lucy fulford

Annual Semana Cultural week announced by department

By Lucy Fulford

The Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies has announced their ‘Semana Cultural’ at the University of Bristol, starting on March 8th.

The annual event includes a series of lectures and seminars on a range of historical, political and cultural topics pertaining to the department’s subjects, as well as film screenings, musical performances and theatre.

The week is described by the department as, “An intensive programme of general cultural interest." 

Mr Rogelio Vallejo,University Senior Teaching Fellow in the Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies Department, is organising the week’s events.

He informed Epigram that the department has been running Semana Cultural for over ten years. "As with any project, we started tentatively;’ he says. "Our successes were recognised further when we started attracting sponsors.”

Oxford University Press sponsored the event for a number of years, and current sponsor, the Santander Group, made financial support for Semana Cultural a condition of their continued support for the University of Bristol.

“This indicates that we have transcended the departmental scene, and become well recognised in the Hispanic cultural world,” commented Mr Vallejo.

Indeed artists from across the Hispanic world have taken part in Semana Cultural, with the week showcasing a wide range of Hispanic talent, including painters, musicians, playwrights and filmmakers.

The week also pulls in big names in Hispanic academia: one of the key speakers this year is award-winning translator Margaret Jull- Costa who has translated the works of several Nobel Prize winners.

“Not only is she a Bristol graduate;’ explains Mr Vallejo. "But she has won a number of important prizes in her field, tantamount to the 'Oscar for translation’!”

This year’s programme demonstrates the departments desire to make the week interesting for a wide audience, with events ranging from a round-table discussion on the chances of the Spanish, Portuguese andLatinAmerican teams in the 2010 World Cup to film showings, readings from the Chilean poet Andres Anwandter and daily live music performances.

Mr Vallejo is eager to stress that the events are open to students of all subjects, staff, and the general public. Presentations take place in Catalan, Portugese, Spanish and English, and while non-Hispanic speakers will inevitably be more limited in their choices of events, there is plenty on offer for everyone. 

The week ends, as is tradition, with the annual theatre performance by students of the Language Through Theatre course.

This year’s 'Quien Abra la Caja TIene la Culpa’,showing on March 12 and 13, has also been devised by these students.

The ethos of Semana Cultural is summed up well by Mr Vallejo.

“What I don’t want people to think is that Semana Cultural is exclusively academic. Wetry to make it popular too, having young people, musicians … make people realise we are not just about serious business!”

Semana Cultural (Cultural Week) takes place from 8-13 March in the Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, School of Modern Languages. For full programme of events, see http://www.bris.ac.uk/hispanic.

Student counselling service moves

By Lucy Fulford

The University of Bristol Student Counselling Service moved into new premises on St Michael’s Hill on Monday 18th April. The move saw the service relocate to the 3rd Floor of Hampton House, St Michael’s Hill from the previous Priory Road premises on the university precinct. Student counselling now shares the same building as the University of Bristol Student Health Service.

Head of Student Counselling Jackie Head told Epigram that the service had moved in order to accommodate their growth. “In the last year at Priory Road we were having to utilise three other rooms in the university to accommodate all our one on one and group work and this was logistically complicated. Now we have everything under one roof”.

Head describes the new facilities as “light and airy with a feeling of spaciousness”. Staff have sourced new and recycled furniture, along with organising exhibiting artists to display their work in the building.

The hope is that this will create a “beautiful space that lifts the spirits”. The new site additionally has the space to house a library where students can read resources or to log on to online self-help support. “This library has been made possible because of the Swagota Basak Memorial Fund and we hope to open it in May this year,” says Head.

In addition to the improved environment, the move to Hampton House provides the advantage of placing the Student Counselling Service in the same building as the Student Health Service and the Access Unit, which is moving to the lower ground floor. “Our three services work closely with each other and this will make liaison easier,” Head explains. This in turn should improve the assistance students receive.

The service is running a range of workshops and therapeutic groups from the new facilities this term which offer support at this stressful time of year. Full details are available on the service’s website.

Clifton Inspired Novel 

By Lucy Fulford

On 14th May Lord Jeffrey Archer launched his new novel, Only Time Will Tell, at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel.

This is the first in a series of five books – The Clifton Chronicles – spanning 100 years, Only Time Will Tell is set in Bristol. Covering the inter-war years from 1920 to 1940, it follows Harry Clifton from life by the docks to Bristol Grammar School and on to Oxford University.

Speaking in Bristol, Archer described the saga as “the biggest challenge of my life… it is pretty daunting at one level and very exciting at another”.

Archer’s family hails from the West Country; his great-grandfather was born in Clifton and his grandfather in Nailsea, meaning that this area has been “inculcated” into him from a young age. While he does not yet know how much of the further four books will be set in Bristol, Archer is “delighted that this will be something for Bristol”.

The book launch was tied to the plot of the novel; held at the Palm Court Restaurant at the Marriott because Masie Clifton, mother of the lead character of the book, works there as a waitress in the novel. Prior to the launch, local theatre company Stand + Stare produced an immersive theatre event set on a 1920s bus, playing characters from Only Time Will Tell.

The best-selling author and former MP is well known for his political career that ended in his imprisonment in 2001 for perjury and perverting the course of justice.

What about the other missing people?

The Joanne Yeates case dominated the media after she went missing, but more must be done to highlight the cases of the other 250,000 people who disappear each year

The Joanne Yeates missing person case has dominated the media since before Christmas. Quickly developing into a murder enquiry, it has appealed to the ‘who dunit’ nature of the British public, with her parents going as far as to specifically encourage “armchair detectives” to help solve the case.

Her family have frequently praised the charity Missing Persons, with boyfriend Greg Reardon setting up a Just Giving page to offer a tribute to Yeates and raise money for the charity, describing them as a “key contributor” to a “fantastic missing persons campaign”. Just over £3,300 has been raised so far, but this itself has received little publicity, and has had limited impact on raising awareness of the plight of Britain’s missing persons.

In the midst of the speculative media furore surrounding the murder enquiry, which saw the majority of the media engaging in debates increasingly lacking in journalistic integrity, the Independent was the only publication to address a fundamental issue raised by the case. They ran with a piece titled “The week four people vanished – and only one made the news”. The issues raised are crucial ones. Joanna Yeates had become a household name across the country. But have you heard of Nathan Tomlinson, Ciara Richards or Natalie Bailey? All three went missing on or around the same date as Yeates, but their cases have attracted little to no media attention, indicative of the typical situation relating to missing persons.

Approximately 250,000 people are reported missing every year in the UK, although new figures from last December reveal that there were over 330,000 incidents of people going missing last year; a staggeringly large figure. This is roughly equivalent to the entire population of Leicester disappearing. The majority of these people are quickly located, but there are still a devastating number of unsolved cases, leaving families unable to access pensions and assets or, most crucially, closure.

Why then, is the media so captivated by the Yeates case, and is this acceptable if it is at the expense of countless others? Cynics point to the appeal of Yeates as a young, attractive, white middle-class woman who had all to live for. There is clearly and unfortunately some truth in this, along with the fact that things like this ‘aren’t supposed to happen’ in places like Clifton. The timing, on Christmas Day, made the case seem all the more poignant, and also caught the media during a period of notoriously slow news.

The media are not always alerted to missing cases by the police, but in this case, Yeates was immediately classified as high risk, having told people she would be at home, and leaving many personal possessions in her flat. In contrast, Ciara Richards has been missing six times in the past year, making it unlikely that an extensive publicity campaign would be run. But 21 year old Nathan Tomlinson disappeared in extremely suspicious circumstances, and missing Natalie Bailey escaped mental health carers, making her a high-risk case due to her history of mental illness. While the police sometimes find it counter-productive to publicise missing persons cases nationally, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Giles, of Greater Manchester Police, involved in the search for Tomlinson, has conceded that the case may not have attracted expected attention by being overshadowed by other events in the news.

Missing Persons increasingly encourage families to harness the power of social networks, in the absence of traditional press coverage. A missing 14 year old, Serena Beakhurst, was found on January 5th following an extensive internet campaign, which garnered support on Twitter from the likes of Stephen Fry and Rio Ferdinand.

It would be naive to assume that other missing persons cases would have received more publicity in the absence of the Yeates case, but it is a shame that more has not been made of the this opportunity to raise the profile of countless unsolved missing persons cases. Instead of the space dedicated by both the tabloids and broadsheets to unnecessary character assassinations, more could have at least been done to publicise Reardon’s efforts to promote the work of Missing People. There are numerous people listed as missing from Bristol alone on their website and this is undoubtedly newsworthy.