Gods of the beautiful game

Who are the Gods of the “Beautiful Game”?

I am letting slip evidence of my misspent youth here, a time when I spent too much time playing, watching, thinking and living football to the detriment of my studies.

Barcelona ’s comprehensive, not to say magisterial, triumph over Manchester United in the recent 2011 UEFA Champions League Final brought with it the inevitable flurry of articles in the media that wanted to know if Barcelona is the best team ever.

As many people have pointed out, it is impossible to compare players and teams across generations. Ever-increasing levels of fitness and the speed of the modern game prevent meaningful comparisons. Players and teams can only be compared with their contemporaries, and just possibly with the generation before and the generation after.

Did the person who coined the phrase “the beautiful game” realise how relatively few occasions there are when this beauty is truly achieved? And who did coin the phrase … does anybody know?

It is much easier to pick out individual players of greatness rather than teams … individuals who demonstrate much greater levels of skill than their opponents, to the extent of making very good players, often so called world class players, look very, very ordinary. I may be showing my age but I still think that Pele sits above all others, particularly in terms of an all-round range of skills … excellent with both feet, good in the air, unsurpassed speed of thought and invention both in terms of what is possible and in terms of execution. Maradona, with his individual virtuoso performances, probably comes second although Messi is knocking hard at the door.

Other players who to my mind join them in this Pantheon of great football players include, in no particular order: Di Stefano, Zidane, Beckanbauer, Cruyf and Moore. Bobby Moore may be a surprise but his performances in both the 1966 and 1970 World Cups personified consummate defensive skill, leadership and authority.

As I have said, the greatness of teams is much more difficult to assess. To my mind a great team needs at least 5, possibly 6, exceptional players and, most importantly, it needs to demonstrate that greatness by not just winning a major tournament but to do so by appearing to take the game to another level and by making other top-class teams look abject in the process.

There are no surprises in my three choices. Here they are in date order.

I am old enough to remember the Real Madrid vs. Eintracht Frankfurt European Cup Final in 1960. The skills of Di Stefano, Puskas, Gento, Santamaria etc were breathtaking to behold as the Spanish side won 7-3. I remember that a recording of the whole game was taken round schools afterwards to show the sublime skills of the Spanish side. British sides of the period looked positively pedestrian in comparison.

The Brazilian World Cup winning side of 1970 contained the most skilful set of players that I have ever seen. I can still remember the names of all the outfield players. Despite my cynicism on most topics … part and parcel of growing old I am afraid … I still salivate at the mere mention of their front four: Jairzinho, Pele, Tostao and Rivelino; backed by Gerson and Clodoaldo in midfield. And the icing on the cake? … that was the move and finish for the fourth and last goal in the final against Italy which was scored by their captain, Carlos Alberto. It still gets quite a few plays on TV and rightly so. “That was sheer, delightful football” said Kenneth Wolstenholme, the BBC commentator … yes it was Kenneth, in spades.

My last team choice has to be Barcelona for their humiliation of Manchester United in the 2011 UEFA Champions League final. Humiliation is not too strong a word … you only had to look at the total resignation on the faces of the United management team as they sat disconsolately on the sidelines. They were totally non-plussed. The bewitching short passing interplay of Barcelona in the last third of the field, orchestrated by the triumvirate of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta was an absolute joy to watch, as were the individual skills of Messi. All in all it was one of those very rare moments in sport when the performance is simply on a different planet from what is normally produced or expected; moments that you are very grateful to have witnessed. In the world of tennis Roger Federer, in his prime, was another example of a sportsman who seemed to operate on another plane from all other players of his generation.

2nd June, 2011

 

2015festivalarchive

Festivals

The EIF joins the pre-announcement game .. the Edinburgh International Festival has announced that Antigone, starring Juliette Binoche,will be part of the drama programme at the 2015 festival. Public booking for Antigone commences on November 29th, 2014. This production can also be seen at the Barbican in London during March 2015. In addition, it was initially announced that public booking for concerts and recitals at the Usher Hall and Queen’s Hall would commence on February 14th, 2015. However, EIF subsequently backtracked on this plan after complaints from regular festival-goers. The complete 2015 festival programme will be announced on Wednesday March 18th, 2015 (the usual date).

It may be my imagination but the Fringe’s roadshows for prospective performers seem to be getting earlier. There are two in late November, one in London and the other in Edinburgh. The latest information on all the planned roadshows can be found here on the Fringe website.

Submissions are now open for the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival. Details can be found here on the EIFF website.

People

Sir Jonathan Mills’ time as Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival came to an end this week. The EIF website has produced this celebration of his tenure. Fergus Linehan officially took over the role with effect from October 1st.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival has announced that Artistic Director Chris Fujiwara is stepping down from the role to pursue other activities.

On December 16th, 2014 the Edinburgh International Film Festival announced that Mark Adams has been appointed as the new Artistic Director. He will begin his tenure in March 2015.

Venues

Creative Scotland has announced details of its stable 3-year funding for 2015-2018. £100m will be made available. The Festival & King’s theatres will receive funding for the first time under this scheme while the Royal Lyceum and Traverse see reductions in their grants of 17.5% and 11.1% respectively. See the article in The Stage.

Thom Dibdin (alledinburghtheatre.com) reports that St. Stephen’s is up and running as a community centre. A tenant is currently being sought to run the building during the 2015 festival. It had previously been used as a Fringe venue for a number of years by Aurora Nova, and more recently by Northern Stage and The Traverse.

Tommy Sheppard’s Salt ‘n’ Sauce Promotions has signed a deal to operate the Assembly Rooms in 2015. It was originally awarded a three year contract in 2012 when the venue re-opened after major renovation work. See the article in Chortle.

The Edinburgh Tattoo plans to hire and install two performance stages on the Esplanade each summer, alongside its 8,500-seat arena. They will be made available to concert promoters, event organisers and the city’s arts festivals. See the article in The Scotsman.

Edinburgh

Two conferences will take place to discuss Edinburgh’s current cultural status, and to make recommendations to the city council on how it can be “improved, continued and secured for the future”. The venue for the first conference will be Summerhall on December 8th, 2014. The second will take place in February. See articles in The Scotsman and The Herald.

Media

BBC News reports that The List, the Edinburgh-based what’s on guide, is to become a free title. It will move from a monthly issue to every two months with print runs increasing from 18,000 to 25,000. The preview and weekly editions during the Edinburgh Festival season will continue.

Festivals

The Fringe launched its search for the official 2015 Fringe poster back in November. This annual competition is open to all Scottish schools. The closing date for entries is March 6th, 2015.

Ii has been announced that Virgin Money will continue to sponsor the Edinburgh International Festival Fireworks Concert for a further three years, taking it up to 2017. See the article in The Scotsman.

The International Festival announced its concerts and recital programme for the 2015 festival on February 3rd, 2015. The online guides can be accessed here. Artistic Director, Fergus Linehan, took the opportunity to caution against standstill funding of the festival. See this article in The Scotsman.

The International Festival is to branch out into children’s entertainment and family shows for the first time this year.

The Scottish Government has confirmed that its Expo Funding (of Edinburgh’s Festivals) will provide £2.25m in the 2015-16 financial year.

The Stage reports that the arts charity Ideas Tap is to close in June. It has been in existence since 2008. Among its works it included the annual Underbelly award which provided Edinburgh Fringe runs for a number of companies. It will honour current commitments, which includes showcasing four shows on the Fringe this year.

The Stage reports that the proposed festival campsite will be sited near the airport, eight miles from the city centre.

March saw the launches of the full Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Art Festival programmes. Further details can be found here.

People

Richard Findlay has been appointed chair of Creative Scotland, taking over from Sandy Crombie. Findlay was formerly chair of the Royal Lyceum Theatre.

Rupert Thomson, artistic director of Summerhall, is to leave to take up a post at the Southbank Centre in London. He has been at Summerhall since 2011 when it was first converted from the old Edinburgh Vets school into an arts centre. The venue grew in popularity almost from the date of its inception. See this article in The Scotsman.

Zinnie Harris has been appointed associate director at the Traverse Theatre. See the article in The Stage.

Venues

Building work in the Bristo Square area means that the Udderbelly will move to nearby George Square in 2015. It is hoped that this will be a temporary move.

St. Stephen’s Centre (the former church) will operate under the name of Momentum Venues at this year’s Fringe. It will be run by theatre company Sell A Door in partnership with the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts. There will be three performance spaces with 450, 200 and 50 seats respectively. See the article in The Stage for further information.

Princes Street Gardens will be used to host three open air concerts during the final week of this year’s Fringe. See the article in the Edinburgh Evening News.

In what appears to have been a controversial tendering process, Underbelly has ousted the Ladyboys of Bangkok from the Meadows site during the Fringe. See the articles in the Edinburgh Evening News and STV Edinburgh.

The Underbelly subsequently announced details of their Circus Hub on the Meadows site which will host 12 shows during the 2015 Fringe. See the article in The Guardian for further details.

Edinburgh

The Festival of Ideas will take place at St. Stephens on March 20th and 21st, 2015. Sessions wil include a discussion on festival funding.

Festivals

The launches of the various summer festivals can be found on the pre-festival stuff page.

The Edinburgh Art Festival announced details of its 2015 commissions programme in mid-May.

A study was commissioned in August 2014 to investigate the perceived dangers to Edinburgh’s pre-eminent position as the world leader in the area of festivals. Thundering Hooves 2.0 was subsequently published in May 2015. I will cover this subject in more detail in this post.

Seven year old John Imray is the winner of the 2015 Edinburgh Festival Fringe Schools Poster Competition.

The British Council’s biennial Edinburgh showcase takes place this year. Details were announced a month ago. It has introduced a new website specifically for the showcase .. at least I think that it is new, or perhaps it just passed me by previously?

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society announced on Tuesday 23rd June 2015 that nominations are now open to stand for election to both the Board of Directors and to the Participants’ Council. Only members of the society may stand for election, and only members may vote in those elections. The closing date for nominations will be noon on Wednesday 22nd July 2015. Any individual who wishes to become a member of the society must do so by August 10th 2015 if he/she wishes to vote in these elections. Voting will commence on or around Wednesday 29th July 2015 and will continue until the AGM on Tuesday 25th August 2015. The results will be published on Wednesday 26th August 2015 .. and indeed they were, and can be found here.

This year’s Edinburgh Festival Carnival Parade will take place on July 19th, starting at 2pm.

Closing press releases at the end of the festival, which include statistics on tickets issued, were made available by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Summaries of the closing press release from the Edinburgh International Festival can be found in various newspapers, including The Scotsman.

Venues

Northern Stage will put on its 2015 festival productions at Summerhall. It had previously resided at St. Stephen’s for several years and at King’s Hall last year.

Paines Plough will be bringing its portable Roundabout theatre back to Edinburgh this year. It will once again be sited at Summerhall. Details of its summer programme, including the Edinburgh Fringe performance, can be found here.

An unseemly war has broken out among the competing Free Festival organisations over the use of the Cowgatehead venues. Articles in the correspondents section of Chortle provide further information. They include … Can we end this brutal Fringe Free-for-allThis mucky affair has damaged the free model.

People

Mark Thomson, the artistic director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, has announced his resignation. He will leave in May 2016, having been in the role for thirteen years.

Bob Last, the chairman of the Edinburgh Film Festival, has stepped down with immediate effect two weeks before the 2015 festival.

Faith Liddell, the director of Festivals Edinburgh, is to step down in the autumn. Festivals Edinburgh, which was set up in response to the original Thundering Hooves report from 2006, is responsible for marketing the city’s festivals.

Allan Little, former BBC journalist, will take over as chair of the Edinburgh International Book Festival in October. He succeeds Susan Rice who has been chair since 2001.

Neil Murray (Executive Producer) and Graham McLaren (Associate Director) are to leave the National Theatre of Scotland next year to take up positions as directors with the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

Edinburgh

Two conferences (under the banner of Desire Lines) took place back in November 2014 and February this year to discuss Edinburgh’s current cultural status, and to make recommendations to the city council on how it can be “improved, continued and secured for the future”. The results of these conferences and the associated public consultations has now been published – it can be downloaded from the Desire Lines website. A further conference will be held at Summerhall on May 19th, 2015 to discuss the findings.

Pre-festival Stuff

Information on festival programme launches can be found here. In addition, links to critics’ recommendations are at the bottom of the page.

Edinburgh International Festival

Fergus Linehan announced the full details of his first Edinburgh International Festival on Wednesday 18th March, 2015. The programme brochure can be viewed online or downloaded in pdf format.

Initial articles on the launch were quickly available through various media outlets, including The List, The Guardian, EdinburghGuide.com,  The Edinburgh Reporter and The Stage.

Early feedback from the critics can be found in The Scotsman.

This punter’s view. The drama programme is strong this year. Antigone with Juliette Binoches, Complicite’s The Encounter and Robert Le Page’s 887 are all must-sees. In the dance programme Sylvie Guillem – Life in Progress and Lo Real are likely probabilities.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

HelpinchoosingFringeshows

The British Council Edinburgh Showcase takes place biennially. Details of the 2015 showcase which comprises 30 festival productions were announced in mid-May.

The Made in Scotland 2015 showcase was unveiled on May 20th. Made in Scotland is a curated showcase of Scottish performance on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, supported through the Scottish Government’s  Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund. There are twenty one shows in this year’s showcase.

I make use of the information in both the British Council and Made in Scotland showcases to help me when deciding on which shows to see at the Fringe.

The so called “big four” (Pleasance, Assembly, Gilded Balloon and Underbelly) announced their 2015 programmes on May 19th. As I have said before .. being old school I will personally wait for the official Fringe launch which will take place June 4th. If you cannot wait you can find information on their joint programme brochure on this Underbelly page.

Summerhall announced its 2015 festival programme on May 19th.

Even the Traverse has given in to the temptation of announcing its programme prior to the official Fringe launch, albeit just by two days. The online brochure (issuu-based) can be viewed hereThom Dibdin in The Stage writes about the programme.

And finally! … it is June 4th, 2015, the date of the official launch of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme. My copy of the programme brochure dutifully arrived in the morning post, 435 pages and weighing in at just under 1.5 pounds (or 660 grams if you are metric). Early articles from the mainstream media include Lyn Gardner (The Guardian), The List, The Stage and The Scotsman.

Bella’s Festival Preview (added June 24th).

Edinburgh Art Festival

The 2015 festival programme was launched on Tuesday 24th March, 2015. See the website for full details.

Articles on the 2015 programme launch can be found in The List and The Edinburgh Reporter.

This punter’s view. I am slowly mulling over the programme. Two photography exhibitions appeal to me at the moment: Lee Miller and Picasso at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Bailey’s Stardust at the Scottish National Gallery.

The Edinburgh Art Festival announced details of its 2015 commissions programme in mid-May. An article on the programme can be found in Artlyst.

Edinburgh Magic Festival

The Cinderella of Edinburgh’s various festivals launched its 2015 programme on Wednesday 22nd April, 2015. I say Cinderella because the Festivals Edinburgh organisation does not recognise it, nor does The Scotsman tend to say very much about it even though it is now in its 6th year. All a bit bemusing!

The programme can be downloaded from here. Articles on the the launch can be found in The Edinburgh Reporter and stv.

Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival

They have joined the “let’s stagger the launch” club. The first part of the programme was announced on Monday 20th April, 2015. The full launch will take place on Thursday 30th April, 2015. Articles on part 1 of the launch can be found in The List and The Edinburgh Reporter.

The full programme was dutifully announced. Details can be found here. A downloadable brochure was available on May 5th, and public booking will commence on the following day.

Forest Fringe

Initial news on Forest Fringe’s 2015 visit to Edinburgh can be found here.

The full programme was eventually announced on Monday 22nd June 2015.

Edinburgh International Film Festival

Death by a thousand individual announcements mercifully came to an end on Wednesday May 27th, 2015 when the Edinburgh International Film Festival finally unveiled its full 2015 programme.

Early articles on the launch can be found in Screen InternationalThe Scotsman and BBC News.

Edinburgh International Book Festival

The unveiling of the Book Festival’s 2015 programme on Wednesday June 10th, 2015 is the final launch of this year’s summer festivals. The programme can be downloaded from the Book Festival website.

Articles on the launch can be found in The Guardian, The ListThe Scotsman and BBC News.

Recommendations from critics and others

I will add selected links here until early August.

10 comedy acts to watch (Brian Logan in The Guardian)

Bella’s Festival Preview (from theatre people in Scotland in BellaCaledonia).

14 highlights at the Edinburgh Art Festival (from The List).

Natasha Tripney’s Fringe highlights (in The Stage).

Fringe and EIF recommendations (Whatsonstage.com).

Edinburgh Festivals: Top 5 picks (The Skinny).

Edinburgh Fringe 2015 round up: the best of what’s on (Independent).

Fest preview guide (Festmag).

Edinburgh Art Festival 2015 review (Observer).

Edinburgh Fringe 2015 – 15 best shows (Lyn Gardner in The Guardian).

Poetry picks for Edinburgh Festival (The Skinny).

2016festivalarchive

Festival News

Festivals

BECTU is mounting a campaign to ensure that all workers on the Edinburgh Fringe receive a living wage. The media and entertainment union says that this follows on from the many complaints that it has received over low (or non-existent) pay, long hours and poor working conditions.
Posted 4th October, 2015.

BP has ended its sponsorship of the Edinburgh International Festival after 34 years.
Posted 7th April, 2016.

Lastminute.com is the new sponsor of the Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Awards. Fosters had been the sponsor since 2010. Perrier were the original sponsors, from the event’s inception in 1981 up to 2005.
Posted 2nd June, 2016.

The announcement earlier this year that Assembly would be running the Assembly Rooms as a digital entertainment venue was a bit unclear at the time, at least to me. All is now revealed on the Edinburgh Digital Entertainment Festival website.
Posted 20th July, 2016.

People

Playwright David Greig will take over as artistic director at the Royal Lyceum when Mark Thomson departs in June 2016.
Posted 10th September, 2015.

Julia Amour, who currently works for the British Council, has been appointed as the new director of Festivals Edinburgh. She will take over from Faith Liddell in December 2015.
Posted 17th September, 2015.

Kath Mainland, the Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe since May 2009, is to step down. She will take up the role of Executive Director of the Melbourne Festival in February 2016.
Posted 9th November 2015.

Shona McCarthy has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, taking over from Kath Mainland. She will take up her post in March 2016.
Posted 13th January, 2016.

Laurie Ransom, the National Theatre of Scotland’s artistic director, has resigned. He will leave the post in June at the end of his initial three year contract.
Posted 16th April, 2016.

Venues

The Riverside Trust has won a two year contract to run the Assembly Rooms as a “digital venue” during the Fringe. The Riverside Trust is headed by William Burdett-Coutts who was also artistic director at the Assembly Rooms for close on 30 years until its refurbishment in 2011. Quite what a digital venue is, I am not sure. Time will tell, no doubt. See the article in The Stage.
Posted 26th November, 2015.

The Counting House, a free venue for the last nine years, is to operate under the Gilded Balloon banner at this year’s Fringe. Advocates of free venues bemoan the loss, while the Gilded Balloon talks of it as being some sort of hybrid model of venue – “pay what you want”. See the articles in Chortle and The Scotsman.
Posted 3rd March, 2016.

C Venues will also adopt the “pay what you want” model at its C Soco venue. See the article in EdinburghGuide.com.
Posted 17th March 2016.

The Circus Hub at the Meadows will return for a second year on the 2106 Edinburgh Fringe. Read the article in The List.
Posted 22nd April, 2016.

The 200-seater auditorium at the National Museum of Scotland will be used as a Fringe venue under The Gilded Balloon banner. The deal covers three years. See the article in The Scotsman.
Posted 23rd April, 2016.


Pre=festival stuff

Information on festival programme launches can be found here. In addition, links to critics’ recommendations will be found at the bottom of the page.

Edinburgh International Festival

Fergus Linehan announced the full details of the programme for the 2016 Edinburgh International Festival on Wednesday 6th April, 2016. The programme brochure can be viewed online or downloaded in pdf format.

Initial articles on the launch were quickly available through various media outlets, including The Guardian, BBC NewsWhatsonstage.com and The Scotsman.

What the Scotsman critics say appeared soon afterwards.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe

HelpinchoosingFringeshowsThe 2016 Fringe programme was launched on Wednesday 8th June. The detailed, and very useful launch document can be found here.

Immediate articles on the launch can be found in various places, including The Guardian, The Stage and Chortle.

The Traverse programme and the Summerhall programme had already been announced.

Made in Scotland is a curated showcase of Scottish performance on the Edinburgh Fringe. It is supported through the Scottish Government’s Expo Fund. The 2016 showcase features 19 dance, music and theatre shows.

Lyn Gardner’s thoughts on this year’s festival in The Guardian are always a must for any serious punter who is looking for some clues in what to go and see among the 3,000+ shows on offer.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival

The Book Festival programme for 2016 was launched on Thursday 9th June, 2016. The press release can be found here. See the website for full details of what’s on.

Initial articles on the launch can be found on various media websites, including The Guardian, BBC News and The Skinny.

The Edinburgh Art Festival

Elements of the programme for the 2016 festival was announced on Wednesday 23rd March, 2016. Details can be found on the festival’s website. The full programme will be announced in May.

Articles on the festival launch can be found in The Skinny, The Art Newspaper, The List and The Scotsman.

The Edinburgh International Magic Festival

The programme for the 2016 festival was launched on Thursday 21st April, 2016. See the website for details plus articles in The List and the Edinburgh Evening News.

The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival

The programme for the 2016 festival was launched on Thursday 5th May, 2016. See the website for full details of the programme. There is an initial article on the launch in the Edinburgh Evening News.

The Edinburgh International Film Festival

After many pre-announcements the full programme was finally launched on Wednesday 25th May, 2016. See the website for full details. Initial articles in the media can be found in The Skinny, STV News and The Scotsman.

Recommendations from critics and others

I will place selected links here as they appear until early August.

Lyn Gardner’s initial thoughts on this year’s festival in The Guardian

Brian Logan’s initial thoughts on the comedy shows in The Guardian

The Stage – “Our critics’ first picks”

Matt Trueman’s ten picks in Whatsonstage.com

Lyn Gardner’s “21 unmissable shows for kids and their families”.

Best magic shows at the Fringe in The List.

Top 25 to watch 2016 in The List.

15 sure-fire Edinburgh festival hits in The Guardian.

50 best shows to see in The Telegraph.

Various articles on highlights of the Edinburgh International Festival are scattered about in the culture section of The Scotsman.

Best shows to see at the Edinburgh International Festival in The List.

The Skinny’s Edinburgh Festival top 5s.


Pick of our Festival visit

Our visit to the 2016 festival has ended. We managed 29 shows and 3 art exhibitions. My favourite shows were:

  • Us / Them .. beautifully crafted piece on the Beslan siege from Belgian company BRONKS
  • Once .. zany, off the wall physical theatre from Derevo
  • Teatro Delusio .. funny mime with masks set backstage at a theatre
  • My Eyes Went Dark .. well-written and well-acted drama
  • Ada / Ava .. shadow puppetry from Manual Cinema
  • Tank .. NASA project in the 1960s, trying to get dolphins to speak English.
  • Erik Satie’s Faction .. one man show on the composer by Alistair McGowan.

Re the art exhibitions, I enjoyed Facing the World – Self Portraits, Rembrandt to Ai Weiwei at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Inspiring Impressionism at the Scottish National Gallery.