gonna Give You Up, Pharrell Williams,  Proclaimers, Psy, Queen, Rick Astley, St Andrews, The Final Countdown, Village People, We Are The Champions, We Will Rock You, Who Let The Dogs Out?, XL Semanal, YMCA

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“ ….. Siete de julio, San Fermin ….”
Sunday, July 9, 2023

By The Culture Vulture

So goes the traditional song about the start of the Sanfermines, the fiesta de los toros that is celebrated every year for seven days in Pamplona (Navarra).

This is, of course, the famous festival of morning bullrunning (el encierro) and afternoon bullfights The event honours San Fermín, the city’s patron saint, who was the first bishop of Pamplona. The festival was made world famous by the North American journalist and author Ernest Hemingway, a massive fan, back in the 1920s.




 Fiesta de San Fermín 

At 8.00 am a rocket is fired at the bull enclosure in this Basque town and the six bulls for the “fight” later that day are released and run through the streets to the plaza de toros, one mile away. Fans, idiots and American drunks run ahead of the bulls and try to avoid being gored/trampled/killed.







Pamplona bull run deaths are rare, but since 1910 when record-keeping began, 16 people have died. Of the 16 runners who have lost their lives, 14 of them hailed from Spain. All but a couple of these men lived in the local Navarra region. Women have participated in the bull runs since 1974 (when new regulations were passed), but all fatalities have been men. The most recent death at the Pamplona bull run was in 2009, but there are between 50 and 100 injuries every year.


I first went to the Fiesta de San Fermín in 1971 aged 21. At the time I was living, studying and working in San Sebastián (Guipúzcoa), next door to Navarra. Needless to say, I wasn’t brave/stupid/drunk enough to run in front of the bulls. I remained safely behind the wooden barrier and took umpteen photos with my brand-new Minolta SLR camera.

But I did find it exhilarating!

And the afternoon corrida de toros was my debut as a spectator. What a spectacle! What an atmosphere! I loved it!



Little did I know at the time, that the young debutant (novillero) that day would go on to become the leading torero of his generation. He was Francisco “Paquirri” Rivera, aged just 23 at the time.

I later learned that this unassuming little man was part of the Ronda dynasty of bullfighters, which includes his two sons.

“Fran” Rivera Ordoñez, the elder son, is now retired and runs the Ronda bullring, La Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Ronda. Paquirri’s younger son Cayetano Rivera Ordoñez is still active as he too approaches retirement.

Sadly Paquirri died in September 1984 following a severe goring in the ring at Pozoblanco (Córdoba) in what was his last scheduled bullfight. He was just 36 years old.

The 2023 Sanfermines in Pamplona are into their third day, as I write. This year’s festival lasts until the end of next week.


© The Culture Vulture




















Like 1        Published at 6:34 AM   Comments (2)

George Orwell – essayist, womaniser and fighter for the Spanish Republic
Saturday, February 4, 2023

Orwell did not figure in The Culture Vulture`s original top five writers on Spain. He sort of overlooked him because he only wrote one book on the country, Homage to Catalonia. Yet, on reflection the CV considers that Orwell is worthy to stand alongside his original fifth choice, Giles Tremlett, or even to leapfrog him.




George Orwell was born Eric Arthur Blair on 25 June 1903 and died at the age of 46 on 21 January 1950. He was an English novelist, essayist, journalist, and critic. His work is characterised by lucid prose, social criticism, opposition to totalitarianism, and support of democratic socialism.

He is particularly known for the allegorical novella Animal Farm (1945) and the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949).

His non-fiction works, including Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), about his experiences living as a dishwasher in the French capital and as a tramp in England, The Road to Wigan Pier (1937), documenting his experience of working-class life in the industrial north of England, and Homage to Catalonia (1938), an account of his experiences soldiering for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), are as critically respected as his essays on politics, literature, language and culture.

Blair was born in India, and raised and educated in England. After school he became an Imperial policeman in Burma (now Myanmar), before returning to Suffolk, England, where he began his writing career as George Orwell, a name inspired by a favourite location, the River Orwell.

From the late 1920s to the early 1930s, his success as a writer grew and his first books were published. He was wounded fighting in the Spanish Civil War, leading to his first period of ill health on return to England.

During the Second World War he worked as a journalist and for the BBC. The publication of Animal Farm led to fame during his lifetime. During the final years of his life he worked on Nineteen Eighty-Four, and moved between Jura in Scotland and London. It was published in June 1949, less than a year before his death.

Orwell married Eileen O'Shaughnessy on 9 June 1936. Shortly afterwards, the political crisis began in Spain and Orwell followed developments there closely. At the end of the year, concerned by General Francisco Franco's military uprising (supported by Nazi GermanyFascist Italy and local groups such as the Falange), Orwell decided to go to Spain to take part in the Spanish Civil War on the Republican side.



Spanish Civil War

Orwell set out for Spain on about 23 December 1936, dining with auther Henry Miller in Paris on the way. Miller told Orwell that going to fight in the Civil War out of some sense of obligation or guilt was "sheer stupidity" and that the Englishman's ideas "about combating Fascism, defending democracy, etc., etc., were all baloney".

A few days later in Barcelona, Orwell met John McNair of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) who quoted him: "I've come to fight against Fascism", but if someone had asked him what he was fighting for, "I should have answered: 'Common decency'". 

Orwell stepped into a complex political situation in Catalonia. The legitimate Republican government was supported by a number of factions with conflicting aims.

Orwell was at first exasperated by this "kaleidoscope" of political parties and trade unions, "with their tiresome names". The ILP was linked to the POUM – Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, so Orwell joined them.

At first there was very little military action and Orwell was shocked by the lack of munitions, food and firewood, as well as other extreme deprivations.

With his Cadet Corps and police training, Orwell was quickly made a corporal.

Meanwhile, back in England, Eileen had been handling the issues relating to the publication of The Road to Wigan Pier before setting out for Spain herself. Eileen volunteered for a post with John McNair in the ILP office and with help paid visits to her husband, bringing him English tea, chocolate and cigars. 

Orwell had to spend some days in hospital with a poisoned hand and had most of his possessions stolen by the staff. He returned to the front and saw some action in a night attack on the Nationalist trenches where he chased an enemy soldier with a bayonet and bombed an enemy rifle position.

In April, Orwell returned to Barcelona.  Wanting to be sent to the Madrid front, which meant he "must join the International Column", he approached a Communist friend attached to the Spanish Medical Aid and explained his case.


“Although he did not think much of the Communists, Orwell was still ready to treat them as friends and allies. That would soon change." 

The campaign of lies and distortion waged by the Communist press, in which the POUM was accused of collaborating with the fascists, had a dramatic effect on Orwell. Instead of joining the International Brigades as he had intended, he decided to return to the Aragon Front.

There he was wounded in the throat by a sniper's bullet. At 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m), Orwell was considerably taller than the Spanish fighters and had been warned against standing against the trench parapet.

He recovered sufficiently in hospital to get up and on 27 May 1937 was sent on to a POUM sanatorium in the suburbs of Barcelona. The bullet had missed his main artery by the barest margin and his voice was barely audible. He was declared medically unfit for service.

With all the Republican in-fighting the Orwells escaped from Spain by train and returned to England. On 13 July 1937 a deposition was presented to the Tribunal for Espionage & High Treason in Valencia, charging the Orwells with "rabid Trotskyism", and being agents of the POUM. The trial of the leaders of the POUM and of Orwell (in his absence) took place in Barcelona in October and November 1938.

Observing events from French Morocco, Orwell wrote that “from the start every kind of lie, including flagrant absurdities, has been circulated in the Communist press." 

Orwell's experiences in the Spanish Civil War gave rise to Homage to Catalonia (1938).

In his book, The International Brigades: Fascism, Freedom and the Spanish Civil War, Giles Tremlett writes that according to Soviet files, Orwell and his wife Eileen were spied on in Barcelona in May 1937. "The papers are documentary evidence that not only Orwell, but also his wife Eileen, were being watched closely".

Orwell returned to England in June 1937, and settled down to animal husbandry and writing Homage to Catalonia.

Homage to Catalonia was published by Secker & Warburg in 1938 and was a commercial flop.





Following his experiences as a militiaman in the Spanish Civil War, Orwell wrote: “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism as I understand it".

In Homage to Catalonia he brings to bear all the force of his humanity, passion and clarity, describing with bitter intensity the bright hopes and cynical betrayals of that chaotic episode: the revolutionary euphoria of Barcelona, the courage of ordinary Spanish men and women he fought alongside, the terror and confusion of the front, his near-fatal bullet wound and the vicious treachery of his supposed allies.

A first-hand account of the brutal conditions of the Spanish Civil War, George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia has made a significant contribution to my understanding of that conflict, and to that of countless others.







I have also read The Road to Wigan Pier, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, Down and Out in Paris and London and, of course, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.

A great writer, indeed.

His contribution to the English language, in the form of words and phrases, mainly from Nineteen Eighty-Four, is astonishing: Room 101, Big Brother, newspeak, doublethink, the Thought Police, unperson and thoughtcrime are some examples.

The term Cold War is also attributed to Orwell.

He died young, at 46, after a life plagued by ill health. But what a legacy, Mr Blair!


©  The Culture Vulture








Tags: Animal Farm, Big Brother, Cold War, Culture Vulture, doublethink, Down and Out in Paris and London, Elaine O'Shaughnessy, Eric Blair, General Francisco Franco, George Orwell, Homage to Catalonia, ILP, International Brigades, International Labour Party, Keep the Aspidistra Flying, newspeak, Nineteen Eighty-Four, POUM, Room 101, Spanish Civil War, The Road to Wigan Pier, thoughtcrime, Thought Police, unperson


Like 3        Published at 9:45 AM   Comments (3)

Whatever happened to ….. ELP?
Sunday, January 15, 2023

Remember them? Emerson, Lake and Palmer? The first prog-rock supergroup.



The group was made up of Keith Emerson from The Nice, Greg Lake from King Crimson and Carl Palmer from Atomic Rooster.

ELP came to prominence following their performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970. They released ‘Emerson, Lake and Palmer’ (1970) and ‘Tarkus’ (1971), both of which reached the UK top five.

The band's success continued with ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ (1971), ‘Trilogy’ (1972), and ‘Brain Salad Surgery’ (1973,)

After a three-year break, Emerson, Lake & Palmer released ‘Works Volume 1’ (1977) and ‘Works Volume 2’ (1977). After ‘Love Beach’ (1978), the group disbanded in 1979.


Keith Emerson

The exhibitionist keyboard player, Keith Emerson was also a pioneer on the Moog, Yamaha and Korg synthesisers. Keith apparently suffered from bouts of depression and was an alcoholic. He died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in 2016, aged 72.


Greg Lake

Greg Lake was the singer and bass player. He also played acoustic guitar and was the band’s producer. He is no longer with us. He also died in 2016, of pancreatic cancer, aged 69.


Carl Palmer

Carl Palmer was the drummer and percussionist. He glued the band together. He lives on. He is now 72.



ELP took a lot of stick in their heyday for their “exhibitionist” and “ambitious” work, which often “sampled” classical pieces, such as ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ by Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky. “Too clever by half!” “Who do they think they are?”

For me, I was in my early twenties when I first heard them. I liked their music. It was a change from the blues I had been obsessed with for years.

I saw them perform live at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester in my final year at university in 1973 and I was blown away.

I confess I wasn’t too keen on ‘Pictures …..’, but I loved their eponymous debut album and ‘Tarkus’. I still own all three on vinyl.

In 1991, the original trio re-formed and released two more albums, ‘Black Moon’ (1992) and ‘In the Hot Seat’ (1994) and toured at various times between 1992 and 1998. Their final performance took place in 2010 at the High Voltage Festival in London to commemorate the band's 40th anniversary.

They sold an estimated 48 million records worldwide.


Take a listen to this live performance of ‘Tarkus’


© The Culture Vulture





Tags: Atomic Rooster, Black Moon, Brain Salad Surgery, Carl Palmer, ELP, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Greg Lake, High Voltage Festival, In the Hot Seat, Keith Emerson, King Crimson, Korg, Moog, Mussorgsky, Nice, Pictures at an Exhibition, Tarkus, Trilogy, Yamaha

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Whatever happened to ….. THE BEATLES?
Wednesday, January 11, 2023

We all think we know what happened to the most successful pop/rock and roll band in history. But do we really?

The Culture Vulture, who was in his early teens when the Fab Four from Liverpool appeared on the scene with their first single 'Love Me Do' in 1962, grew up with them and still considers them to be the most innovative and influential band ever. “Forget The Rolling Stones, The Monkees, Pink Floyd, Abba, Oasis, Take That and the rest!” he says.


History of The Beatles

The Beatles were only around for about ten years and only toured for four, yet their legacy is huge. Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, with the know-how of producer George Martin, produced a bewildering quantity of songs.

In the UK, they released 12 studio albums, 13 EPs and 22 singles. In all they recorded and released 219 tracks.

They also made four films, if you include the children’s cartoon ‘Yellow Submarine’ and the disastrous ‘Magical Mystery Tour’. But you can forget them really, they’re just historical curiosities, although I still have a soft spot for ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.


Solo careers

After their acrimonious split in 1970, all four went on to solo careers with differing degrees of success.


Paul McCartney

Bassist and ideas man Paul formed Wings, bringing in Denny Laine from the original Moody Blues and his wife Linda McCartney. He toured universities in the early 1970s and built up a head of steam culminating in a string of hits over 10 years. Wings released 7 studio albums, one live, 2 compilation albums and 29 singles.

Their best album, Band on the Run, sold 6 million copies and was EMI’s most successful album of the 70s.

Paul has continued to innovate and is still active at 80 years of age.


John Lennon

Lennon ploughed his own furrow from his home in New York. He had success as a solo artist but also with his wife Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. He was also a peace-activist.

As a solo artist for around a decade, he released 11 studio albums and 23 singles. His most famous songs from this period are ‘Give Peace a Chance’, ‘Happy Christmas (War is Over)’, ‘Imagine’, ‘Instant Karma’ and ‘Jealous Guy’.

He was assassinated in December 1980 aged 40 by a fan, Mark Chapman.


George Harrison

The ‘Quiet Beatle’ and many fans’ favourite, George also went his own way musically, producing classics like ‘Something’, ‘My Sweet Lord’ and ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. A good friend of Eric Clapton they often jammed and recorded together. He was also part of supergroup The Traveling Wilburys with Bob Dylan, Roy Orbison, Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty. Formed in 1988, Orbison died later that year and the group only continued until 1991.

His interest in film led him to co-found HandMade Films in 1978. The company produced a number of famous films, including ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’, ‘Time Bandits’, ‘The Long Good Friday’, ‘Withnail and I’, ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘A Private Function’ and ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’. The company went defunct in 2020.

George passed away in November 2001 aged 58. He died of lung cancer.


Ringo Starr

Born Richard Starkey, Ringo was drafted into The Beatles in 1962 when Pete Best was jettisoned.

After the break-up of The Beatles, Ringo was active as an actor and narrator, as well as continuing to drum. He met and married Bond Girl Barbara Bach (1981) and lives in California. He has remained active, principally with his own group Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band.

He wrote, recorded and released songs regularly through the decades, but few achieved commercial success in the UK.

He has also acted in a number of films and narrated the first two series of ‘Thomas and Friends’ (Thomas the Tank Engine).

Under-rated as a member of The Beatles, he nevertheless did compose a few songs and sang a few, notably ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’, ‘Yellow Submarine’ and ‘In An Octopus’s Garden’.

Despite the joke about his drumming skills:

US interviewer: “So, Mr Lennon. Is it true that Ringo Starr is the best drummer in the world?”

Lennon: “Look, mate, he’s not even the best drummer in The Beatles …..!”

in 2011 Rolling Stone magazine readers voted him as the fifth best drummer of all time. In 2020 he was named as the wealthiest drummer in the world, with a net worth of 350 million dollars.

Now aged 82, he is the oldest surviving Beatle.


Best ever

The Beatles’ best ever song? Blimey! That’s tough. In the frame for me, in alphabetical order, ‘A Day In The Life’, ‘Eleanor Rigby, ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’, ‘Penny Lane’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.

Best album? It’s between ’Abbey Road’, ‘Let It Be’, ‘Rubber Soul’ and ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

Definitely not ‘Revolver’ or ‘The Beatles’ (White Album).

Best early album? ‘With the Beatles’.


In conclusion, all I can say is that The Beatles, together with producer George Martin, had it all. Talent, ingenuity and versatility.  

And longevity. Their music lives on to this day.


© The Culture Vulture






Tags: Abba, Abbey Road, A Day In The Life, A Hard Day’s Night, All-Starr Band, A Private Function, Band on the Run, Barbara Bach, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Culture Vulture, Denny Laine, Eleanor Rigby, George Harrison, George Martin, Give Peace a Chance, HandMade Films, Happy Christmas (War is Over), Imagine, In An Octopus’s Garden, Instant Karma, Jealous Guy, Jeff Lynne, John Lennon, Let It Be, Linda McCartney, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Love Me Do, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Magical Mystery Tour, Mark Chapman, Mona Lisa, Monkees, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, My Sweet Lord, Oasis, Paul McCartney, Penny Lane, Pete Best, Pink Floyd, Plastic Ono Band, Revolver, Richard Starkey, Ringo Starr, Rolling Stone magazine, Rolling Stones, Roy Orbison, Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Something, Strawberry Fields Forever, Take That, The Long Good Friday, Time Bandits, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, White Album, With A Little Help From My Friends, Withnail and I, Yellow Submarine, Yoko Ono

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Whatever happened to BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB?
Sunday, January 1, 2023

The phenomenon that was Buena Vista Social Club began in the mid-late 1990s when the US singer and guitarist Ry Cooder was granted permission by the USA government to travel to Cuba to carry out a research project into Cuban music.

He discovered a group of elderly musicians who no longer played music and just hung around the social club in the Buenavista barrio of Havana, the Cuban capital. Cooder dragged them back into the recording studio where between them they created the eponymous album which was released in 1996.


The record was an overnight sensation and the group toured the world over the next few years. This loose collective of elderly musicians became suddenly very rich.

The German film director Wim Wenders made a documentary about them based around their concert in New York in 1998 and later interviews in Havana. The film was nominated for an Oscar and received countless other awards and accolades.

I first became aware of Buena Vista Social Club around the time of the release of their first album. I was immediately hooked together with music fans the world over. I accumulated a number of albums by other Cuban musicians who coat-tailed on the success of BVSC, among them the Afro-Cuban All Stars, Sierra Maestra and later Orishas. This music was for me the soundtrack to a beautiful love affair.

I was fortunate to see them perform live at the Royal Festival Hall in 1997. Some of the players became famous in their own right as soloists and performed independently. These included Compay Segundo, pianist Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, Omara Portuondo and Eliades Ochoa. The first three are now long dead, dying at the ages of 95, 84 and 78 respectively in the early 2000s. Portuondo and Ochoa are still going strong at the ages of 92 and 76 respectively. I saw Gonzalez and Portuondo live in London also.






















As the musicians died or retired, new people came on board. The name has now become synonymous with Cuban music of the 30s, 40s and 50s, a kind of brand name for the genre. As Ry Cooder, who often played along with hs son Joaquin Cooder, said, it was their calling card.

Alas, the original “group” is no longer. Indeed, Wim Wenders filmed a follow-up documentary entitled "Buena Vista Social Club: Adios" in 2017.

But, hey, what a legacy they left after such a relatively short time in the public eye - just 20 years.


© The Culture Vulture


Tags: Afro-Cuban All Stars, Buena Vista Social Club, Buena Vista Social Club: Adios, Compay Segundo, Cuba, Cuban music, Culture Vulture, Eliades Ochoa, Havana, Ibrahim Ferrer, Joaquin Cooder, London, Omara Portuondo, Orishas, Royal Festival Hall, Ruben Gonzalez, Ry Cooder, Sierra Maestra, Wim Wenders

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