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“Sleep when you’re dead”  – mystical, dreamlike landscapes by Adrian Gardner @ Whitespace Gallery, Edinburgh

The American rock singer, Warren Zevon is often credited with coining the mantra, “You can sleep when you’re dead.” or as Bon Jovi stated, “Gonna live while I’m alive, I’ll sleep when I’m dead.

Adrian Gardner graduated in Fine Art at the University of Central Lancashire as well as studying at the University of Lisbon, and now lives in Edinburgh.  After a difficult time during lockdown when he could only exhibit work on line, this showcase of new paintings and prints is based on a narrative theme – the importance of living life to the full:

I try to express what it means to be alive, connections, love, tragedy, existence .. I’m keenly aware of the magic and fragility of it all – a connection to the past and hopefully the future’. Adrian Gardner

Walking into the Whitespace gallery, a lush, languid landscape on the far wall stands out: Off Grid illustrates a couple of hikers trudging downhill towards, perhaps, a Highland loch, with rugged mountains beyond. An intriguing colour palette, switches from soft pastel pinks to shimmering green hills and dark grey clouds with an evocative sense of escape.

Off Grid, Adrian Gardner

A snowy winter day in Wish You Were Here depicts a fun family day out with the artist sitting on a sledge as his son, Charlie stands beside him at the top of the hill.  The ice-blue snow is criss-crossed with tracks while the skeletal bare trees are bathed in a rosy glow at dusk. 

Wish you were here, Adrian Gardner

Observing the panoramic view of jagged, rocky mountains in Transitions, it’s reminiscent for me of a majestic cruise on the Silver Spirit while circumnavitating South America, gliding gracefully along the Glacier Valley, Patagonian Fjords.  

However, Gardner explains that this is based on the dramatic Himalayan mountains in Nepal, although he has never actually travelled here: ‘I paint what I see, what I imagine, places I have been and places I haven’t.’

The Himalayas, Nepal

The Himalayas stretch across Nepal, northeast India, Tibet and Myanmar – as well as the land of the mythical Shangri-La. 

James Hilton imagined Shangri-La in his bestselling novel Lost Horizon (1933). After a plane crash in the Himalayan mountains, British diplomat Hugh Conway claims to have found the utopian world of Shangri-La where the people live in perfect harmony with nature, a paradise on earth.

People make mistakes in life through believing too much, but they have a damned dull time if they believe too little.” James Hilton

Shangri-La is often used as an analogy for a life-long quest for something elusive.  As well as the fictional Conway, only intrepid mountaineers are ever likely to visit the remote, hidden valleys of Nepal.  

Transitions. Adrian Gardner

Transitions is a spectacular, mesmerising landscape of the mind, portraying perhaps his own elusive, lost horizon, conjuring up memories and dream-like imagination.   

The mirror image of the mountain range delicately coloured in pale pink and glistening gold, is like a glimmering reflection on water, a view which is similarly described in painterly fashion in Lost Horizon :

‘The whole range paled into fresh splendour; a full moon rose, touching each peak in succession like some celestial lamplighter, the long horizon glittered against a blue sky.” James Hilton

The soft shades of oil paint in all these landscapes give a luminous effect on the textured quality of the linen.  Gardner has a particular technique, priming and sanding the paint with several coats for a smooth finish.

​One wall features a series of Op Art decorative designs in Bridget Riley-styled geometric stripes and circles with the addition of miniature sea and landscapes in the bullseye centre. Sleep when you’re dead’ has a whirring, whirling sense of movement while the tiny image of a winter tree and snowy field is all about rural peace and tranquillity.

Sleep when you are dead, Adrian Gardner

Another illustration is Seascape, a miniature painting of calm waves and distant horizon as if to say, forget the flurry of life’s problems surrounding us, to focus on the beauty of nature beyond.

Seascape, Adrian Gardner

As a pure abstract, Bright Futures is aptly named, depicting the warmth of summer sunshine and happier times ahead. 

Bright Futures, Adrian Gardner

This is an enchanting, inspirational exhibition of mystical, magical places expressing moments of silence and contemplation.  Gardner is an artist and also a philosopher whose evocative, rose-tinted vision of the world may encourage us all to dream a little more and find our own personal Shangri-La.     

‘It is an innate human condition to imagine and explore in our minds. The world seems small with modern technology, but is immense, giving a perspective on the now’.  Adrian Gardner

Sleep when you’re dead

Adrian Gardnera solo show of reasonably priced, original paintings, (oil on linen), large and small scale; Limited edition prints.

30 July to 3 August, 2022: open 11am- 5pm

Whitespace Gallery, 76 E. Crosscauseway, Edinburgh EH8 9HQ

The Old Course – St. Andrews: classic and contemporary paintings by Davy Macdonald @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art history: ‘the study of aesthetic objects and visual expression in historical and stylistic context.’

Davy Macdonald is a most innovative artist, specialising in dramatic scenes, inspired by meticulous research into Scottish cultural heritage: Herring Lassies, Harris Tweed, Gothic Edinburgh.  This exhibition showcases a diverse range of his artwork, both realism and abstract, but centre stage is a new and topical Figurative theme, The Old Course – St. Andrews.

The 1st Open Championship was played at Prestwick in 1860, with just eight players; in July 2022, the 150th Open featuring 156 players in the field, aptly took place at the world’s Home of Golf.   Cameron Smith produced one of the all-time great rounds in Open Championship history to pip Rory McIlroy to glory at St. Andrews.

Davy Macdonald has researched the cultural golfing heritage of St. Andrews with meticulous and magical detail.  In the first half of the 20th century, Staycation in the British Isles meant visiting the seaside on day trips or holidays and travelling by train was imaginatively promoted through colourful advertisements.

LNER travel poster for St. Andrews, A.C. Michael (1933)

This evocative poster for the London & North Eastern Railway, dating from 1933 and designed by the Welsh artist, Arthur C. Michael features two golfers with their caddies, teeing off in front of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. West Sands is visible in the background.

The fabulous fashion and leisurely lifesetyle of the 1920s and 1930s are beautifully illustrated in these attractive vintage and now extremely valuable travel posters.

With his own inimitable style, Davy Macdonald has created his own stunning series of paintings depicting a line up of women golfers enjoying Tee Time around the Old Course. Against a threatening grey sky, this determined lady, dressed warmly in a red sweater and plaid skirt, eyes up her shot with a follow through of her club. Beyond are the rolling sand dunes and in the background, the church spires and castle of the old town.  

Old Course, # 1 Davy Macdonald

Here she is again, with no caddy to carry her golf bag, standing proudly on the Swilcan Bridge with neat, period detail of her curled hair, tasseled white shoes and ankle socks. This iconic bridge, beloved by golfers worldwide, was built over 700 years ago so that shepherds could move their flock across the Swilcan Burn which meanders across what is now the 1st and 18th fairways.  

Swilcan, Davy Macdonald

While Mary Queen of Scots played on the historic links in 1567, golf here has has long been a traditional sport for gentlemen. Finally eight years ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (founded 1754) decided to allow women to join the Club for the first time. In another railway poster, men and women enjoy a round of golf in the sunshine.

Vintage LNER poster to promote golfing holidays in St. Andrews

Refreshments are essential after a round of 18 holes and The Jigger Inn (1850s) was the Stationmaster’s lodge. The Old Course Resort is built on the site of the former train station which sadly closed in 1969.  This cosy pub is decorated with golfing memorabilia, open-hearth fires, hearty good food, Scottish beers and their own Jigger Ale. Here, a young girl poses elegantly with her club over her shoulder as she heads jauntily into what’s known as the 19th Hole!.

The Jigger Inn, Davy Macdonald

The pioneering and influential Abstract artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, (1912-2004) was born in St Andrews and attended Edinburgh College of Art in the 1930s before moving to St. Ives. Her love of the sea shore is captured in her minimalist drawings, such as West Sands (St. Andrews) and North Sea Fife.

Inspired by Barns-Graham’s linear meditations on waves, sand and wind, Macdonald also relishes the freedom of non-realistic expression to depict a sense of rhythm and energy, such as the swirl of blues and sunshine yellow in Flow #1.

Flow #1 Davy Macdonald

I am fascinated by the power of nature such as skies, seas, atoms and galaxies all in constant change.  My current approach is to work with both hands simultaneously with willow charcoal sticks, brushes or palette knives .. a duet, comparable to a pianist or drummer, both hands working independently yet together creating balance’. Davy Macdonald

Likewise, Flow #3, a mesmerising maze of apparent, ad hoc, quick, red and grey brushstrokes, balanced by a scatter of precise, bold black lines – horizonal and perpendicular.  As the eye follows the ebb and flow of shape and space, there’s a soft jazzy rhythm lurking here in its improvised pattern.      

Flow #3 Davy Macdonald

Having viewed his previous Abstract paintings in recent years, once again, Davy has a real touch of Jackson Pollock (with a more controlled structure), as well as the fluid grid patterns of early Mondrian (e.g. Sea and Starry Sky, 1915).

The truly modern artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.”  Piet Mondrian

As well as original paintings, the decorative designs of the Flow series would create most attractive fabric, textiles and wallpaper.

A large scale, (6 – 4 foot) Abstract composition, Among the Floe, is extremely impressive in both inventive design and experimental technique.  A floe is a sheet of floating ice, all the more visible due to the melting of glaciers and icebergs from the Patagonian Fjords to the Polar Regions.  A flurry of brash brushstrokes splash icy streaks of thick white paint across the canvas with an effective sense of dramatic mood and movement.  


The exhibition also includes work from previous Figurative series, such as At the End of the Day and Herring Lassies at the Harbour Wall – portraits of fisherwomen whose bandaged fingers are the result of shucking oysters, gutting and salting the herring. 

This new collection of nostalgic, vintage scenes of the Old Course, St. Andrews juxtaposed with modern Abstract Expressionism illustrate Macdonald’s evolving, imaginative style and aesthetic vision criss-crossing the world of art history.

Visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view these contrasting classic and contemporary original paintings as well as Limited Edition Prints on paper and canvas.

The Old Course – St. Andrews

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

21 – 31 July, 2022; open 10am – 6pm, daily.

Herring Lassies at Harbour Wall, Davy Macdonald

‘word is’… by Catherine Sargeant – the abstract visual art of language @ Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh

After achieving a 1st class degree in Drawing and Painting at the Edinburgh College of Art, Catherine Sargeant became the first recipient of WASPS new graduate award. Her art practice covers printmaking, drawing, photography, painting and bookmaking, she is a professional member of the Society of Scottish Artists and teaches at Leith School of Art.

Catherine Sargeant, ,SSA – a passion for painting and a love of language.

“I use text in my art, not as a writer or poet but as a collaborator. So many words, so many ways to create. I collect words from various sources: individual favourite words, quotes from the great and good, dictionary definitions, the poetry of Robert Burns, the list goes on’.

Catherine Sargeant

In this collection of paintings and screenprints, using a diverse range of media, “word is” is inspired by the beauty of specific words and the shape of each letter of the alphabet. In family matters, just visible beneath the surface, the original text has been erased to leave a few letters highlighted to create a message about love and kinship in an artistic pattern.

family matters, Catherine Sargeant

This is reminiscent of the experimental literary style, Concrete Poetry, first coined in the 1950’s – Poesia concreta originated in Brazil quickly spreading to Europe: the dissection of words into separate letters constructed in a layout of grids, columns, spirals or the shape of the poem’s subject.  Edwin Morgan was a unique contributor to the avant garde movement, delighting in visual wordplay with intellectual wit.  ‘Message Clear’ repeats the biblical verse from John 11:25 (‘I am the resurrection and the life’) removing different letters to make new phrases.

A fragment from Message Clear, Edwin Morgan (1966)

As a literary visual artist, Ian Hamilton Finlay also specialised in the fragmented format of words within circles and geometric shapes across the page as in ‘Cork Net’ and ‘Broken Heart.’

Catherine makes clear that she is not a poet per se, but celebrates the interpretation of language in minimalist manner to communicate a subtle subtext – ‘often in collaboration with contemporary creative friends – writers, poets, musicians, – adding yet more layers to my work, both literally and metaphorically.’

A chilling message with echoes of Hitchcock’s Psycho and other murder movies is captured in hollywood moment: “A sensual, per f ect scream”.

hollywood moment, Catherine Sargeant

Catherine enjoys experimenting with various fonts although much of the text resembles the typeface of a vintage typewriter, such as in red web and reddest.  Like the clue for a crossword puzzle, each word can be prefixed by the colour red.

red hot, Catherine Sargeant
red web, Catherine Sargeant

Observing how text communication today dominates modern social life, she also focusses on the abbreviated use of language; the selection of edited, altered, blackout phrases lets the viewer interpret their own meaning.  orrizonte (Italian for Horizon) illustrates the definition – ‘the limit of one’s experience’ – as well as the artistic symbol of a compass and fluidity of sea waves. This is a screenprint on paper over a wooden board with resin.

orrizonte, Catherine Sargeant

An intriguing series, Sea Circles captures the changing mood and movement of the waves – from calm to stormy days:  Dream, Silence, Squall, Magical, Sound. These 17 cm round abstract paintings (gloss, graphite and oil on plywood) are so delicately crafted, a soft swirl of blue and white and one single solitary word for calming, meditative thought.

What is so appealing is the simplicity, brevity and clarity of the artwork.  Here are graphic patterns of letters, words and symbols – with an emphasis on the ampersand –  in which the typographical image is more important in conveying an essence of emotion and mood than overall literary significance.

A magical composition is velvety night, which draws the viewer deep into the seascape where a scattering of words – stars, sound – are almost drowned by the flowing waves under a shimmering moonlit sky.  Such a dramatic atmosphere of night-time darkness – a time and place of peace and solitude.

With such imagination, inventiveness and originality, Catherine Sargeant combines both linguistic and visual expression in painterly poems with such precision and creativity.

The Art of the Word.

velvety night, Catherine Sargeant

word is ……. Catherine Sargeant

Doubtfire Gallery, 28 NW Circus Place, Edinburgh EH3 6TP

13 July – 13 August, 2022

Opening hours, Wednesday to Sunday, 12 noon – 4pm.

Homeland @ Dundas Street Gallery: explore the Outer Hebrides and the wider world through the art of travel by Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson.

The Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh is a marvellous space for an eclectic range of pop up art exhibitions.  This week there’s a superb collection of hand crafted, sculptured ‘seascapes’ displayed on towers of white boxes complemented by colourful, decorative maps around the walls.  

Homeland – sculptured seascapes by Donald Libby and decorative maps by Eilidh Jamieson

Donald Libby and Eilidh Jamieson both live in Stornoway and their contrasting artwork is inspired by their homeland, the Isle of Lewis.  Eilidh was initially due to be exhibiting with another artist, and so it was by chance she was introduced to Donald who agreed to collaborate on this joint showcase. 

I find that being born and brought up on an Island shapes you as an individual and as an artist – surrounded by the sea, rugged coastlines and beautiful beaches is where I find my inspiration’.

Donald Libby

His art materials are sourced from beachcombing walks to find salvaged driftwood, water bottles, rusty nails, fishing nets and mooring buoys, washed up by the waves on to the sand.  Working in his Studio Shed, Libby has such a magical imagination to transform these found treasures into unique, hand crafted sculptures.  Each specific shapely piece of timber, metal, glass and plastic is selected to create such realistic miniature cottages perched on a rocky seashore with cute wee dinghies, complete with miniature oars.

Sailors Warning, Donald Libby

The detail is exquisite with washing lines in the garden, twig ‘trees,’ and the creative use of salvaged planks of wood, perhaps from an old boat with peeling red and blue paint, as in Sailors Warning.

These 3D seascapes capture the atmosphere of living on a Hebridean island – you can almost catch a whiff of the fresh sea breeze around harbour walls and sandy beach.  In Approaching Shower, see the pounding waves crashing against the rocky cliff, with the lighthouse keeping sailors safe at sea.  

Approaching Shower, Donald Libby

Libby doesn’t identify exactly the location of each particular scene although a few scenes depicting tall, slender stacks are reminiscent of St. Kilda, such as Gannet Rock. 

Gannet Rock, Donald Libby

Having enjoyed travelling and living abroad made me realise what a privilege it was to be born on the stunning beauty of the Outer Hebrides. It evoked the desire to create art which would inspire nostalgia and a sense of Home’. Eilidh Jamieson:

In 2013, Eilidh was just 19 years old and working on the far side of the world, Mount Isa in the Australian desert and missed her home on the Isle of Lewis. She came across an online shop which could emboss an image of one’s own country onto the cover of a travel journal. This began her love affair with Maps.  

At the gallery you can see a collection of her delicately designed paintings and prints, an enchanting world atlas of islands and countries from the Isle of Lewis to Australia, Asia to South Africa, Canada and the Caribbean. 

World maps: the art of travel in watercolour paintings, Eilidh Jamieson

The Outer Hebrides are named after the Norse word, Harbredey, loosely translated as “Isles at the edge of the Sea.”  A map of this archipelago depicts the 130 miles of wild, rugged, undulating coastline, around cliff tops and white sand beaches.  It is not just the geography and location of the islands which Eilidh is trying to capture but the cultural heritage of her homeland, renowned for Harris tweed and the ancient Standing Stones at Callanais.

The Outer Hebrides etched in gold, Eilidh Jamieson

These unique hand-painted watercolours, decorated with colourful inks and pinpointed specific places on the map sprinkled with flecks of copper, silver or gold for a glittering piece of artwork.  The curving coastline of islands, the curving shapes of borders and boundaries evoke memories of family holidays and romantic journeys of discovery around the world.

A blue tinted watercolour of Scotland, Eilidh Jamieson

With little opportunity to jet off over the past couple of years, we can still appreciate memories of journeys past, and these maps offer an original illustration of favourite places through Eilidh’s innovative art of travel. 

We study maps to be inspired and to daydream of planning a bucket list of where to go on our next wanderlust adventure.

Through her company, EJayDesign, she accepts commissions for personalised bespoke maps with the addition of your own text and title. Printed on giclèe fine art paper or unstretched canvas using pigment inks, they are completed by hand with sparkling of acrylic gold.  These would be perfect birthday, wedding and anniversary gifts for family and friends. 

Scotland maps for personalised gifts

The planning, organisation and travel to set up this exhibition has been a huge effort, having to drive a truck, by road and ferry from Stornoway, with an extensive range of artwork to Edinburgh.  Do take a visit if you can to the Dundas Street Gallery this week to see Eilidh and Donald’s artwork – prices are very reasonable for these finely crafted maps, seascape models and also useful key holders – perfect presents too.

This is a creative debut collaboration between two distinctive artists who share a dramatic imagination and evocative sense of place.  I do hope this review will encourage a gallery on the Isle of Lewis to offer the two artists the space to show off their inspiring artwork in their own Homeland. 

Dundas Street Gallery,  Dundas Street, Edinburgh

Tuesday 5th – Saturday 9th July 2022

The art of observing distant Horizons, real and imaginary @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Horizon: ‘the line where the earth and sea seem to meet the sky; the range of perception or experience – e.g. to broaden your horizons.  

Four artists who all studied at Edinburgh College of Art have collaborated in this exhibition, exploring this theme to take us on an evocative journey through place, time and imagination.

Let’s take a browse around a small selection of the diverse artwork on view:

Soosan Danesh specialises in perfecting abstract Rothko-esque landscapes depicted through the repetition of striated rectangles of unequal measurements, which subtly represent earth, sea and sky.  The Colour of Horizon is a made of interconnecting bold blocks and thin lines to reflect the rich hues of nature and the elements, perhaps grey-black stone, olive green trees, azure blue water, illuminated by a coral red sunset.  

Colour of Horizon, Soosan Danesh

‘This fresh new way of looking at the Scottish landscape, expresses my response to the memory of places and appeals to both emotions and senses’.  Soosan Danesh

Using acrylic on canvas, see how the paint has been paired down in overlapping layers, the green blending with red – minimalist in detail but with geometric depth and shape through the light and shade of muted colour. A meditative landscape of the mind, indeed.

Many of you will have travelled by train along the East Coast Line between London, Newcastle and Edinburgh; as you approach Berwick on Tweed, look out for the spectacular views of the craggy cliffs along the coastline.    

East Coast Line, Soosan Danesh

In this painting Danesh has constructed a more representational landscape to illustrate a shimmering blue sky merging into the waves, the sandy beach, railway track and green fields.  Just like the rhythmic motion of a train, there’s a tangible sense of movement amidst the fresh breeze, as we look out to the horizon across the sea.

Beach scenes around Scotland and New South Wales is the recurring subject for Australian artist, Ruth Thomas in paintings, prints, drawings and watercolours.

Nature’s calligraphy: the myriad of lines on windswept beaches, tiny barnacles in rocks, the delicate structures of shells and seaweed.”

Ruth Thomas

Tidal Flow, Ruth Thomas

With an exemplary eye for geological detail, Tidal Flow focusses on the etched, criss cross patterns on multi-coloured, smooth pebbles, fossilised stones, tiny crusted shells against the translucent fluidity of salt water in a shallow rock pool. A most innovative touch is a sprinkling of salt engrained in the paint to represent tiny particles of sand.

Along the East Lothian coast is the village of Aberlady, known for its nature reserve and as the home of the historian and novelist, the late Nigel Tranter. He began each day by crossing over what he called, ‘The Footbridge to Enchantment’ for a walk along the beach, stopping to jot down literary notes and pick up shells.

Aberlady Bay, Ruth Thomas

Here too Ruth Thomas has been inspired to capture the enchantment and solitude of Aberlady Bay, focussing on the brown, grey and lichen-covered rocks on the grassy sand dune. The perspective is as if snapped through a fish eye camera lens – drawing the eye to the seashore and the low hills of Fife. It is so atmospheric, from the tide-smoothed stones to the billowing clouds reflected on the waves.  

Inspired by contemporary urban environment, Marion Barron has a fascination with Brutalist architectural lines to create meticulous collage artwork.  The precise selection of media and materials is the starting point using inks, acrylic, handmade paper, linen or reclaimed wood.

Peeling Plaster, Marion Barron

Most effective is Peeling Plaster which captures with uncanny realism, the tangible rough, hard surface of scratched, cracked paint revealing old layers of plaster on a concrete or stone wall. The two contrasting. juxtaposed sections are beautifully crafted with feather-light tones of cream, mushroom, cafe latte. But it is the softly textured linen backdrop which gives the perfect balance for this crisply composed, finely integrated collage.  

The tactile feel of fabric is central to Marion’s collages as illustrated in Fissure with its carefully placed scraps and strips of tobacco brown and fawn paper on a grey embossed backdrop, with torn ragged edges and a long split through the centre. The delicate, thin ink-marked lines, grid and curves creates such a precise abstract shape, so mesmerising in its detail.

Fissure, Marion Barron

Influenced by the American Abstract Expressionists, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler. Also with minimalist creativity, Mary Mackay aims to capture the raw essence of natural world. As art is a silent way to communicate meaning, she is also interested in trying to express the space between words and language.

‘Typically, I start by applying a light colour wash to the canvas then add seemingly random marks using stronger colours … to give more prominence to the expression of landscape and plant forms. At this point the really creative work starts!’ Mary Mackay 

With bold, brash brushstrokes in black, with flashes of blue and red in a mustard gold setting, Conversation beginning clearly shows her method of spontaneous mark making, with jagged scratches and a series of white circles, floating over the calico canvas.    

Conversation Beginning, Mary Mackay

The theme of talking and speech is expressed again in Conversation in a landscape, composed of an enigmatic pattern of tiny black dots like hieroglyphics, visual symbols of language.

Forming an abstract pattern is again observed in A Wander Around the Garden this time with a more representational and charming image of what would appear to be a flourish of white daisies, blossoming buds, green leaves and a sense of glowing rosy pink sunlight. 

A Wander around the Garden, Mary Mackay

Horizons is a most inspiring collection of complementary artwork to express the beauty of nature and human experience with fine crafted imagery and symbolism.  It’s about deconstructing realism to express the pared down purity of shape, colour and light with imaginative, atmospheric vision. 

Just like a quartet of musicians, these artists have created their own artistic concerto of free flowing movements to denote luminous, languid reflections on the horizon. They look towards the distance, past and present, the passing of time within the peaceful permanence of place.


Marion Barron, Soosan Danesh, Mary Mackay, Ruth Thomas

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

28 May – 3 June: 10.30am-6pm. Sat 4 June: 10.30-4pm

Horizons: Enticing art in the window at the Dundas Street Gallery – come on in!

Scottish Ballet presents the world premiere of ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ – a real life Romeo & Juliet tale of passionate love and tragic death.

With unwitting, timely prescience, (following recent Royal scandals), Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s epic narrative ballet has now been reimagined afresh by Scottish Ballet in a dramatic new touring production.

Originally created by MacMillan, an innovative, ground-breaking choroegrapher, for the Royal Ballet in 1978, The Scandal at Mayerling is based on the tragic, true story of Crown Prince Rudolf, the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife, Elisabeth.

Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

When he was 23, his parents selected 16 year old Princess Stephanie of Belgium to be his wife but this was a very unhappy, arranged marriage. A few years later when Rudolph met and fell in love with Baroness Mary Vetsera, his parents demanded that he swiftly end the affair, and also that he could not divorce Stephanie.

Baroness Mary Vetsera, 1888

On the morning of January 30, 1889, the bodies of Rudolf, aged 30, and Mary, aged just 17, were found at the Hunting lodge, Mayerling in the woods outside Vienna. The scandal of the affair and apparent suicide pact was immediately hushed up by the Austrian Royal family. As heir to the throne, Rudolf’s death, publicly announced as a heart attack, left the succession in jeopardy, dividing the Hapsburg empire which ultimately led to the Great War in 1914.

The Mayerling Incident, full of mystery, murder and intrigue, has been adapted many times for the movie screen: a 1936 French movie starring Charles Boyer and Danielle Darrieux; Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn, (1957); Omar Sharif and Catherine Deneuve, (1968). The Illusionist, (2006), set in Vienna, 1900 is a fictionalised version of the royal romance. 

This passionate story of real life star-crossed lovers also inspired Sir Kenneth MacMillan to devise a narrative ballet, exploring the social, political and personal background of Crown Prince Rudolf, set within the opulent grandeur of the Royal court. John Lanchbery, conductor of the Royal Ballet orchestra, suggested Liszt as the composer, selecting over thirty pieces to orchestrate into an atmospheric, lyrically lush score.

Lynn Seymour, David Wall and Kenneth MacMillan in rehearsals for the premiere

The premiere of Mayerling took place on Valentine’s Day 1978 at a Royal gala with David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Lynn Seymour as Mary Vetsera.  The audience gave the ballet and MacMillan, a prolonged ovation and the critics praised the ballet’s boldness and originality: Mary Clarke described ‘.. a thrilling, moving theatrical experience’. Clement Crisp commented that MacMillan had moved the three-act ballet from its 19th century structure and conventions into the realism of modern life.  And after a revival by the Royal Ballet at the Met. New York, Anna Kisselgoff  was impressed by  ‘great dancing, great acting on a level of sophistication and richness of detail’. 

Lynn Seymour and David Wall as Prince Rudolf and Mary in the 1978 premiere by the Royal Ballet

Opening in April at the Theatre Royal Glasgow before a Scottish tour, Scottish Ballet now presents a sumptuous new version entitled The Scandal at Mayerling, featuring the full company of forty dancers.  This world premiere will be the first time MacMillan’s iconic ballet has been produced in the UK outside London. 

The drama centres on the Prince and his relationship with the women in his life – his wife, his mother and his mistresses – dramatised through a series of intense duets.  

Crown Prince Rudolf and the powerful women who control his life

Rudolph is a desperate, disturbed young man, trapped in a charmed world of royal wealth and privilege, seeking an escape in in the reckless pursuit of women (both nobles and prostitutes), drink (Cognac and Champagne), drugs (morphine), and revolutionary politics. He also has a morbid fascination with death. With clear echoes of another anti hero, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, he was obsessed with a skull and a revolver which he keeps in his room, as he delves into a deteriorating state of psychosis and addiction.

Edward Watson as Prince Rudolf, with skull (Royal Ballet production, 2013)

MacMillan’s precise and potent choreographic storytelling focuses on characterisation with psychological insight to relate a brutal account of human nature, in a way which only dance can express.  With his moods ranging from desire to rage, Rudolf is one the most demanding male roles created in British ballet requiring a high level of technique and stamina coupled with strong acting skills.  

Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

However, the dancers of Scottish Ballet excel at dramatic clarity as recently illustrated in the stunning adaptations of A Streetcar Named Desire and The Crucible, based on the iconic plays by Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. 

Eve Mutso as Blanche DuBois in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’

The Scandal at Mayerling is a story rich with political intrigue, conflicting emotions, passion and obsession played out against an archaic and crumbling empire. Sir Kenneth’s choreography is some of the most visceral and emotionally charged ever produced – it demands our attention right up to the ill-fated conclusion.”  Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director/CEO of Scottish Ballet .

This revival has been adapted and staged by Christopher Hampson and Gary Harris in association with the choreographer’s widow, Lady Deborah MacMillan:

Kenneth didn’t set out to shock people but was acutely aware that in the ballet world of fairies and tutus, more realistic insights into human behaviour might prove difficult. There is a strong Scottish connection – Kenneth was born in Dunfermline – and Scottish Ballet attests to the highest aims of ballet companies worldwide, performing the best of the classics as well as looking to the future in choreography and designs.” 

This bold, ambitious new production features an elaborate stage set and lavish costumes with the Franz Liszt score performed live by the Scottish Ballet Orchestra.

Dancers and rehearsal staff are taking part in a series of workshops with the Fight and Intimacy Direction company, Rc-Annie. Training in the safe use of replica imitation firearms will also create the authenticity for realistic theatre.   

An intimate pas de deux, Christopher Harrison as Prince Rudolf and Sophie Martin as Mary

The historical mystery of the Mayerling Scandal has recently had a new twist. In 2015, a long forgotten collection of letters found hidden in a bank vault in Vienna might now reveal the secrets behind one of the world’s greatest love stories. 

Please forgive me, I could not resist love,’ wrote Mary Vetsera in a farewell letter to her mother, Helen, ‘I am happier in death than life.’

Apparently, an unknown person had deposited a leather-bound folder containing personal documents, letters and photographs of the Vetsera family, including Mary’s letters, which were finally discovered, 126 years after her death.

Dark, dangerous and daring, ‘The Scandal at Mayerling’ by Scottish Ballet promises to be a richly romantic and captivating dance drama. With a tasty flavour of the raunchy, period TV drama, Bridgerton, (with more bite), it’s sure to be a smash hit and described once again, as in 1978 as “a thrilling, moving, experience.”

Book your tickets now!

Scottish Ballet – The Scandal at Mayerling

Tour dates: 13-16 April 2022:Theatre Royal, Glasgow, 21-23 April 2022: Eden Court, Inverness, 5-7 May 2022: His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen,  25-28 May 2022: Festival Theatre Edinburgh

Age guidance 12+


Take a bracing stroll along the seashore with Fee Dickson Reid at the Torrance Gallery, Edinburgh

‘The sea is a huge part of my life. I live by it, I walk with my wee dog every day by it, I swim in it no matter what the season, and of course I paint it. It’s very much my muse’. 

Fee Dickson Reid

West Wind, Fee Dickson Reid

With her home in North Berwick, just a pebble’s throw from the beach, Fee Dickson Reid specialises in large, atmospheric seascapes along the East Lothian coast. This collection has been an ongoing project for several months, as the theme emerged naturally when she was drawn to painting at different times of the day.

Hence the evocative title of the exhibition, Night, Day, Dawn, Dusk featuring fifty seascapes from sunrise to sunset, observing the ever-shifting expanse of light on sand and sea.

Just like in the Phantom of the Opera – ‘Night-time sharpens, heightens each sensation, Darkness stirs and wakes imagination‘ – the ink black sky is brilliantly illustrated in a series of dramatic, moody paintings. 

The Rain falls at Night, Fee Dickson Reid

A shimmering glow of moonlight shines on the glistening sea in The Rain falls at Night, with a threatening storm cloud overhead and a misty whirl of black and grey clouds. 

There is a most spectacular burst of light flashing across the heavens, shaped like a tornado in Shades of Night, illuminating the sheen on the surface of the gentle flowing waves.

Shades of Night, Fee Dickson Reid

 ‘I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky ….’

From ‘Sea Fever,’ John Masefield

And now a stroll along the beach in the cool light of day in the panoramic scene, As The Wind Blows. The perspective is beautifully composed, drawing the eye over the sea-soaked sand to the water’s edge and beyond to the Bass Rock and Fidra, with a furious flurry of soft clouds and welcome patch of blue sky. 

As the Wind Blows, Fee Dickson Reid

The waves in Glengarry Point show the splish-splash rhythm of the sea water with such clarity and translucency as the curve of the bay leads out to the bird sanctuary Rock. It gives the viewer the impression of standing on the beach alone with a realistic sense of tranquility.

Glengarry Point, Fee Dickson Reid

Fee describes how she likes to paint a seascape in one session to capture ‘the wide open sky and far horizon in all its changing light’ all in one go, instead of returning to finish it later.

The freshness of a new day on the seashore is witnessed in Soft Start where two thirds of the scene is a broad expanse of sky, with pink tinted clouds and an early promise of sunshine. The tide has just gone out leaving behind glistening pools of water.

Soft Start. Fee Dickson Reid

Milan Kundera’s philosophical novel, ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Being’ centres on the theme of living for momentary beauty. Most aptly Fee has used this title to illustrate the pure delicate light as dawn breaks over the sea with an amber gold shimmer. 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Fee Dickson Reid

Dusk: one can never tire of watching a sunset, always a peaceful and truly painterly experience when the sky is splattered in all the shades of the rainbow from orange to indigo as seen in The Light of Setting Suns.

The Light of Setting Suns, Fee Dickson Reid

With a sweep of brushstrokes, this is a mesmerising composition, akin to Rothko-esque abstract expressionism, as is the vivid Fade to Dusk as the sky glows with glorious shades of pink, purple and crimson.

Fade to Dusk, Fee Dickson Reid

The tidal flow of the sea clearly captures Dickson Reid’s creative imagination, and in a couple of paintings, Froth and Frills and Drop Shadow, the power of the crashing waves denote such energy and atmospheric vision.

Drop Shadow, Fee Dickson Reid

Take visit to the Torrance Gallery soon for an exhilarating walk along these beautiful deserted beaches, to experience the realistic light, a refreshing sea breeze and the soothing sound of the waves on the shore.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide ..

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.  

From Sea Fever, John Masefield

The Torrance Gallery

Fee Dickson Reid – solo show

Night, Day, Dawn, Dusk

15th January to 5th February

Tuesday – Saturday, 11am-5.30pm.

36 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6JN

Fee Dickson Reid on the beach at sunset, working en plein air for another seascape.

Celebrate the start of 2022 in sophisticated party style with The Bottled Cocktail Company.

Making a cocktail is an art, like theatre. A bar is the stage for many performances.

The Bartender is a doctor, psychologist and psychiatrist all in one.”

Salvatore Calabrese

The Bottled Cocktail Company is an exciting new venture in the fast expanding ready-to-drink market established by Keivan Nemati and a group of friends to share their avid passion for cocktails.

Keivan Nemati, founder of the Bottled Cocktail Company

Nemati started working in the drinks industry in 2009 in London and is a former Bar manager at The Zetter Townhouse. Inspired by the similarities between the crafting of cocktails and the art of fragrance, he began studying perfumery as well as collaborating with spirits brands on developing new products.

The Bottled Cocktail Company’s mission is simple:

‘We believe that cocktails should not be relegated to cocktail bars, to bring a true mixology experience whenever you want in the comfort of your own home.’

Drink with friends – social Zoom parties during lockdown

During the Covid pandemic lockdown in the UK between 2020-21, with bars and restaurants closed (and people shielding at home), the way we consume alcohol changed dramatically.  Instead of just sipping wine over dinner, we bought spirits and cocktail shakers to concoct our favourite tipples while entrepreneurial mixologists and drinks businesses caught on to the demand and created pre-mixed cocktails in cans, cartons and bottles.

Staying in became the new going out, and the Japanese buzzword ‘On-nomi’ (‘drinking alone’) led to socialising by zoom with ‘virtual’ happy hour parties. 

But when was the first pre-batched cocktail produced?

Campari, the fashionable hot red drink since 1860

In 1860, Gaspare Campari founded his eponymous aperitivo drinks brand in Novara, near Milan, and in 1932 an attractive triangular bottle of pre-batched Campari Soda was produced, still a bestseller today. The Bellini was invented in the summer of 1948 by Giuseppe Cipriani at Harry’s Bar, Venice – Prosecco and fresh peach pureé. 1988 – the Luciano Canella winery created Canella’s ready-to-go Bellini.  

1990, USA – the Barcardi Breezer, a ready made, sweet, fruity rum punch soon brought the alcopop taste of the Caribbean to the British Isles.

Fast forward to today. The ready-to-drink sector was the only alcohol category to see growth of sales over the past couple of years, outperforming the rest of the drinks industry with UK sales in 2020 reaching £412 million.   

‘RTDs are amongst the most innovative and creative drinks in the market, forever changing, adapting and growing the potential’.  

London Spirits Competition.  (June 2021)

Welcome then to the Bottled Cocktail Company which has launched its initial range: El Presidente, Elderflower Highball, Negroni, Dry Gin Martini, Old Fashioned and Passion Fruit Spritz, with more to be released in the coming months.

The Bottled Cocktail Company inaugural collection

All drinks are ready to serve, well chilled, to be sipped either straight up or over ice.  Nemati’s professional experience both as a mixologist and his knowledge of perfumes, ensures that the finest spirits and ingredients are selected for bespoke, premium quality cocktails.  

Count Camillo Negroni who created his famous cocktail in 1919

The Negroni was invented just over a century ago in Florence, when Count Camillo Negroni decided that he wanted his usual Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, soda water), to be jazzed up. The creative bar tender replaced the soda with gin, unwittingly creating Italy’s beloved and world renowned cocktail.    

The Silver Fir Negroni from BCC

Silver Fir Negroni, 21% abv.  

Gin, Italian Vermouth, Orange Bitter & Silver Fir 

Simply pour 80ml – 100ml into a Rocks glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange.

The Taste Test:

On the nose, a richly aromatic, earthy, woodland scent and then the first sip: elegantly smooth, followed by the delectable sharp, bitter orange tang which lingers on the tongue.  It is the perfect Aperitivo – meaning that the bittersweet, herbal flavour opens up the stomach to give one an appetite.  This is simply exquisite.

The Negroni – sip before dinner to whet the appetite

“About 80% of (our) perception of flavour actually comes from the sense of smell. We create our own aromatic essences and tinctures to tweak the flavour profile of classic cocktails”.  

Keivan Nemati

The crafting of a London Dry Gin is a culinary science, blending specific botanicals for the perfect balance of floral, fruit and spicy notes. Instead of drowning gin in a G&T, nothing could be more delectable than a very dry, oh so romantic, Gin Martini.   

The BCC signature blend of spirits, herbs and spices for their Dry Gin Martini

Dry Gin Martini, 26% abv. 

Gin, French Vermouth & Wintergreen Essence

The BCC suggest chilling the bottle in the freezer for two hours before serving, instead of stirring over ice to avoid any dilution.  Pour 70ml – 100ml into a cold Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon or green olive. 

Alternatively for a more savoury flavour, try a pickled pearl onion which creates a Gibson. This was invented at the Player’s Club, New York in the 1940s for the American artist, Charles Dana Gibson, when the bar had no olives for his Martini.

The BCC version enhances the usual recipe of Gin and a splash of Vermouth with a special wintergreen, eucalyptus and peppermint essence,“ brightening up the gin and wine botanicals, adding mouthfeel and length.”

The pure taste of a dry Gin Martini

The Taste Test:

I added a couple of green olives and took a tentative sip of this ice cold cocktail. My goodness this packs a punch – although it has a delicate flavour and silky smooth texture, beautifully cool, crisp and dry. This hits the spot in an instant with the pure, clean taste of a Gin Martini which I adore.  

As did Dorothy Parker!

As this is BCC’s secret recipe, the ratio of gin to vermouth is not given and there are many variations, according to preference.  Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) dictated 2 parts gin to 1 part vermouth, while other bar tenders say that a very dry Martini is 3.5 parts gin to 1 part Vermouth. 

Elderflower Highball  20% abv. 

London Dry Gin, Elderflower, Lime, Fresh-cut-grass Essence 

Pour 70ml to 100ml into a glass filled with ice and top up with your favourite mixer, (tonic, soda, ginger ale) for a long refreshing drink.   

The Taste Test

With a good splash of tonic and slice of lemon, this is a fine alternative to a G&T. The Elderflower liqueur adds a floral sweetness and the lime cuts through with a sharp, citrus tang.

With Nemati’s technical wizardry perfecting perfumes, the fresh-cut grass essence is so imaginative – Elderflower Highball would certainly be ideal for summer picnics and sitting relaxing in the garden. 

The Silversea cruise line has several “house” cocktails such as the Silver Spirit named after one of the elegant ships: 60ml Gin, 60ml elderflower liqueur, 12ml lime juice and 40ml Sauvignon Blanc. 

Elderflower Highball ‘Silver Spirit’

80ml – 100ml Elderflower Highball  (gin, lime juice, elderflower cordial). Top up with Prosecco.

Do try this fragrant, lip smacking gin cocktail.

Elderflower Highball fizzed up with soda, tonic or prosecco

These 70 cl bottles offer between 7 -10 serves so perfect for parties –  spend much less time measuring, stirring, mixing and shaking drinks and enjoy a relaxing time drinking with your friends.  Turn your home into a classy Cocktail Bar with your own personal ‘mixologist’ .

“To me, a cocktail must satisfy the eyes, satisfy the nose and thirdly, satisfy the palate. The perfect cocktail is a crescendo of colour, flavour and texture.”

Salvatore Calabrese

Sipping, sampling, testing and tasting these seriously impressive BCC cocktails has been a delightful, delicious experience. Keivan Nemati and friends clearly have the magical touch of the alchemist to create a fresh, modern twist to these timeless classics.

The stylish bottle design and branding, developed by the Italian creative agency HB Production, feature a geometric pattern, colour and shape to represent the concept of each cocktail.

The Old Fashioned is also in the BCC collection of cocktails

The BCC is already building up a strong fan base:

Great service and the Negroni is delicious! Can’t wait to try the rest of the range”

Ordered the El Presidente and Old Fashioned and loved them both. Really great quality, so quick and easy. Good value too.”

For more information on all the BCC cocktails and to purchase from the online shop:

BCC cocktails are also sold through: Drinkinbible, Sip & Share, Wildsip, Indy Cellar & Not On The High Street

P.S.  Keivan Nemati co-wrote ‘Make Something Bloody Marvellous,’ a gin-based cocktail book using foraged botanicals, which was shortlisted at the Gourmand Cookbook Awards 2020. 

Wishing you a cool, crisp, sparkling Festive season with Codorníu Cava and Vida Wines

Codorniu is probably one of the UK’s most recognisable Cava labels and no wonder. As the pioneer winemakers behind the first ever bottle of Cava, this is the oldest Spanish winery celebrating over 450 years of cultural heritage with the famous C Logo as the iconic image.

In 1551 Jaume Codorníu founded his family wine making business producing still wines; the marriage between the heiress Anna Codorníu and winegrower Miquel Raventós in 1659 brought two wine dynasties together but Anna’s surname was retained as the brand name.

The Codornuiu family vineyards, near Barcelona

Two centuries later, Josep Raventós Fatjó came back to Spain from a fact-finding research trip around France and, copying the production method of French Champagne, created his own brand of sparkling wine.  He ordered a cave (or cava in Catalan) to be built, a labyrinth of underground cellars to store wines for fermentation at a constant, cool temperature. 

In 1872, he produced his first bottle of Cava using the same traditional method as Champagne, using a blend of native grape varieties of Penedès: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.

The underground cellars to store the wine for fermentation and ageing

Manuel Raventós was an early drinks entrepreneur, keen to develop Cava as a successful business. In 1895 he made plans to build a new building at the winery with the Art Nouveau artist, Josep Puig i Cadafalch in charge of design and construction.  

The Codorniu Art Nouveau House of Cava

When it opened in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia near Barcelona in 1915, Cavas Codorníu became a Catalan Modernist artistic symbol of the company’s enterprising spirit and vision of the future.

Vintage advertising for Codorniu Cava in the late 19th century

Marketing Champagne Codorniu was most inspired with 1898 artistic posters by Ramon Casas.  Codorníu was also first advertised on Spanish Television in 1959 – once again a pioneering commerical promotion ahead of the game. 

In 1976 the Codorníu House of Cava was named a National Historic Artistic Monument by King Juan Carlos.

The first and very fashionable Catalan Cava launched in 1872

Since its earliest days, Raventós Codorníu winery has been synonymous with innovation and quality, using premium grapes from the family vineyard estate. The traditional method involves two fermentations of the grape juice, first in barrels before transferred into bottles where yeast and sugar are added, then sealed with a temporary closure. The wine has a secondary fermentation to convert into alcohol and a natural by-product, CO2, dissolves into tiny bubbles to create naturally sparkling wine.  The bottles are turned neck down and gradually rotated funnelling the yeast sediment (the lees) into the neck. When this is cooled, the pressure of the wine pushes out the sediment, a little sugar and wine called a dosage is added and the bottle finally sealed with a cork.

The sophistated, elegant lifestyle of Cordorniu Cava

So time to pop a couple of corks! 

Codorníu Vintage Brut 2019. 

Grape varieties:  Macabeo, Xarel·lo and Parellada. Alcohol content: 11.5%.

There is a specific harvest time for each variety of grape, Macabeo at the end of August, followed by Xarel.lo and finally Parellada, early October. The grapes are destemmed and crushed with the wines blended and bottled. A second fermentation followed by a period of ageing in the underground cellars at a constant temperature for at least 9 months. This is the traditional method.

Characteristics.  A pale straw yellow colour, an aroma of citrus fruit, almond blossom with notes of brioche and dried fruits and nuts.  A fine mousse on the palate with balanced freshness. Serve well chilled.

Ice cold Codorniu Vintage Cava

The Taste Test

Nose: lemon zest, softly floral.

Taste: the first sip is sensational, the “fizz” is so delicate and fresh tasting, crisp apple and dry like a water biscuit. The overall impression is its smooth elegance, far removed from a sweet Prosecco or honeyed Chardonnay Cava. 

If this were a blind tasting with a few coupes of French champagne, it would surely fool the judges. 

The quality is due to the fact this is a vintage cava made with grapes from a single harvest. Perfect to sip as an apéritif or with tapas and fish dishes- smoked salmon, calamari.  

(Interestingly, Sainsbury Taste the Difference vintage Cava is supplied by Codorniu so they have selected the best!).

Codorniu Rosado

Codorníu Rosado Cava

Grape varieties: Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat. Alcoholic content, 11.5%

This sparkling wine is also made in the traditional method, the same way as Champagne which gives the wine depth of flavour, elegance and long-lasting, fine bubbles.

Characteristics: A dry, pure and bright Rosé fizz with the aroma of strawberry. Serve chilled (6-8°c)

The Taste Test

Nose:  pale cherry pink in colour with the fragrance of summer berries and blossom

Taste: light and fruity with zingy notes of raspberry, strawberry and juicy plum. Fresh and vibrant, rather than sweet, well balanced and with a crisp finish, like a dry, blush Rosé from Provence with bubbles. This is the flagship Rosado Cava in the UK.

A delicious, pure, pink fizz to sip as an aperitif – perhaps add a raspberry to the flute too. This is a celebratory toast as a charismatic change from classic Cava. In summer, (or any time), serve with a dessert of mixed berries and cream.

Pink fizz with raspberries for extra fruitiness

Proudly Catalonian, Codorníu Cava has been contemporary since 1872, constantly keeping up with trends and tastes to maintain its global reputation, producing an innovative range of sparkling wines, Anna Codorniu, Brut Codorníu, Non-Vintage Brut, Vintage Brut, Codorníu Ars Collecta Blanc de Noirs. 

Codorniu Anna – the modern taste of Cava

Named after their 17th century ancestor, Anna is the most modern expression in the range, the first to use chardonnay grapes: youthful, fresh with a unique personality, this is the brand’s emblematic Cava reflecting its fine heritage.  The perfect aperitif and an ideal partner for shellfish, sushi, sashimi and carpaccio.

Today, Raventós Codorníu has more than 3,000 hectares of vineyards, one of the largest vineyard owners in Europe; Codorníu is the best selling Cava brand in Spain and exported to 50 countries, 54 gold medals and their range of sparkling wines are served at over 50 Michelin star restaurants worldwide.

Codorníu promote a contemporary Mediterranean lifestyle – sunshine, beaches, joy, freedom; casual, spontaneous, sometimes sophisticated; celebrations and special moments in life – to share the Cava experience worldwide.

The, contemporary, Codorniu Catalonian lifestyle

Codorníu Discovery and Iconic tours in the Cava Capital

 Casa Codorníu is located 30 minutes from Barcelona in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Learn all about the history of the family dynasty on a tour of the House of Cava, the majestic Art Nouveau building designed by the architect, Josep Puig i Cadafalch; Taste three iconic prestigious Cavas and a small aperitif.

The vintage artwork at the historic Codorniu winery

Read more about Codorníu Cava here:

Just time to add a personal recommendation for VIDA, an exciting new wine and spirit company in the UK, highly regarded for personal customer service. 

VIDA UK is the third branch of the company, following on from Sofia & Vienna, as part of a growing family tree. The idea behind Vida Wines began about 5 years ago when a vineyard was acquired in Northwest Bulgaria, close to the medieval fortress of Baba Vida, which inspired the name.

Baba Vida Castle, Bulgaria

The region has a long winemaking history thanks to a unique microclimate.  As wine makers and importers, VIDA Wines offer the finest Central and Eastern European wines carefully curated from 15 countries to showcase the classics, new producers and exclusive wines.

Vida Viognier

Country of origin: Bulgaria, Danubian Plain

Grape Variety:  Vigonier. Vintage:  2020. ABV: 12.5%

Characteristics:  Delicate nose with great elegance and aromatic nuances of white flora, apricots, herbs, toast. Dense with fresh acidity and a slight minerality which contributes to its great quality. Long, persistent, fruity finish.

The Taste Test:

Aroma:  a delicate fruitiness, the scent of an orchard.  

Taste:  As I would often select Sauvignon Blanc (NZ), Chenin Blanc (South Africa), and Pinot Grigio (Italy), this has a fresh, dry, crisp clarity which is distinctively different. The lingering, soft apricot – peach flavour adds to the dryness with a hint of lime and spicy lemongrass. Deliciously delicate.  The viognier grape creates an aromatic fuller-bodied style of white wine and pairs well with white meats, fish, shellfish, scallops and dishes with earthy herbs, e.g. basil in a classic Italian Caprese.

On Trust Pilot, Vida Wines has received 5 stars from 92% of their customers.

Reviews from happy drinkers: Winter 2021

Excellent service, great selection of wines and superb advice, cannot fault them and will certainly be buying more Vida wines.

Great service and the wine was beyond expectations.

Vida may be a new company in the UK but they have a refreshingly old fashioned attitude to customer service and I fully recommend them.

These are a few suggestions from VIDA which will add an inspiring range of hand picked European wines for your Christmas or New Year party. 

 Under £10 wines:

•          VIDA EXCLUSIVE : VIDA Viognier 2020 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £9.99.

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard : Averesti Selectie Cabernet Sauvignon NV Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £7.99.

Under £15 wines:

•          VIDA Direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Chardonnay 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £14.69.

•          Angerhof- Tschida Beerenauslese 2017: Angerhof-Tschida Beerenauslese 2017 Vida Wines and Spirits UK ,£13.89.

Under £25 wines

•          VIDA direct from Vineyard: Kristančič Pavo Cristatus Classic Cuvee 2014 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.29.

•          Karl Fritsch Riesling Mordthal 2019 Vida Wines and Spirits UK, £21.79.

Browse the full collection of wines and spirits here:

Eat, Drink and be merry this Festive seaon. Cheers!

The virtuoso ballerina, Natalia Osipova gives a truly exhilarating, passionate performance as Carmen in a filmic re-imagination of the classic tale.

Since Bizet’s opera was first staged in 1875, based on Prosper Mérimée’s novella about Don José, a soldier, Micaëla a peasant girl, Escamillo, a bullfighter and Carmen, the flirtatious gypsy, Carmen has been creatively adapted and updated afresh, from the Broadway musical, Carmen Jones to Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man.  

After being postponed last year during lockdown, the world premiere of Didy Veldman’s intimate dance-drama, Carmen took place on 17th December, 2021 in Edinburgh. With a music soundtrack combining orchestral extracts from Bizet’s opera and new compositions by Dave Price, the cast of international dancers, Jason Kittelberger, Isaac Hernández, Hannah Ekholm and Eryck Brahmania is led by the superstar ballerina, Natalia Osipova.

Natalia Osipova takes on the challenging role of Carmen

Having trained as a gymnast, Osipova studied ballet at the Moscow Academy before joining the Bolshoi, then American Ballet Theatre and the Royal Ballet, performing leading roles in Swan Lake, Giselle, The Nutcracker and Don Quixote with award winning success. 

As Kitri in “Don Quixote” Osipova has a gamine quality, the turn of her head, the flash of her smile, her response to the music .. she is never more alive than onstage. – New York Times

‘ .. one of the truly great Giselles of our times.’ – Backtrack

With a backdrop scene of a city apartment block, the Carmen set comprises a large sofa, coat stand, full length mirror and iconic film director chairs. Cinematography is at the heart of the contemporary, audio- visual narrative in which Brahmania plays a camera man, filming the dancers’ every move – in character and off stage – with the click of the clapper board as the next scene is snapped. 

The ensemble of Carmen dancers are filmed in performance and back stage

The plot follows the twist and turns of the tangled love interests between José, Michaela, Carmen and Escamillo, which echo the personal relationships between the dancers when relaxing on the sofa in the Green Room.  Through the camera lens, the intimate close ups have an element of film noir voyeurism in Rear Window mood and mode.

With a bouquet of red flowers delivered from an admirer, Carmen seems lost and vulnerable, staring intently at herself in the mirror, perhaps searching to find her true self in the reflection.

Natalia Osipova as Carmen in search for her true identify in her reflection

The opening sequence is fast paced action to the strident sounds of an electronic music score with acrobatic leaps, axels and jetés.  First dressed in rehearsal T shirt and leggings, Carmen changes into a red velvet basque, satin cummerband and black ‘cigarette’ trousers akin to a matador’s suit of lights.

Each scene is perfectly matched to the seamless flow of familiar Bizet tunes criss-crossing with a romantic 1950s-style movie score and melancholic violin and cello sequences.  To enhance the music and dance, it’s all very cinematic with dramatised videos of the four protaganists projected on screen.  While the voyeurism vision is a clever device, the continuous frantic rushing around by the film maker, even into the auditorium, becomes rather distracting.

Natalia Osipova and Jason Kittelberger as Carmen and Jose

As dark feelings of jealousy radiate, a passionate Pas de deux with Carmen and José is performed to a Tango rhythm in slow, sensual motion.  Jason Kittelberger has a strong muscular physicality, a large bear of a man, yet he holds Natalia in a tender embrace.

She prowls like a sleek panther, eyes alert, ready to pounce on her prey, her slender arms and legs extended in straight linear precision with every high kick; in one breathtaking move, she wraps her foot around his neck like a snake, drawing him closer.

Natalia Osipova and Jason Kittelberger in Carmen – an exhilarating partnership

Watching from the wings, Michaela is consumed with rage, putting on Carmen’s red hat and cape, as the two rivals prepare to fight for their man.  With her teasing, taunting manner, Carmen casually dismisses José and turns her flirtatious smile and guile to entice Escamillo into a dangerous game of seduction: the dancer Hernández brings cool, romantic Latino charisma to the heroic Torero character with soulful intensity.  

Isaac Hernandez as Escamillo and Natalia Osipova as Carmen

The colour of crimson blood-red dominates the stage design and costumes from a flurry of rose petals to the fabulous swirl of the Toreador’s cloak as the dramatic tale of love, hate and revenge races at fast speed to its terrifying, tragic, but rather sudden, conclusion. 

With a performance time of just eighty minutes, this minimalist version of Carmen could certainly be extended to develop charactersation and Spanish cultural heritage of the original Mérimée story, in a full scale production with live music. The Edinburgh International Festival 2022 or 2023?

Rivals in love: Natalia Osipova, Jason Kittelberger and Isaac Hernandez in Carmen

Natalia Osipova is a truly dazzling, dynamic dancer combining acrobatic agility, acting skills and elegant balletic poise. Her insightful, psychological portrait expresses every facet of the feisty, free-spirited Carmen with vivacious energy and ever-shifting, pure emotion. 

‘Love is a rebellious bird that no one can tame

Love is a gypsy’s child,

If you do not love me, I love you

If I love you, then beware!’

from Habanera, Carmen (Bizet)

‘Carmen’ is a Bird & Carrot Production in association with The Pleasance Theatre Trust

Director and Choreographer: Dido Veldman, Composer: David Price, Set and costume: Nina Kobiashvili, Video artist: Oleg Mikhailov, Lighting design: Ben Ormerod


Natalia Osipova: Carmen, Isaac Hernández : Escamillo, Jason Kittelberger: Don José, Hannah Ekholm: Michaela, Eryck Brahmania: Camera man/fan/cleaner

The World Premiere took place on 17th and 18th December 2021, Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Bird & Carrot present Carmen in association with The Pleasance