Archive | November 2020

The Holyrood Distillery 2021 Heritage Whisky Cask Auction – recreating a spiritual taste of history …in a dram.

Whisky lovers, collectors and connoisseurs can be part of a unique event when Holyrood Distillery offers a limited edition of thirty casks of specially crafted single malt whiskies at auction. The casks are the innovative recreation of heritage whiskies based on those formerly produced by Edinburgh’s historic distilleries.

In partnership with Whisky Hammer, the Aberdeenshire specialist whisky auctioneers, these unique whisky casks will be sold at an online auction with bidding open from 4th to 13th December, 2020.

Whisky Hammer

Holyrood Distillery was launched in Edinburgh in 2019 to resurrect the lost tradition of whisky making in the Capital after almost a hundred years; the majority of the distilleries closed in the 19th century with the last two, Dean and Glen Sciennes closing in 1922 and 1925.

Using recipes dating back a hundred years, the Distillery has sourced the ancient ingredients, old style brewer’s yeast and authentic barley varieties: Chevallier was used in the 19th century by Bonnington, Croftanrigh and Yardhead distilleries; Plumage Archer was used from the early 20th century by Dean and Glen Sciennes. Only sherry casks will be usedfifteen American oak, Oloroso Sherry Hogsheads and fifteen Spanish oak, Pedro Ximenez Sherry Hogsheads – in the tradition of these former Edinburgh distilleries.

 “This is a rare opportunity to own a single malt whisky which is based on the techniques and ingredients used by Edinburgh’s distilling forefathers. Purchasing one of these rare casks is an invitation to own a piece of history and tread in the footsteps of the people who created the city’s whisky industry.” David RobertsonCo-founder of Holyrood Distillery.

David Robertson, co-founder of Holyrood Distillery

The re-creation of an historic whisky has been a successful branding concept for Whyte & Mackay with their iconic Shackleton whisky in tribute to the great Antarctic explorer. Three crates of Mackinlay’s whisky were discovered in 2007 at the Expedition base camp for the officers and crew of the Endurance ship, stranded in the ice in 1915.  Master blender Richard Paterson worked with the whisky salvage team to profile the original Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt, Shackleton’s favourite, to create a contemporary, blended malt.

Likewise, the production of these classic Edinburgh whiskies is an inspirational venture for Holyrood Distillery to preserve a taste of the city’s “spiritual” heritage.

Whisky Hammer, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

The Scottish, family business, Whisky Hammer, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, was established in 2015 by brothers, Daniel and Craig Milne, to specialise in rare and hard-to-find bottles for whisky connoisseurs worldwide: The motivation behind the company was from our passion for whisky. We were brought up in Macduff, on the edge of the Speyside region, where some may argue, the best whisky in the world is produced.”

Now one of the most renowned, global, online whisky platforms, at their October auction, a bottle of Macallan 78 year old (Red Collection), sold for £922, 500. Also under the hammer, was a rare Bowmore Hogshead cask, 1987, snapped up for £64.700, and also a Tullibardane, Oloroso cask, 2018, for £1, 550.

Daniel and Craig Milne, of Whisky Hammer

 “We’re honoured to partner with Holyrood Distillery to offer 30 unique casks exclusively on Whisky Hammer. Having seen increasing interest and demand for old, vintage whisky and cask purchases, this is a golden opportunity to make history and fully participate in crafting a deeply personal and rare spirit, …. an offer not to be missed by our members, who love interesting and unusual whiskies.” Daniel Milne, Managing Director of Whisky Hammer.

Bidding is expected to start at £3,000 for each numbered, sherry hogshead allowing bidders to select the barley variety, cask type and number. The casks will be filled with the fledgling spirit in early 2021 and put to rest in the warehouse to become unique single malts.  

Winning bidders will be invited to see their spirit being created and cask filled in the Warehouse and then follow each stage of the maturing process of their own whisky.  The hammer price paid will include storage of the cask for up to ten years, annual sampling and insurance.

Holyrood Distillery was founded by a Canadian couple, Rob and Kelly Carpenter and Scottish whisky expert, David Robertson. Rob launched the Canadian branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society with wife Kelly, while David has 25 years’ experience in the industry with The Macallan and The Dalmore, as well as co-founding Rare Whisky 101. 

Rob Carpenter and David Robertson, owners of Holyrood Distllery

Located on St. Leonard’s Lane with views over Holyrood Park, the Distillery is based at a B-listed, 1835 era building, formerly part of the Edinburgh & Dalkeith Railway.  As well as single malt whisky they distil gins and liqueurs and there is a 5-star visitor centre offering an interactive, educational experience.

Holyrood Distllery on the site of a former Railway Company

Owning a maturing cask is a dram lover’s dream, the ultimate indulgence, but also be a sound investment for the future. In eight, ten, twelve + years’ time, you will be able to bottle this speciality whisky for your own unique collection.

Whisky Hammer will host the online auction for these thirty heritage whisky casks which kicks off at 7pm (GMT) on Friday 4th and open until Sunday 13th December, 2020.   

To register to bid on the Holyrood 2021 Heritage Whisky Cask auction, visit:   

For more information on the Holyrood Distillery and shop on line:

Learn all about whisky on the Holyrood Distillery Tour

‘The Killings on Kingfisher Hill’ bv Sophie Hannah: the new Hercule Poirot mystery

It was one hundred years ago when Agatha Christie introduced the now legendary Belgian detective in her first crime novel,“The Mysterious Affair at Styles.” 

‘Poirot was an extraordinary looking little man. He was hardly more than five feet, four inches, but carried himself with great dignity. His head was exactly the shape of an egg, and he always perched it a little on one side. His moustache was very stiff and military. The neatness of his attire was almost incredible’. The Mysterious Affair at Styles, (1920)

Pan paperback edition of the first Poirot novel, 1920

There are 13 chapters with enticing titles: Poirot Investigates, Fresh Suspicions, The Night of the Tragedy, Poirot Explains.

This popular, iconic character went on to star in 33 novels, two plays and more than fifty short stories.  “My Belgian invention was hanging around my neck, firmly attached there like the old man of the sea.”  Agatha Christie, An Autobiography

Agatha Christie and her collection of crime novels

Poirot’s final case, which brings him back full circle to Styles, was written during World War II as a gift for her daughter, but kept in a safe for over thirty years until “Curtain” was finally published in 1975.

Curtain, by Agatha Christie, first UK edition, 1975

The news of Poirot’s death in the novel was commemorated in an obituary in The New York Times, the only fictional character to have received such an honour.

The Hercule Poirot mysteries have been adapted with great success the cinema and television screen, portrayed by many actors from Albert Finney and Peter Ustinov to David Suchet and Kenneth Branagh, with their own personalised manner, mode ……and moustache.

The portrayal of Hercule Poirot over the past century

It was therefore a most inspired decision of the Agatha Christie Estate to resurrect the Belgian detective and authorise Sophie Hannah to write a exciting new Continuation novel.

Sophie Hannah is a massive fan of Agatha Christie’s crime fiction, having first read “The Body in the Library” aged 12. She is an international best selling writer of psychological thrillers, winning numerous awards. Sophie created a Masters Degree course in crime writing at Cambridge University, where she is a fellow of Lucy Cavendish College.

Agatha Christie is the greatest crime writer of all time and it is a huge, huge honour for me to be the person chosen to do this.” Sophie Hannah

Sophie Hannah with Mathew Pritchard, grandson of Agatha Christie

Sophie presented a detailed 100-page outline for a Poirot-esque detective novel to the publishers and Christie estate, which was approved. ‘The Monogram Murders’ (2014) was the first of her four novels in this new series.

Celebrating 100 years since Poirot solved the mystery at Styles, he sets off once again to investigate a new case, “The Killings at Kingfisher Hill”. 

It is ten minutes before two on the afternoon of 22nd February, 1931. That was when the strangeness started,”  begins the first person narration by Inspector Edward Catchpool who is accompanying Hercule Poirot to Little Key, a mansion on the Kingfisher Estate, Surrey.  

Richard Devonport has summoned Poirot to prove the innocence of his fiancée, Helen who faces the death penalty for the murder of his brother, Frank. A clever ploy by Hannah to retain authenticity, is that the plotline of an allegedly innocent person being accused of murder was used by Christie several times: Ordeal by Innocence, Towards Zero, Mrs McGinty’s Dead, The ABC Murders, Five Little Pigs and also the play, Witness for the Prosecution.

Curiously, the rest of the Devonport family cannot know the real reason for the visit and they will pose as enthusiasts of a board game, Peepers, created by Richard’s father, Sidney, as a rival to Monopoly.

The journey by coach from London to Kingfisher Hill is not without incident: unfortunately, it takes almost 100 pages to describe a series of incidents, a damsel in distresss, lunch, a minor emergency and missing passengers before they arrive at the Devonport home. Yes, a couple of these characters will make a later appearance, but this is a convoluted start before cracking on with the heart of the mystery.

It’s the classic Country House setting where the murder took place on 6th December, 1930.   “At twenty minutes to six, Frank Devonport fell to his death from the landing. He’d been pushed from the balcony. Fell and cracked his head open on the hard floor beneath.”

If it’s not Helen Acton as Richard believes, who is guilty of the crime? There were seven other people there at the time – Sidney, his wife Lilian, their daughter Daisy, her fiancé Oliver Prowd, two family friends, Godfrey and Verna Lavliolette, and the servant Winnifred.

Like Sherlock’s Watson, Hannah’s new creation, Inspector Catchpool is an assistant sleuth like a blend of the amiable Hastings and the solid but slow, Chief Inspector Japp. Poirot likes to challenge his friend, asking for a list of questions on the case, to test a methodical mind.  “Precisely, Catchpool, you have hit on the head the nail!… it proceeds most satisfactorily, the training of your brain.” 

The title of the novel is, of course, ‘Killings’ in the plural and so far, just one. But then the shocking discovery of a body of an unidentified woman, bludgeoned to death with a poker in the drawing room at the Devonport home.  The Cluedo style setting is reminiscent of Christie’s classic, The Body in the Library, in which an unknown blonde girl is found at Gossington Hall, home of Colonel and Mrs. Arthur Bantry.

Certain members of the rather dysfunctional Devonport family are unreliable witnesses due to their eccentric behaviour. There is one marvellous character, Hester Semley, “a small bony, bespectacled woman with thick, coiled springs of white hair,” whose dagger-sharp intellect even throws Poirot on the back foot. A Miss Marple with feisty attitude!.

This is a twisting, turning maze of a plot like a complex jigsaw puzzle, where, it seems, half a dozen pieces are missing, until of course, Poirot uncovers the truth in the final flourish of a denouement.  

You can expect the narrative structure, language, period style and social manner of an Agatha Christie novel, not least the impeccable personality, wit and wisdom of Hercule Poirot.

“I regard every word Agatha Christie ever wrote almost as a holy text, so I’m not going to be taking any liberties,” Sophie Hannah. “

Set in 1931, this is vintage detective fiction but not old fashioned. Crime, past and present, is a moral matter, understanding human nature, jealousy, deceit, the psychology of good and evil.  The classic detective story is a world of theatricality and illusion.

So no wonder Christie’s murder mysteries adapt so well from page to stage and screen.  David Suchet is legendary in the role of Hercule Poirot which he played in 70 episodes of ITV’s Agatha Christie’s Poirot series over twenty five years.

David Suchet and Hugh Fraser as Hercule Poirot and Captain Hastings

The highly acclaimed series adapted all of Agatha Christie’s novels and short stories featuring Poirot between 1989 and 2013 and continue to be repeated on a regular basis.

David Suchet as Hercule Poirot in ITV series

The enduring appeal for Hercule Poirot has no sign of slowing down. Following the masterly remake “Murder on the Orient Express” directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, his next Agatha Christie movie is “Death on the Nile,”  to be released in 2021.

The two new Poirot films directed and starring Kenneth Branagh

The Killings at Kingfisher Hill by Sophie Hannah – the new Hercule Poirot Mystery is published by Harper Collins.

The previous titles in the Continuation series of Poirot mysteries are “The Monogram Murders”, “Closed Casket” and “The Mystery of Three Quarters.”

The Continuation series by Sophie Hannah

The quietly composed Landscapes, Flowers and Still Life by Joan Renton, RSW, on show at the Grilli Gallery, Edinburgh

Joan Renton was born in 1935 and studied at the Edinburgh College of Art where she was taught by three exemplary Scottish artists, William Gillies, John Maxwell and Robin Philipson. After a travelling scholarship to Spain in 1959, she was a teacher before becoming a full time artist.  The recipient of several Awards, Joan was elected to the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1974.

This charming exhibition of landscapes, botanical studies and Still Life paintings illustrates the diverse range of subjects and artistic styles which inspire Ms Renton. 

Towards Mull

Travelling to the wild and wonderful Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland has always been her stomping ground, sketch pad in hand, no doubt. With a photographic eye combined with impressionistic creativity, “Towards Mull” is a majestic panoramic scene.  The viewer feels they are standing on the sandy beach looking out across the bay to the shimmer of shapely hills beyond.  

While this clearly evokes a realistic ambience, the blending of soft shades, and curving contours of land and sea, creates a misty mood.

 ‘Although my paintings have their origins in nature, the influences of light and atmosphere are more important to me than realistic representation.’  Joan Renton

Tragh-Mhor, Tiree

This semi-abstract technique is also shown in “Traigh-Mhor, Tiree,” which is most atmospheric: the curving trail in the sand leads the eye between the rocks to the lapping waves, a fleck of white horses and the distant islets. The pinky grey sky of scudding clouds evoke a tangible feeling of a chilly, salt sea breeze in the air on this blustery day. 

A most enchanting winter scene is conjured up in “Little Tree,” in which the black, bare, skeletal branches spread across the canvas like a spider’s web.

Little Tree

The bold, imaginative pattern in the foreground reveals a tapestry of the snow-covered fields and rolling heather hills behind. This striking viewpoint would be a magical illustration for a Christmas Card.

The world of nature is captured both outdoors and at home. Here are several botanical paintings such as “Jug of Flowers,” a finely crafted, colourful display with such detail in the leaves, stamens, buds and petals.

Jug of Flowers

And with a more expressionistic style, a swimming swirl of translucent green, blue and amber tones in the watercolour, “Sunlit Summer.”

Sunlit Summer

Edouard Manet described Still Life as “the touchstone of painting,” which tests the skill of an artist to paint household objects, fruit, flowers, jugs, glassware and textiles. “Grey Still Life,” is a quiet, cool composition to illustrate the contrasting texture of a seaside shell, garden pears and flowers on the olive-green cloth.

Grey Still Life

The renowned artist Anne Redpath, OBE (1895–1965), devised her own iconic style of two dimensional Still Life scenes and domestic interiors.  Following in her brushstrokes, Joan Renton is also a master of the genre with such a delicate, elegant and decorative design.

The moment I stop learning and exploring new avenues,  I shall give up and spend all my time in the garden.” Joan Renton

Now in her 85th year, this celebratory exhibition proves that Joan Renton is still very much in her prime and unlikely to exchange her paint brush for a trowel anytime soon.

THE GRILLI GALLERY, 20A Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ  

Joan Renton – A solo exhibition of paintings

31st October to 29th November, 2020

Mon, Tues, Thurs & Fri 11.00am to 4.00pm,

Viewing by appointment: Tel. 0131 261 4264; mobile 07876 013 013

Browse the gallery of images on line:

Poppies and Silver Jug

‘this divine quiet’ – Helen Booth: a painterly meditation on the bleak, serene beauty of Iceland, @ &Gallery, Edinburgh

This is the first solo exhibition by the British artist, Helen Booth to be held in Scotland, and features over 25 artworks inspired by a recent residency in Iceland. She has exhibited widely across the UK, Europe and USA, and in 2019, she received two prestigious accolades in New York – a Pollock Krasner award for painting and an Adolf and Esther Gottlieb Prize for Abstract Painting.

Iceland is known as ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ due to its ancient topography of giant glaciers, waterfalls, hot springs and fiery volcanoes, a wild, desolate terrain, sculptured through climate and time.

‘this divine quiet’ – Icelandic landscapes by Helen Booth at &Gallery

“Standing in a divine landscape has reinforced my personal belief that Nature is the most powerful force and that trying to capture the essence of Nature in its purist form is what is important to me as an artist.”  Helen Booth

Feel the chill air in Abstract Landscape, 4, as soft snow flutters in icy dribbles from a billowing thick cloud stretching to the lost, hazy horizon.

Abstract Landscape 4, Helen Booth

Again with atmospheric realism, Abstract Landscape 7, is a swirling, whirling whiteout around the looming mass of a glacial mountain.

Abstract Landscape 7, Helen Booth

This raw, rugged environment is a pale palette of milky-white, cream, pink and blue-greys; the cool, crisp winter light glistens with an ethereal quality etched into frozen lakes and snow-smothered rocky peaks.

Abstract landscape 6, Helen Booth

Many of these landscapes are pared down to the one essential element – water; the flow and fluidity of melting glaciers in a stream of drips as in Falling Water, with monochrome minimalism.

Falling Water, Helen Booth

Also with abstract purity, a flourish of translucent spots and dots depicts the vision of glimmering icicles and a blizzard of drifting snowflakes in Frozen Water.

Frozen Water, Helen Booth

This seemingly simple, subtle technique is so imaginative, such as in I Think About You All The Time with its sparkling glow like Tinkerbelle fairy lights and stars in the night sky. (This stunning image would be perfect for a Christmas card or fabric design).

I think about you all the time, Helen Booth

The use of symbolic markings is also most effective in the delicate, pointillist pattern of Silent Fall of Snow. Magical, mesmerising, meditative.

Silent Fall of Snow, Helen Booth

The title, ‘this divine quiet’, comes from a memoir by Christiane Ritter, “A Woman in the Polar Night,” about surviving life in the Arctic wilderness. Likewise, with poetic, painterly eloquence Helen Booth captures the bleak, majestic natural beauty of Iceland with a tangible, serene sense of place.

Abstract Landscape 2, Helen Booth

 “Abstract Art is always rooted in experience of the real world .. .. and provides an emotional satisfaction similar to that of landscape. ”  Pepe Karmel (Abstract Art, a Global History, Thames & Hudson).

this divine quiet – Helen Booth

&Gallery, 3 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6QG

Current opening times:

Tuesday to Friday 11am – 5pm; Saturday 11am – 4pm & by appointment.  Tel. 0131 467 0618

The exhibition is beautifully complemented by floral displays of Birch Tree branches and ice-dried, white Amaranthus blossom, created by ‘Flowers by Minty’, Abbeyhill, Edinburgh

Abstract Landscape 5, Helen Booth

“Ethereal Silence:” Paintings of Edinburgh through the seasons by Jamie Primrose @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.” Ian Rankin

Jamie Primrose is sure to agree with this sentiment, as he is unlikely to stop exploring  Edinburgh on foot or in oil paint. 

Springtime in Edinburgh, 2020 was rather a different city than usual. Like all of us, isolated at home, the artist Jamie Primrose was unable to visit his studio to work.  But he could get out and about to observe, photograph and sketch his favourite places and picturesque scenes at a time of complete solitude and tranquillity.

Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

This collection of over fifty original oil paintings, aptly entitled “Ethereal Silence,” is based on his wanderings around the city this year, celebrating Edinburgh through the seasons.

Follow in Jamie’s footsteps on those daily walks during lockdown around his local neighbourhood, Marchmont, and across the wide open space of the Meadows, flourishing in pink blossom.  The magical effect of shadows cast by the sun through the trees is captured so well in such works as “Hazy Afternoon Light in The Meadows” and “Spring light on Jawbone Walk.”

Hazy Afternoon Light in The Meadows, Jamie Primrose

At different times of the day and evening he would trek around the craggy landscape of Arthur Seat, and to the top of Calton Hill for a panoramic view across the city of spires.  Explorations on foot too around the Old Town, such as the charming curve of Victoria Street,  and a stroll through Princes Street Gardens in the summer sun.  Primrose’s favourite places now transformed into works of art.

Winter Lights looking up Victoria Street, Jamie Primrose

Jamie Primrose is a master at depicting the shimmering soft glow of dawn light as captured in a series of paintings such as “Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat,

Sunrise from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

and at the end of the day, experience the coral pink and mauve tinted clouds in “Sunset Skyline over Edinburgh.”

Sunset Skyline over Edinburgh, Jamie Primrose

 Not quite sure of the meteorological term for a mackerel sky, but the distinctive cloud patterns in many cityscapes brilliantly reflect a sense of movement and atmosphere.

 Most impressive is “Sunrise over Edinburgh Castle,” a moment in time to catch the golden glimmer of a new blue sky day. It illustrates perfectly the poetic description of the Castle:

“.. this gigantic rock lifts itself above all that surrounds it, and breaks upon the sky with the same commanding blackness of mingled crags, cliffs, buttresses, and battlements.” J. K. Lockhart.

Sunrise over Edinburgh Castle, Jamie Primrose

On this painterly journey through the year, you can almost feel the shift in temperature too, by the clarity of light and brightness of Summer sun to the icy grey chill in “Winter Morning looking down Middle Meadow Walk.”

Winter Morning Middle Meadow Walk, Jamie Primrose

These are just a few key highlights from this captivating and finely composed collection. The exhibition is at the Dundas Street Gallery but if you are unable to visit, you can view the online gallery and take a video tour of the show. 

Limited Edition Prints:
In addition to these new original paintings, there are framed limited edition prints of The Meadows, Old Town scenes and city skylines. Also available, East Lothian and West Coast seascapes, atmospheric vistas of Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Venice, & South of France.

Jamie Primrose: ‘Ethereal Silence’
Thursday 5th – Saturday 14th November 2020

Open Monday to Friday, 11am to 6pm by appointment

To book your appointment contact: Mari Primrose

Saturday – walk in visits from 12 noon – 5pm

The Dundas Street Gallery
6a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

View the works on the website:

Video tour of the gallery:

Sunset over the City from Arthur’s Seat, Jamie Primrose

Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers – a flourishing showcase of colourful, multi-cultural artwork at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

A Florilegium is a book of flowers. It is commonly a group of botanical paintings depicting a particular collection. Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers is a vitally important exhibition of botanical illustrations depicting rare and endangered plants found in the glasshouses at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.  

Founded 350 years ago, with a collection of 13,500 international species, its mission is “To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.

RGBE – 350 years of collecting exotic plants

“Florilegium: A Gathering of Flowers” aso neatly links to the heritage of the historic garden. One of the earliest books recording scientific drawings of plants was Robert Sibbald’s Scotia Illustrata in 1684. Sibbald was the first professor of medicine at the University of Edinburgh and a founder of RBGE.

Last year, an invitation was sent out to Botanical illustrators around the world to submit drawings of plants from the RBGE Living Collection for this art showcase at Inverleith House.  Forty artists were selected from Australia, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA.

Floral illustrations blending botancial accuracy and fine art

The walls of the downstairs gallery have been painted a soft sage green which gives a calm, cool backdrop to the paintings. Each are labelled by the classic Latin name with the name of the artist. 

Brownea grandceps, Maria Alice de Rezende

Paresh Churi uses an ecological approach for his drawing, of “Dichrostachys cinerea” featuring the branch, buds and insects in its natural setting.  In contrast, Claire Banks, presents a scientific dissection of “Cavendishia Engleriana var. ecuadorensis” – such fine detail of tiny feathery stamens and silky petals. In display cases there are Claire’s sketch books and paint pots – the precise colour palette is simply stunning.

Paulownia tomentosa, Mieko Ishikawa

Narongsak Sukkaewmanee’s floral study of “Musa coccinea” is a flourish of coral blossom, leaves, seeds and nuts. The Coffee plant is delicately sketched by Sarah Howard, while Jacqui Pestell has created a detailed image of a Blackberry.  Beautifully captured in soft shades of pink, yellow and green, is “Globba winitii” by Sunanda Widel. 

These are just a few highlights of these colourfully crafted masterpieces, which combine exquiste botanical accuracy with artistic perfection. 

To complement this showcase, four contemporary artists were commissioned to create their own personal, cultural and geographical response to the natural world through paintings, drawings, photography and video film. 

The ‘Night Garden’ blue room by Wendy McMurdo

Upstairs at Inverleith House, the first room is taken over by Wendy McMurdo has curated  Night Garden, inspired by blossoming Spring flowers, a series of photographs accompanied by her diary entries.

The early months of the Covid-19 lockdown coincided with the warmest May ever recorded in Britain.  The sunsets were spectacular. Night after night, the May skies were filled with lilac and purple. My wisteria flowered for the first time. “

Wisteria, Wendy McMurdo

During this time, her mother had become ill and soon passed away. Meanwhile, in Wendy’s garden, an unidentified plant began to grow, unfurling glossy leaves, then buds bursting into life with beautiful flowers – “large waxy trumpets filled the night air with their scent that summer.”  

Cardiocrinum Giganteum – Wendy McMurdo

The plant was named as the very rare, “Cardiocrinum Giganteum, giving an unexpected, welcome sign of renewal at the time of sadness and loss. Out of the dark, a lily grows.

Annalee Davis from Barbados has created an illustrated family history entitled As If The Entanglements Of Our Lives Did Not Matter. This refers to the fact that her grandparents were of mixed race at the heart of Colonial life on a sugar cane plantation, as depicted in this charming portrait.

“As if the Entanglements of our lives did not matter,” Annalee Davis

Annalee’s Caribbean heritage is illustrated most powerfully using pages of a 1979 Ledger from the Estate. Superimposed on a handwritten list of sales figures and the wages paid to workers are paintings of sugar beet and ivy leaves as well as actual pressed flowers.

Sugar Cane and Ivy on 1979 Ledger sheet, Annalee Davis

Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei is a tribute to his beloved, late Grandmother in a series of photographs, 100 Days with Lily (1995).  Lee cultivated and nurtured a single lily, documenting every moment of its natural life from seed and bulb to blooming flower, until it finally shrivelled and died.

100 days with Lily – Lee Mingwei

Lyndsay Mann has created a video documentary, A Desire For Organic Order on the work of the Herbarium and Centre for Middle Eastern Plants at the Royal Botanic Garden. Featuring plants from Afghanistan dating to the 1820s, the meditative film shows an archive of journal entries, diaries, letters and contemporary links between Scotland and the Middle East. 

Abutilon megapotamicum, Jessica Daigle

 “From common weeds to exotic cultivars, flowers are deeply embedded within our lives and have long been an inspiration to artists (who) explore our wider relationship to nature. We hope the show will encourage visitors to treasure their encounters with the art and the amazing diversity of flora in our Garden and Glasshouses. Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, RBGE

Florilegium: a Gathering of Flowers

Friday 16 October – Sunday 13 December 2020 

Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Book a time slot to enter RBGE in order to visit the exhibition.

Inverleith House with Terrace Cafe

HelloFresh – teach yourself to be a Masterchef and enjoy quick and easy gourmet dishes at home

Fact: HelloFresh is the most popular meal kit company in the world. Founded in Berlin in November 2011, it has spread its good food message across the globe and is now big business across the UK, Europe, USA and Australia.

2020 will be remembered for the global pandemic and Lockdown restrictions. But on the positive side, social isolation has unwittingly pushed us to be culinary creative at home. With more time on our hands, staying safe and working from home, we have (almost) become domestic gods and goddesses.  First came the craze for baking bread and cakes. In April 2020, the recipe for Banana Bread saw a 595% increase in Google search compared to April 2019 in the UK. 

As well as baking, more than a fifth of us were cooking every meal from scratch according to research and the interest in making nutritious meals has continued to increase.  No longer rushed for time, the Take Away was not such a tempting treat.  With many bars and bistros closed or with limited opening hours, we are all yearn for restaurant-quality comfort food.  Even if we can’t cook.

The easy answer is HelloFresh which will deliver complete, ready-to-make, hearty, healthy dishes to your home.  Convenient and inspirational, this is a food subscription service, providing a box of fresh ingredients with recipes straight to your kitchen.

The website is easy to navigate with a few clicks of the mouse, for information on selecting the recipes, number of people and dishes required each week.  For instance, you can choose meat, fish and/or vegetarian recipes catering for 2, 3 or 4 people, with the option of three, four or five dishes per week. For solo diners, simply halve the ingredients of the recipe (and enjoy the rest another day, or invent a different dish); Family food boxes too with child-friendly dishes and older kids will enjoy the cookery challenge.

‘The proof is in the pudding’ as they say, so I ordered three Vegetarian dishes for two people.  A large cardboard box arrived promptly at 5pm on a Saturday, well packaged with a bag of ice to keep ingredients fresh and cold.  The meal kits can be kept in the fridge for around a week.

Inside the box were three large brown paper cartons, one for each dish. All the ingredients for two diners were measured out accordingly as detailed on colourful, easy to follow Recipe cards with images. Preparation timings and calorie count are also given to plan a quick, healthy meal after a busy day at work. 

Mexican Beanie Tortillas – all the ingredients

I began with the Mexican Beanie Tortillas placing all the fresh vegetables, spices, herbs and cardboard packets on the worktop.  I felt like a TV chef ready to showcase a special dish to viewers!.  This recipe should take 30 minutes to prep and cook.

Mexican bean dish

The instructions are so clear, step by step, chopping the yellow pepper, courgette and shallot, adding the garlic, spices, mixed beans and chopped tomatoes, simmering slowly. And finally mashing the avocado with lime and coriander for the garnish.

Mexican beanie Tortilla wrap

I am no great cook but although I say it myself, I managed to create a “Restaurant quality” dish with creamy guacamole.   Truly scrumptuous!. 

Veggie Chilli with Sweet Potato Fries

This time I was sous chef, while my partner perfected a spicy gourmet feast. It was such fun reading out each stage of the preparation, chopping, roasting and then tossing up the salsa.  

Veggie Chilli with Sweet Potato Fries

The ingredients were seriously fresh and top quality with a generous portion size such as the large Sweet Potato for the wedges. (But just one tiny spring onion, not the salad bowl as illustrated on the recipe card).

Spinach and Chickpea Moroccan Stew.

HelloFresh food kit for Moroccan stew

This is a Rapid recipe taking just 20 minutes, again well laid out explaining every detail. e.g. how much hot water required to add to the Cous Cous for soft fluffy grains.

Moroccan stew with feta and cous cous,

By providing the exact amount of ingredients per person, there is no food waste.  While the paper and cardboard packaging is good, clear recycling symbols should be given on some individual food packets.

Great value too – by ordering 5 recipes a week for 2 people, the cost is just £4.20 per dish, with free daytime delivery. 

A wide collection of Recipe cards

HelloFresh recipes offer family favourites, gastro pub feasts, British classics and international cuisine – Italian, Greek, French, Asian, Thai, Japanese, African. So you can dine around the world at home every week with these recipes to tempt you – Chicken Laksa with noodles, Lentil and cauliflower curry, Red wine glazed Lamb Shank with honey carrots and roast potatoes, Truffle and mushroom Rigatoni, Cottage Pie …

Global cuisine delivered to your kitchen

Students can apply the HelloFresh discount code at the checkout to enjoy 30% off every 3rd recipe box. Also check out the Christmas Boxes – Festive food box orders for 4 – 10 people. Gift cards would make the ideal, caring present this year to ensure your family and friends experience a tasty home cooked dinner – without having to go shopping.  

Budding Masterchefs at home

Take a look at the appetising world of HelloFresh and start cooking.  Bon Appetit!

The trend towards eating more meals at home accelerated during the pandemic and we consider that (people) will continue to work from home and therefore eat more meals at home. We are very proud to have provided five million customers around the world with 162 million meals in the third quarter of 2020”. Dominik Richter, CEO and co-founder of HelloFresh

HelloFresh is the world’s leading meal-kit company and operates in the U.S., United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, France and Denmark.

The Scottish Portrait Awards 2020 for Fine Art and Photography – an inspiring focus on faces and places, life and love.

Now in its fourth year, the Scottish Portrait Awards received a significant increase in submissions with 1,050 works entered for the SPA in Fine Art and Photography, especially by young artists aged under 25 in both categories. 

This just illustrates the creativity, talent and commitment for artistic expression during life in lockdown. “Art is often a refuge when times are tough and this year proved no exception. Works selected for the 2020 SPAs convey a stunning mix of defiance, escape, resilience and humour.” Gordon Mitchell, Director, SPA  

Entrants to the SPAs must be over 16 years and born, living or studying in Scotland. The Scottish Portrait Award for Fine Art is for portraits in any 2D or 3D medium. The SPA Photography Award for black and white portraiture is named after the late Richard Coward who had a prestigious career as a portrait and fashion photographer.

The annual exhibition of the selected 60 works from the long list of entries, is open from Tuesday 3 to Friday 27 November at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh. I enjoyed a leisurely browse around the two galleries, upstairs and downstairs at the grand Georgian townhouse on Rutland Square.

These are a few of my highlights of the Fine Art exhibition:   

Emmeline Cosnett’s “The Mask Maker” is certainly topical, illustrating her work sewing masks during the Covid-19 pandemic on a vintage Singer machine. Her doleful companion is Bosco, a bull terrier, paws on the table as if to say, ‘When can we go for a walk?!’

The Mask Maker, Emmeline Cosnett

Saul Robertson has captured the peaceful pose of his two young children in “Summer Sleep.”  Such exquisite painterly detail here in this picture of pure innocence: soft, smooth skin, strands of blonde hair and the crumpled folds of white bed linen.

Summer Sleep, Saul Robertson

“Between this World and the World Beyond” is a poignant scene by Li Huang of himself sitting with his late father, recalled as a young man. Each hold a book on Modern Painting, their hand gestures reflect an imagined conversation between father and son, now divided between two worlds. Last year, Li Huang won third prize for a portrait of his mother, “Kinship”.

Between this World and the World Beyond, Li Huang

“Teresa” is a charming tribute to Theresa Gourlay’s aunt, when she was suffering from dementia. There is confusion and pain in her tearful eyes and downturned mouth, as she clutches her arm in comfort, her watch perhaps signifying the passing of time and a life well lived.

Teresa, Theresa Gourlay

“Starting the Day: Self-portrait in Lockdown” is described by the artist Brian Barclay as ‘an insomniac just out of bed and in desperate need of a haircut.’  His Mohican curly whiff and furrowed brow is like a mirror image with, it seems, light-hearted introspection.

Starting the Day, Brian Barclay

I am a great admirer of the brilliant, Oscar winning actor, Philip Seymour Hoffman, (Capote, The Talented Mr Ripley et al). who tragically passed away aged 46, in his prime. The bronze sculpture by David A. Annand expresses his “vitality, intelligence and that twinkle in his eye.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman, David A. Annand

And a look around the Photography gallery:

Mark Shields specialises in finding salt of the earth characters for his narrative portraits.  With an industrial backdrop, “The River Man” is George Parsonage, a legend of the Clyde who has recovered many bodies but, a true Samaritan has rescued 1500 people from the river.

The River Man, Mark Shields

As seen through the eyes of a young girl, Eve, “The Magic and Mystery of Scotland” by Julie Wilkes shows the sweep of the Glenfinnan viaduct reflected through the window of the Jacobite train – aka Hogwart’s Express, the film location of the Harry Potter movie.  

The Magic and Mystery of Scotland, Julie Wilkes

Queen’s Park, Glasgow – Homo Hill –  is renowned as a playground and meeting place for gay men.  On a summer’s day, “Gareth and Andrew” by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan, depicts their private, intimate, close embrace.

Gareth and Andrew, Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Davide Pagnossin is a close friend of Umu whose serene, natural beauty was apparently snapped in a fleeting moment, as “she looked at me effortlessly” without poise or pose. “Umu and the Boys” shows her beside a lamplit painting, out of focus as the backdrop. 

Umu and the Boys, Davide Pagnossin

From the final sixty entries, the shortlist of five portraits in each of the Fine art and Photography categories has now been selected by the professional judging panels.

Fine Art nominees: Brian Barclay – Starting the Day: Self-portrait in lockdown and Li HuangBetween This World and the World Beyond. (as above);. Bethany Cunningham – Steamin’ aff a Sair Fecht, her boyfriend in lockdown mode;  Reuben Sian de GourlayThe Contemplation of Being Back in Nature, c.2059, a meditation of modern society and nature; Huw Williams – Overalls, Mouse ….and Me, a self-portrait with his dachshund, Mouse, who was meant to be a studio dog, but she hated the cold and loud music. (illustrated below).

Photography nominees: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan’ – Gareth and Andrew; Robert Andrew Mheadhoin Trefor shows a builder repairing a track on the summit of a windy mountain;  Peter Iain Campbell –  Milli Kuzem (River Kelvin encounters #002) taken after his daughters discovered a hidden path on the River Kelvin; Samuel TaylorDyron, a joyful, charismatic dancer has a rest;  Ben Douglas –We got everything? shows Sam, Matt and Liam as they set out for a gig.

We got Everything? Ben Douglas

The winners will be announced on 18th November, 2020, who will be presented with a total of £11,000 including the £5000 first prize SPA for Fine Art and £3,000 Richard Coward SPA in Photography.

Visit the SPA 2020 exhibition at the Scottish Arts Club, Edinburgh, 3 – 27 November 2020, Glasgow Art Club, 15 January – 24 February, 2021, Duff House, Banff, 1 April – 30 June, 2021.

Book an appointment on the website.

View the Fine Art and Photography exhibitions on line:

A two minute You Tube video of the exhibition has been set to music by Andy Jeffcoat, commissioned by the Scottish Arts Trust. 

With such a high quality of entries this year, the 180 works on the Long List will be available to view on the website from 15 December 2020 to 15 January 2021.

Overalls, Mouse and Me, Huw Williams

Martini & Rossi, cool and contemporary since 1863, the creators of Cocktail time.

One of the most iconic brands in the world, MARTINI® is Italy’s leading alcoholic beverage producer and offers a range of Aperitivo, Vermouth and sparkling wines of the highest quality. The creation of Vermouth, today the essential ingredient in many classic cocktails, is a deliciously, decadent and inspirational story. 

While fortified wines date back to Ancient Greece, the concept is thought to have been first finely crafted by the distiller, Antonio Benedetto Carpano in Turin in 1786, with his aromatised herbal wine, called Vermouth. Wormwood, also known as absinthe, is the quintessential botanical ingredient of this wine, originally considered a medicinal drink. Wormwood, Wermut in German, translates into vermouth. 

Fast forward to 1847, Pessione, near Turin where “Distilleria Nationale di Spirito di Vino” was founded by Carlo Angelli, Alessandro Martini, Teofilo Sola and Luigi Rossi, to produce wines and liqueurs.  As a wine maker and herbalist, Rossi developed his own Wormwood recipe and is the actual inventor of the Martini brand of vermouth.

Vintage Vermouth bottles

The base formula for any vermouth must be 75% wine – all brands of Martini are dry wines from the regions of Romagna, Apulia and Sicily – with an essence of over 50 herbs and spices and sugar. This Absinthe herb provides the strong, bitter flavour which stimulates the appetite. Vermouths became popular as an Aperitivo, (French – Aperitif), after the Latin verb ‘aperire’, to open, the perfect pre-lunch or dinner drink.

Aperitivo is not a drink, it’s a state of mind” Roberta Mariani, global ambassador for Martini & Rossi.

Their successful export business established branches in Spain, France, Argentina, Romania, Great Britain and the USA and after Sola’s death in 1879, the company was renamed “Martini & Rossi.”   The entrepreneurs were always modern innovators and market leaders.  “Martini Extra Dry”, was first presented at the New Year’s Eve celebration in 1900, and the “Martini Bianco” launched in 1910.  

The famous modern logo was created in 1925, featuring the black name tag “Martini”, superimposed over a red circle, and registered as a trademark in Italy in 1929. 

The Rosso sweet vermouth was first produced in 1863 and it’s said that customers ordering a gin and vermouth would simply ask for a “Gin and Martini.” In America, it evolved into a lady’s tipple, Gin & It, served around 5pm as a pick-me-up.

The classic Gin Martini may have originated at the Occidental Hotel, San Francisco in the 1860s. The bartender, Jerry Thomas was asked to make a memorable cocktail in return for a gold nugget and Jerry named it after the drinker’s home town, Martinez.  The Bar-Tenders Guide, 1887 included the Martinez cocktail – gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, lemon and maraschino liqueur.

More widely accepted is that an Italian bartender, Martini di Arma di Taggia created it at the Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City before World War I. His recipe: dry gin and dry vermouth, in equal parts, and orange bitters.

‘I had never tasted anything so cool and clean. They made me feel civilized.” Ernest Hemingway

‘The aspirational cocktail Gin Martini, beloved by the rich and famous, has become a timeless classic and the epitome of an Aperitivo.  While the precise recipe is a matter of taste, Martini & Rossi believe this to be the perfect ratio: 50 ml Bombay Sapphire Gin, 15 ml Martini Extra Dry, Lemon peel or olive to garnish.

Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes, pour in the well-chilled vermouth and the gin and stir for about 20 seconds.  Strain into a well-chilled Martini cocktail glass. Twist the peel to release the oils and then add as a garnish – or an olive.

Vermouth has long been integral to other key cocktails shaken up by intrepid bartenders between the 1880s and turn of the century, such as the Adonis, Affinity, Manhattan, Bronx and Americano.

The Americano holds the distinction of being the very first drink James Bond orders in Casino Royale – Campari, Sweet Vermouth and soda water – followed by many strong Gin Martinis on his adventures.

James Bond, a Cocktail aficionado

Cocktail time – L’Aperitivo hour – continues to embody the essence of Italian culture, la dolce vita, worldwide. Always a fashionably cool and contemporary brand since 1960s, Martini & Rossi has now launched a new Vermouth.

Martini Fiero is said to “modernise vermouth for a new generation.” Fiero means proud, intense and bold in Italian and is a blend of crisp white wines and botanicals including Murcia orange peel, artemisia absinthium and artemisia pontica.

The perfect serve is with plenty of ice, a mix of 50/50 Fiero and tonic

Martini Fiero Tonic

75 ml Martini Fiero, 75 ml Tonic water

Pour into a large balloon (red wine) glass with ice. Garnish with blood orange wheel.

Martini Fiero with tonic – refreshingly summery

Fiero is a beautifully balanced vermouth, with sharp, tart citrus notes followed by a honey sweetness, the bitterness mellowed by the sparkling tonic.  A refreshing, ice cold long drink which just needs the final ingredient – a warm dash of Italian summer sun!

Just over a century ago in a small bar in Florence, Count Camillio Negroni asked the bartender to strengthen his favourite cocktail, the Americano. The soda water was replaced by gin, the lemon garnish with orange, and the Negroni was born.  

So now for an important experiment – a blind tasting of two Negroni cocktails, one with the usual Sweet Vermouth Rosso and another with Martini Fiero.

The Rosso-based Negroni is richly bittersweet, more herbal, woody and drier on the palate. The Fiero version has an orange fruitiness, hint of cloves and a complex citrus and spicy aftertaste. 

These two Negronis simply vary in subtlety of flavour but with the Campari shining through, both hit the spot.

The Negroni revamped – Campari, Gin, Martini Fiero

Negroni with Martini Fiero

30 ml Campari, 30 ml Bombay Sapphire dry gin, 30 ml Martini Fiero

Add all ingredients into a stirring glass. Strain into a chilled Old Fashioned tumbler glass with a large chunk of ice. Garnish with an orange twist after expressing the zest.

This is certainly a cocktail to entice the taste buds – sip slowly before lunch or dinner. Saluti!

InFor your Eyes Only, while waiting in the Excelsior Bar in Rome, James Bond orders an aperitif, very wisely, the Negroni.

Martini & Rossi has been masters of the original Vermouth since 1863 and the historical home, Casa Martini, in the village of Pessione, near Turin Northern Italy is open to visitors.  Cocktail lovers will be able to see how the famous Italian vermouth and wines are made on an imaginative new tour.

Casa Martiini, Pessione, Italy

 “We are delighted to welcome guests to Casa MARTINI, the heart of the creation of our products for over 150 years. Discover the ingredients and production secrets of a history full of anecdote, entrepreneurial vision and innovation. The new tour consists of a totally immersive experience, an exciting journey to the origins of the Italian Aperitivo.  Marco Budano, General Manager of Casa MARTINI. 

Visitors will see the “Cabinet of Curiosities,” a display case featuring vintage artefacts, technical equipment and archival documents, a collection which links MARTINI to the world of wine.

The Red Circle is an exciting new installation – an illuminated pathway to give an immersive experience of the whole process from grapes and herbs for the finely selected ingredients.

The Red Circle

Take a trip back in time to the historic Still Area where the original copper stills to make vermouth and sparkling wines in the 19th century are preserved. The Mondo MARTINI Gallery and the Museum of the History of Wine is a comprehensive 360 degree tour to illustrate the company’s inspiring history.

Mondo Martini Gallery

 ‘The Heart of Martini’ today is the modern Still Room with its rows of towering tanks where visitors discover more about the finely crafted production process to perfect the delicious vermouths and wines.

The Heart of Martini in the modern Still Room

And finally, of course, it’s Cocktail time in the Tasting Room where you can try three Martini drinks, in the company of an expert guide. Then end the journey around Casa Martini in the Bar to sip a refreshing Martini Fiero & Tonic.

Martini Time in the Tasting Room and Bar

Find out more about visiting the home of MARTINI here: 

The Martini & Rossi company maintained full control of the brand until 1993 when it merged with Bacardí.  According to International Wines and Spirits Record, it accounts for more than 45 percent of the global vermouth market – Casa Martini sells more vermouth than any other brand in the world.

Bienvenue La Fete du Cinema, 2020

The French Film Festival UK is on the road again: 220 films, 28 cinemas, 25 locations, 44 days – La crème de la crème of Francophone Cinema.

After the cancellation of all the Edinburgh Festivals this year, and with most theatres still closed, it is most welcome news that the French Film Festival UK decided to plan ahead in positive spirit.  The 28th edition is back again, from Wednesday 4 November until Thursday, 17th December, 2020.

The inaugural Festival was in December 1992, as one of the selected cultural events as part of the Summit of the European Council in Edinburgh. Almost three decades later, the French Film Festival UK has developed into a major annual celebration of French-language cinema. 

The FFF is due to take place across the UK in independent Art House cinemas from Aberdeen to Plymouth*, screening a hand-picked selection of new movies from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Quebec and Africa.

(N.B * Cinemas may be affected by changing national and regional health and safety restrictions.)

The programme is distinctly diverse with a good deal of comedy to offer the much needed feel good factor, as well as romance, thrillers, family drama, documentaries, Shorts and Classic retrospectives.

The UK premiere in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen will kick off the Festival with Mama Weed / La Daronne. This zany crime caper stars Isabelle Huppert as a police interpreter for the anti-drug squad in Paris. When she gets embroiled in a failed drug deal, inheriting a pile of cannabis, she crosses to the other side to become a well-known drug dealer.

An award winner at the Cannes Film Festival, My Donkey, My Lover & I /Antoinette dans les Cévennes is already a smash hit in France, seen by 600,000 people since opening last month.

When a planned vacation with her secret lover is cancelled, Antoinette sets off to walk  the same the route described in 1879 by Robert-Louis Stevenson in Travels With a Donkey in the Cévennes – humorous tales of his stubborn, slow, travel companion and baggage carrier, Modestine.  Accompanied by her donkey, Patrick, Antoinette experiences an emotional journey of self- discovery against a panoramic landscape. 

Juliette Binoche stars in How to be a Good Wife/ La Bonne Épouse as the immaculate Paulette, who runs the Van der Beck’s School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in Alsace. The year is 1968: a satirical comedy about teaching traditional family values in the era of Women’s lib.

Director Valérie Donzelli  had just completed filming at the iconic location for Notre-Dame,  before the catastrophic fire at the Cathedral in April, 2019.  The unwittingly topical narrative is about an architectural competition to re-design the square in front of Notre-Dame in which Donzelli plays Maud, the winner of the prestigious project. “Sizzling, unconventional comedy, which turns sadness into shared joy“. Cineuropa

Love Affairs/ Les Choses qu’on dit, les Choses qu’on Fait is a charming, romantic Brief Encounter tale, in which two strangers are thrown together by chance, set against the lovely, lush French countryside.

If you can only dream of a winter sports trip this year, enjoy the cinematic experience instead in Slalom. Lyz, a 15 year old student, is put through competitive training at an elite ski club in the French Alps.  The title refers as much to downhill racing as to Lyz’s conflicting feelings for her coach, Fred, when their après-ski relationship develops. 

Slalom -off piste drama set in the French Alps

The heritage of French Cinema has always a part of the FFF, represented this year by two influential Film Noir classics from the 1960s.

Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg in Breathless, 1960

To celebrate its 60th anniversary is a new 4K restoration of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless. Jean-Paul Belmondo plays Michel, a cool, suave, bad guy on the run from the police, hiding out with his girlfriend, Patricia (Jean Seberg), at her Paris apartment to plan an escape to Italy.  

This movie liberated the cinema — as clearly and cleanly as Picasso freed painting and the Sex Pistols rebooted rock.” Boston Globe

Franco-Greek director Costa-Gavras made his debut in 1965 with The Sleeping Car Murders/Compartiment Tuers starring Yves Montand and Simone Signoret. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s chillingly gruesome plot line in “Murder on the Orient Express,” six people travel in a railroad sleeping car from Marseilles to Paris.

When a woman is found strangled, police investigate the other five passengers as prime suspects. With stylish camera work, flashbacks and internal monologues in Hitchcockian moody manner, this fast-paced whodunit is described as “Maigret on speed.”

Simone Signoret, Yves Montand, Claude Mann in Compartiment Tueurs

The Mobile Film Festival also presents a snappy, one minute mini movie on the subject of Climate Change, each filmed on a mobile phone, to be shown as a curtain raiser before each cinema screening.

The series of Short Cuts has been selected this year by the FFF team with the help of university students. Between 3 and 21 minutes, they cover animation, comedy and Sci-fi.    

Following the success of Netflix and Amazon Prime, an innovative venture this year is FFF @ home.  Seven movies will be able to be viewed in your own home from 27th November to 4th December.  This online Festival is ticketed with a limited number of subscriptions – so book ahead asap.

Guest directors and actors have always attended selected cinemas for Q/A sessions during the FFF.  As it is not possible to travel to the UK without quarantine just now, interviews are being pre-recorded. A line up of Virtual Guests include Valérie Donzelli, Anne Fontaine, Emmanuel Mouret and Jean Paul Salomé.

Richard Mowe, the Co-founder and Director of the FFF UK commented:

Despite the challenges, we are delighted to have one of the most varied and vibrant programmes ever at this year’s French Film Festival. We hope audiences will respond to the selection in cinemas ..and will appreciate the option of fff @ home. In these dark times we need the light and reflection that cinema can offer.” 

For the full list of Films, what’s on where and booking tickets:


Printed brochure available.

Funders and sponsors – including Screen Scotland, Creative Scotland, Institut française, Alliance Française, Total, TV5Monde, Unifrance, agnès b, and Côte.

L’Ecole du Cinema: the FFF UK’s Learning Programme inspires young students to engage in the French language and culture through films and online resources as part of the Modern Language curriculum.