M-Island Narratives initiated a series of workshops, lead by Jamaican guest speaker, Kei Miller – Editor for the Caribbean Writers Series for Heinemann and, up until last academic year, a creative writing lecturer at the University of Glasgow.
The event took off on the 1st of August with a lecture called ‘In an Editor’s Chair,’ which revolved around what editors look for and judge when reading manuscripts. As an editor and writer himself, Miller delivered a stunning, light hearted lecture in which we also had the opportunity to play the role of editor by reading anonymous pieces of work from the “slush pile” and giving valid reasons as to why we thought it may have been rejected – or if we thought that it deserved a chance. Placing yourself in the “editor’s chair” allows you to get some distance from your work and see it differently, thus being able to judge aspects of your own work - a point that Kei Miller stressed throughout the lecture.
Over the weekend, Kei Miller led four separate workshops through which writers had the opportunity to submit a piece of their work and have an editor as well as fellow writers deliver constructive criticism. Through this, Kei Miller also explained how certain techniques used, or that could’ve been used, improve one’s work. Miller’s experience in the field of creative writing allowed the workshops to be informative and fruitful, giving anyone attending an amazing insight to how an editor thinks, as well as how a writer may make their work stand out and have a stronger voice.
The event, co-ordinated by Josianne Mamo – who will be starting her PhD in creative writing this scholastic year at the University of Glasgow – proved to be a hit, leaving all people who attended more than pleased with the entire event.
However, the event has not ended quite yet. On Tuesday 5 August, in the Pjazza Teatru Rjal Green Room, M-Island Narratives will be hosting a spoken word event, allowing anyone to perform a piece of writing. It will also be an opportunity to listen to Kei Miller performing his own poetry. This is at an entrance fee of €5, and tickets may be purchased from ticketline.com.mt.
Malta’s Farsons Beer Festival is one of the most awaited festivals by the public. Apart from the beer drinking, this festival serves as a platform for new and aspiring Maltese artists. Lauren Aquilina is one of these artists. Aquilina is a nineteen year old young lady, who has been making it in the music industry in England. She’s an inspiration to many young singers in Malta, proving that if you are dedicated to doing something you really love, you will get there.
Tonight at 10pm, Lauren Aquilina will be singing at the Beer Festival for the second time. Having attended Aquilina’s performance last year, I can say that tonight’s performance is not to be missed! So in order to get you all started below you will find Lauren Aquilina’s debut song released back in 2012, and an exclusive interview with Lauren herself.
Nicole: How long have you been in the music industry?
Lauren: I have been signed for a few months, but releasing music since I was 17. So two years I guess!
Nicole: Could you tell me something about your music, what is the aim behind it?
Lauren: I use writing as a form of release, there was never really any aim, I’m just glad people seem to like it! It’s all very personal and fairly chilled.
Nicole: Which song of yours is your favourite? What’s the story behind it?
Lauren: My favourite song of mine is actually a new one I’ve written for the album, it’s about wanting to be free of something and finally feeling that release. I can’t reveal much more than that!
Nicole: Who are your musical inspirations?
Lauren: I love most music but in particular Coldplay, Stereophonics and Annie Lennox were massive influences whilst I was growing up. Recently I’ve been listening to a lot of Bon Iver and M83. Nicole: Are there any new songs to be released soon?
Lauren: I’m writing lots at the moment for my debut album which should hopefully be out in 2015!
Nicole: Could you kindly tell me something about your relation to Malta?
Lauren: My Dad is Maltese which makes me half Maltese I have a lot of family here and have been visiting often since I was really little.
Nicole: How do you like the country?
Lauren: I love it! It’s my favourite place in the world, my paradise.
(A beautiful soundtrack from Miyazaki’s ‘Castle in the Sky’)
Many consider him to be the Japanese equivalent to Walt Disney. But to fans of anime, and animated movies in general, prized director Hayao Miyazaki is in a league of his own.
He’s been revolutionizing animation since his early projects in the late 80s, including one of the films in the popular ‘Lupin the Third’ series. In 1985, he established Studio Ghibli; a collaborative effort with other renowned Japanese filmmakers.
Unfortunately, last year Miyazaki announced his retirement from the business aged 73, with the farewell piece ‘The Wind Rises’. It ended up being his third Oscar nominated picture, losing to Disney’s ‘Frozen’. His legacy will live on through his son Goro Miyazaki, who has already directed the critically acclaimed ‘From Up On Poppy Hill’, although it is doubtful whether his cinematography will come even remotely close to the quality of his father’s.
Through masterful English dubbing that remains faithful to the original Japanese screenplay, Miyazaki’s films have transpired into global phenomenons.
In other words, if you love cinema and have never heard of Miyazaki or his movies, you need to binge on them immediately.
If you cannot understand what all the fuss about Miyazaki is about, these are five of his masterpieces which you should definitely check out:
1. Castle In The Sky (1986):
One of Miyazaki’s first features was also one of his most imaginative, with mesmerising animation and a spine-tingling score.
Like many of his later projects, environmental themes of climate change and man’s destruction of nature play an important role in ‘Castle In The Sky’.
It follows a boy and a girl from different worlds but with a common mission; to find the long-lost magical land of Laputa.
Throughout their journey, the children encounter countless friends and foes, and come to appreciate the beauty of being adventurous and chasing their dreams.
Personal rating: 9/10
Castle in the Sky (1986)
2. My Neighbor Totoro (1988):
Often misconceived as merely childish, this cartoon was revolutionary in more ways than one.
‘Totoro’ has arguably become one of the most recognisable anime characters, and eventually earned a place as Studio Ghibli’s mascot.
This movie is a particular favourite among those parents who want to show their children an animation that isn’t typically Western. However, this does not mean it is solely directed towards a younger audience.
As two sisters move out to the countryside with their father and discover mythical creatures, serious subject matters emerge including sibling rivalry and family sickness.
Despite being one of Miyazaki’s shortest films, it manages to let the imagination of viewers of all ages run wild.
After all, it doesn’t hurt to retain our childish wonder every once in a while.
Personal rating: 7/10
My Neighbour Totoro (1988)
3. Princess Mononoke (1997):
Known as Miyazaki’s only animation that is unsuitable for the whole family, ‘Princess Mononoke’ evokes powerful environmental messages alongside stunning visuals and exciting action sequences.
Not afraid to be gory and dramatic, this movie has become one of Studio Ghibli’s most influential.
With strong-willed female protagonists and the recurring theme of man versus nature, an epic war film comes to life in cartoon form, and it’s just as entertaining as any other live-action picture.
Personal rating: 8/10
Princess Mononoke (1997)
4. Spirited Away (2001):
Winning an Oscar and becoming Studio Ghibli’s biggest commercial success definitely contributed to the massive acclaim of ‘Spirited Away’.
Brimming with fantastic imagination and an utterly beautiful score, this is where any stranger to Miyazaki’s work should start.
Despite its extraordinary fantasy throughout, the film manages to remain relatable and touching.
The vast array of diverse characters distinguishes this animated film from all the others, and it is extremely interesting to see Chihiro, the female protagonist, develop from cowardly to brave.
Putting Studio Ghibli on the world map like never before, it is no wonder that fellow filmmakers have called this Miyazaki’s best work.
Personal rating: 10/10
Spirited Away (2001)
5. Howl’s Moving Castle (2004):
Apart from its complex and slightly confusing plot, this relatively recent effort from the director offers a visual feast of animation, particularly with the titular mechanical castle.
Nominated for an Academy Award, and having Christian Bale as part of the English dubbing cast, resulted in yet another successful Ghibli movie, even if it lacks the resilient strength of its predecessors.
The gist of the storyline itself is quite out of the ordinary – main character Sophie, a teenage girl, is cursed with permanent old age, and seeks the help of renowned wizard Howl to break the spell.
Everything mystical and magical ensues, a love story unfolds and a heart-warming tale of bravery solidifies.
Basically, this film is so beautifully versatile that it can suit almost any taste.
The Sliema arts festival began on Friday 18th July at 5 p.m. Approaching the swings of Exiles and all along the Sliema front, I could witness an array of vendors, food stalls, 3D artwork on the promenade and various stalls which sold tidbits of clothing, jewellery, and accessories. One could either access the arts festival via the Sliema front or through the Sliema gardens along the coast. Approaching the festival, one could hear music booming from all around the area. A kaleidoscope of colours and people fluttered around which enmeshed the creative and organic atmosphere that was composed to entertain and inspire the public.
I experienced different types of music from two different stages set in the area. The Alternative stage parallel to Surfside on the Exiles beach provided a number of live acts, DJs, local and growing bands, local and foreign street artists silently tapping away with their spray cans on old caravans and walls amongst the tunes of the bands and the fresh sea breeze. Bands such as Juno and the Wolf, Three Stops to China and for strings inn performed that night alongside Hedon Crew which provided the Dj set. The atmosphere epitomized summertime madness. Amongst the Maltese summer heat, people of all ages gathered to dance along to the music and absorb the musical vibes. Some freely danced, others met up with friends and enjoyed a cool beer on the beach. Children could be seen running around and on the strand. Groups of English students, the Sliema strand runners and the bench bummers seemed to stir amongst all the excitement. Restaurants, creperies, and ice-cream shops seemed booming with people wanting a tasty treat amongst the free entertainment.
It also included local film screenings, skateboarding, abseiling, and an array of activities. Open to the public, the festival was dispersed across quite a large area which met a variety of different needs for all age groups. Families enjoyed taking their children to the new and updated swings whilst enjoying the food and entertainment at the same time. For the health foodies there were organic food stalls and wheatgrass juice stands all around the front.
The open air art exhibitions included work of a variety of both local and foreign artists who could also be seen sketching away at times. The art itself was left open to interpretation and individual perception, though some works of art were actually stolen by the public when left on display as they were temporarily unattended. Different styles were displayed by many artists. On one side, one could see impressionistic landscape designs, on the other modern Picasso-inspired art together with a number of complex and also simplistic individual designs. Interesting sculptures seemed to float amongst the canvases and splashes of art which gave the exhibition its own unique character. Many works of art were on sale and provided information regarding their portfolios, style and collaborations.
Many photographers could be seen flitting about snapping up pictures of the murals and street art displayed on benches, phone boxes and even the floor itself!
On Saturday, the events started at 2 p.m and singers and bands such as Alex Alden, Errormantics, Massacre House Party and Areola Treat performed alongside Dj sets such as those of Hedon Crew and Laavemuax. The artwork seemed to thin out in size on Saturday and on the other main stage a number of folk bands played medieval tunes which encircled the playful atmosphere beside the playground roaring with kids playing in the summer breeze. On Sunday 20th, Mega Fun, Jane Doe, The Velts and Mana Tapu performed live together with Chris Radium Gedz D Incmode from FDM Crew Dj set.
All in all, the street arts festival is improving and encouraging local artists to display their art publicly which exposes them to the general public and potential buyers. Maltese bands are becoming more known in media circles and should be supported by the general public. In this way, upcoming artists and talented young musicians can expose themselves to a huge demographic sector of the Maltese public and tourists which are seeing a slice of our culture and heritage transposed in different art forms.
On Friday 18th July, the Maltese population was literally spoiled for choice. Whether it was taking slow and tasteful sips of Marsovin’s delicacies, or listening to the vocal dexterity of Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja alongside X- factor winner Leona Lewis and Italian singer Claudio Baglioni, or just chilling by the serene Grand Harbour coupled with soothing jazz music and Maltese dishes. Organizers were concerned about the turnout of the general public, and even though all three events were taking place in close proximity of each other, attending all three was somewhat impossible.
The Jazz Festival is always held on the third weekend of July and, since most artist bookings had to be made way before summer, the thought of clashing with another event did not cross the organizers’ minds. For non-jazz enthusiasts, the name Brad Mehldau might not ring a bell. However he is a very distinguished pianist and composer who was nominated for several jazz instrumental performances.
In Malta, different generations are drawn to different genres and only a few seek non-‘mainstream’ music. The constant bombardment of pop songs on TV, radio and, for the party animals, Paceville, unknowingly enables people to ‘prefer’ pop culture over other genres. One’s preference depends on that individual’s exposure to that particular type of music. Certain likings vary according to what is popular at the time. As a case in point, when ‘The Great Gatsby’ was released in cinemas last year, many people got hyped up with the roaring twenties. The soundtrack was played everywhere around the island, and the movie inspired the KSU’s Grad ball theme. Most of the people who loved listening to the Great Gatsby soundtrack were not necessarily twenties- enthusiasts, but the songs’ successes drove the public into liking them.
It’s all about timing. I am not saying that people do not have a personal liking or a favourite genre, but that such opinions are indirectly influenced by society. Joseph Calleja was not as popular ten years ago as he is now. He was definitely as good as he is today, however as he internationally flourished, more and more people started to follow the trend and attendance to his annual concert increased. This year’s performance was said to be beyond words, as the artists crafted their voices into the audience’s hearts.
Events like these could enable people to discover new artists or to take more interest in an artist’s music. Unfortunately, the current generation is less into lyrics and emotion, and more into beats and rhythm. Most of the new songs released, popular amongst the teen generation, have an overall variation of lyrics as much as a limerick. The gradual shift of artistic preferences is primarily influenced by what is popular rather than by what is best. Then again, one cannot generalise as many have un-fluctuated tastes.
This summer has been characterized by hipster and indie music, most of which have reached the top of the Maltese music charts. However, events such as the ones that took place on the 18th of July help the public embrace the possibility of alternative music, rather than the same old same old. We should all be very thankful for having continuous events enriching our perspectives on the arts and constantly reminding us that, no matter what genre the music is from, there are always amazing artists to grasp our attention. New movies and events are coming out, meaning new influences. Let’s see what the hype of summer 2014 will be!