mardi 21 février 2017

Francis Kéré becomes first African architect of Serpentine pavilion

The architect is planning to bring one of his characteristically stripped-back structures, honed in the villages of his native Burkino Faso, to leafy west London

A huge wooden disc will float above the lawn in Kensington Gardens this summer, a wheel of spindly timber slats hovering over a bright blue landing pad like some rustic flying saucer. This is the vision of Diébédo Francis Kéré, the first African architect to be chosen to design the annual Serpentine gallery pavilion, who plans to bring one of his characteristically stripped-back structures, honed in the villages of his native Burkina Faso, to leafy west London.
“The tree was always the most important place in my village,” he says, describing the inspiration for his design. “It is where people come together under the shade of its branches to discuss, a place to decide matters, about love, about life. I want the pavilion to serve the same function: a simple open shelter to create a sense of freedom and community.”
While the scorching sun might be the thing to shelter from in the deserts of west Africa, Kéré has configured his London canopy more with rain in mind, designing the shallow saucer to funnel water into a central opening, where a ring of slender steel trusses will support the great wooden bowl. The space will be loosely enclosed by a series of curving blue walls, formed of staggered wooden blocks in a textile-like pattern, a reference to the festive clothing worn by young men in his village on special occasions. “I’m coming to London,” he says, “so I wanted to show myself with my best clothes.”
In its frugal simplicity, the pavilion is a departure from recent years’ structures that have revelled in their sculptural novelty or shouted for attention with bright colours and synthetic materials. It is an apt reflection of Kéré’s work in Africa, where he has established an international reputation for designing sparing structures with mud bricks and lightweight steel frames, often built by unskilled labour with an elegant economy of means. Kéré initially considered using bricks for the pavilion walls, but was clearly advised against turning the royal park into a mud quarry.

“I told myself, ‘Francis, don’t try to change yourself for this commission’,” he says. “Remain true to how you started, but do a little bit more. Here I have the chance to work with amazing engineers, so we can make the steel very thin and have an impressive cantilever.”
Kéré was born in 1965 in the village of Gando, a place with no running water or electricity, 125 miles southeast of the capital of Ouagadougou, making him unique as an architect who now moves in the glamorous circles of international biennales and professorships at Harvard. His face is still ringed with tribal scars in a pattern of spokes, marking him out as the son (and sun) of the village chief, a position of privilege that gave him the rare chance to attend high school in the city. At 18, he won a scholarship to study woodwork in Germany, but, realising there was not much use for carpentry in a country that has little wood, he switched to study architecture at the Technical University of Berlin.

In his final year he designed a primary school for Gando and used his ample charisma and energy to raise enough money to see it built. The project was the first test of what would become his characteristic style of rural hi-tech: a pair of simple rectangular volumes made of mud bricks, crowned with a “flying roof” of vaulted corrugated metal. It won the Aga Khan award for architecture in 2004 and has since been expanded with a librarysecondary schoolteachers’ housing and a community centre. 
Kéré was invited to become an emissary for the award, scouring the continent for other exemplar projects, but he had misgivings. “I stopped because everywhere I went they said, ‘Give us the tools to make good architecture before coming to ask for good architecture,’” he said in an interview. As a result, his motto is “help to self-help” – his projects place more importance on the process of local capacity-building than the finesse of the final product.
It is a collaborative, user-driven mode of practice that makes him an interesting choice for the Serpentine commission, which is essentially a hastily built stage set for hosting summer parties, usually then sold on to a collector. Might Kéré be employing local apprentice builders and trying to extend the impact of the project beyond being a diverting decoration for the lawn? “It would have been great, but it’s not easy working in this context,” he says. “The participation will happen when people come to take ownership of the structure, but I am working with partners to see if it can travel, and maybe end up in Africa as a museum or library.”

Based in Berlin, where he runs a practice of 12 people, Kéré now uses commissions in Europe to subsidise the work back home, much of which is low-paid or pro bono. With one hand he designs boutique stores for shoe brand Camper and works on commercial masterplans in Germany; with the other he continues to build schools, health centres and libraries in India, Mali and Yemen, as well as an educational campus in Kenya, in the village where Barack Obama’s father was born. One of his most ambitious ongoing projects is the construction of an “opera village” in Laongo, near Ouagadougou, a world-class performance venue initiated by the late German theatre director Christoph Schlingensief, for which a school, clinic, art studios and a dozen homes have so far been built.
The Serpentine commission is just the latest in a series of international accolades Kéré has enjoyed over the past few years. As one of the few African architects with a global profile, he is continually courted by conferences and exhibitions around the world. He took part in the Royal Academy’s Sensing Spaces exhibition in 2014 (where he made a participatory tunnel of colourful straws), the Chicago Biennial in 2015, and the Venice Biennale last year, where he presented what could become the project of his lifetime, a new national parliament building for Burkina Faso.
“Most of the population has never seen higher than the height of a tree,” he says, describing his plan for a mountain-like building of staggered terraces, where people would be able to sit and enjoy views of the city. After the country’s 2014 uprisings, when the parliament was torched and the president was hounded out of the country after a 27-year reign, Kéré says there is an urgent need for openness and transparency. “The people will be able to climb above the politicians – what could be more symbolic?”
 Tuesday 21 February 2017 

vendredi 17 février 2017

Zealandia: Is there an eighth continent under New Zealand?

You think you know your seven continents? Think again, as there's a new contender hoping to join that club. 

Say hello to Zealandia, a huge landmass almost entirely submerged in the southwest Pacific. 

It's not a complete stranger, you might have heard of its highest mountains, the only bits showing above water: New Zealand. 

Scientists say it qualifies as a continent and have now made a renewed push for it to be recognised as such. 

In a paper published in the Geological Society of America's Journal, researchers explain that Zealandia measures five million sq km (1.9m sq miles) which is about two thirds of neighbouring Australia. Some 94% of that area is underwater with only a few islands and three major landmasses sticking out above the surface: New Zealand's North and South Islands and New Caledonia. 

You might think being above water is crucial to making the cut as a continent, but the researchers looked at a different set of criteria, all of which are met by the new kid in town. 

  • elevation above the surrounding area 
  • distinctive geology 
  • a well-defined area 
  • a crust thicker than the regular ocean floor 
 The main author of the article, New Zealand geologist Nick Mortimer, said scientists have been researching data to make the case for Zealandia for more than two decades. 

"The scientific value of classifying Zealandia as a continent is much more than just an extra name on a list," the researchers explained. 

"That a continent can be so submerged yet unfragmented" makes it useful for "exploring the cohesion and breakup of continental crust". 

So how then to get Zealandia into the canon of continents? 

Should text books authors get nervous again? 

After all, just a few years ago, Pluto got kicked off the list of planets, changing what had been taught in schools for decades. There is in fact no scientific body that formally recognises continents. 

So it could only change over time if future research accepts Zealandia on par with the rest so that eventually we might be learning about eight, not seven, continents.

mercredi 15 février 2017

2017 isn’t ‘1984’ – it’s stranger than Orwell imagined

The best selling book on Amazon is '1984' – which was originally published in 1949. A historian from Case Western Reserve University considers how the novel resonates with today’s reality 

A week after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s “1984” is the best-selling book on
The hearts of a thousand English teachers must be warmed as people flock to a novel published in 1949 for ways to think about their present moment.
Orwell set his story in Oceania, one of three blocs or mega-states fighting over the globe in 1984. There has been a nuclear exchange, and the blocs seem to have agreed to perpetual conventional war, probably because constant warfare serves their shared interests in domestic control.
Oceania demands total subservience. It is a police state, with helicopters monitoring people’s activities, even watching through their windows. But Orwell emphasises it is the “ThinkPol,” the Thought Police, who really monitor the “Proles,” the lowest 85 per cent of the population outside the party elite. The ThinkPol move invisibly among society seeking out, even encouraging, thoughtcrimes so they can make the perpetrators disappear for reprogramming.
The other main way the party elite, symbolised in the moustached figurehead Big Brother, encourage and police correct thought is through the technology of the Telescreen. These “metal plaques” transmit things like frightening video of enemy armies and of course the wisdom of Big Brother. But the Telescreen can see you, too. During mandatory morning exercise, the Telescreen not only shows a young, wiry trainer leading cardio, it can see if you are keeping up. Telescreens are everywhere: They are in every room of people’s homes. At the office, people use them to do their jobs.
The story revolves around Winston Smith and Julia, who try to resist their government’s overwhelming control over facts. Their act of rebellion? Trying to discover the “unofficial” truth about the past, and recording unauthorised information in a diary. Winston works at the colossal Ministry of Truth, on which is emblazoned IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. His job is to erase politically inconvenient data from the public record. A party member falls out of favour? She never existed. Big Brother made a promise he could not fulfil? It never happened.
Because his job calls on him to research old newspapers and other records for the facts he has to “unfact,” Winston is especially adept at “doublethink.” Winston calls it being “conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies… consciously to induce unconsciousness.”
Oceania: The product of Orwell’s experience
Orwell’s setting in “1984” is inspired by the way he foresaw the Cold War – a phrase he coined in 1945 – playing out. He wrote it just a few years after watching Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin carve up the world at the Tehran and Yalta conferences. The book is remarkably prescient about aspects of the Stalinist Soviet Union, East Germany and Maoist China.
Orwell was a socialist. “1984” in part describes his fear that the democratic socialism in which he believed would be hijacked by authoritarian Stalinism. The novel grew out of his sharp observations of his world and the fact that Stalinists tried to kill him.
In 1936, a fascist-supported military coup threatened the democratically elected socialist majority in Spain. Orwell and other committed socialists from around the world, including Ernest Hemingway, volunteered to fight against the rightist rebels. Meanwhile, Hitler lent the rightists his air power while Stalin tried to take over the leftist Republican resistance. When Orwell and other volunteers defied these Stalinists, they moved to crush the opposition. Hunted, Orwell and his wife had to flee for their lives from Spain in 1937.
Back in London during World War II, Orwell saw for himself how a liberal democracy and individuals committed to freedom could find themselves on a path toward Big Brother. He worked for the BBC writing what can only be described as “propaganda” aimed at an Indian audience. What he wrote was not exactly doublethink, but it was news and commentary with a slant to serve a political purpose. Orwell sought to convince Indians that their sons and resources were serving the greater good in the war. Having written things he believed were untrue, he quit the job after two years, disgusted with himself.
Imperialism itself disgusted him. As a young man in the 1920s, Orwell had served as a colonial police officer in Burma. In a distant foreshadowing of Big Brother’s world, Orwell reviled the arbitrary and brutish role he took on in a colonial system. “I hated it bitterly,” he wrote. “In a job like that you see the dirty work of Empire at close quarters. The wretched prisoners huddling in the stinking cages of the lock-ups, the gray, cowed faces of the long-term convicts…”
Oceania was a prescient product of a particular biography and particular moment when the Cold War was beginning. Naturally, then, today’s world of “alternative facts” is quite different in ways that Orwell could not have imagined.
Big Brother not required
Orwell described a single-party system in which a tiny core of oligarchs, Oceania’s “inner party,” control all information. This is their chief means of controlling power. In the US today, information is wide open to those who can access the internet, at least 84 per cent of Americans. And while the US arguably might be an oligarchy, power exists somewhere in a scrum including the electorate, constitution, the courts, bureaucracies and, inevitably, money. In other words, unlike in Oceania, both information and power are diffuse in 2017 America.
Those who study the decline in standards of evidence and reasoning in the US electorate chiefly blame politicians’ concerted efforts from the 1970s to discredit expertise, degrade trust in Congress and its members, even question the legitimacy of government itself. With those leaders, institutions and expertise delegitimised, the strategy has been to replace them with alternative authorities and realities.
In 2004, a senior White House adviser suggested a reporter belonged to the “reality-based community,” a sort of quaint minority of people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality. That’s not the way the world really works anymore.”
Orwell could not have imagined the internet and its role in distributing alternative facts, nor that people would carry around Telescreens in their pockets in the form of smartphones. There is no Ministry of Truth distributing and policing information, and in a way everyone is Big Brother.
It seems less a situation that people are incapable of seeing through Big Brother’s big lies, than they embrace “alternative facts.” Some researchers have found that when some people begin with a certain worldview – for example, that scientific experts and public officials are untrustworthy – they believe their misperceptions more strongly when given accurate conflicting information.
In other words, arguing with facts can backfire. Having already decided what is more essentially true than the facts reported by experts or journalists, they seek confirmation in alternative facts and distribute them themselves via Facebook, no Big Brother required.
In Orwell’s Oceania, there is no freedom to speak facts except those that are official. In 2017 America, at least among many of the powerful minority who selected its president, the more official the fact, the more dubious. For Winston, “Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” For this powerful minority, freedom is the freedom to say two plus two make five.

lundi 13 février 2017


No Logo : Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies is a book by the Canadian author Naomi Klein. It became one of the most influential books about the alter globalization movement and an international bestseller.

The book focuses on branding and often makes connections with the alter globalization movement. Naomi Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming, corporate censorship, and Reclaim the Streets. She pays special attention to the deeds and misdeeds of Nike, The Gap, McDonald's, Shell, and Microsoft – and of their lawyers, contractors, and advertising agencies. The book comprises four sections: "No Space", "No Choice", "No Jobs", and "No Logo"

The first three deal with the negative effects of brand-oriented corporate activity, while the fourth discusses various methods people have taken in order to fight back. 

 "No Space" 

The book begins by tracing the history of brands. Klein argues that there has been a shift in the usage of branding and gives examples of this shift to "anti-brand" branding. Early examples of brands were often used to put a recognizable face on factory-produced products. These slowly gave way to the idea of selling lifestyles. According to Klein, in response to an economic crash in the 1980s (due to the Latin American debt crisis, Black Monday (1987), the savings and loan crisis, and the Japanese asset price bubble), corporations began to seriously rethink their approach to marketing and to target the youth demographic, as opposed to the baby boomers, who had previously been considered a much more valuable segment. The book discusses how brand names such as Nike or Pepsi expanded beyond the mere products which bore their names, and how these names and logos began to appear everywhere. As this happened, the brands' obsession with the youth market drove them to further associate themselves with whatever the youth considered "cool". Along the way, the brands attempted to associate their names with everything from movie stars and athletes to grassroots social movements. Klein argues that large multinational corporations consider the marketing of a brand name to be more important than the actual manufacture of products; this theme recurs in the book, and Klein suggests that it helps explain the shift to production in Third World countries in such industries as clothing, footwear, and computer hardware. This section also looks at ways in which brands have "muscled" their presence into the school system, and how in doing so, they have pipelined advertisements into the schools and used their position to gather information about the students. Klein argues that this is part of a trend toward targeting younger and younger consumers. 

"No Choice" 

In the second section, Klein discusses how brands use their size and clout to limit the number of choices available to the public – whether through market dominance (e.g., Wal-Mart) or through aggressive invasion of a region (e.g., Starbucks). Klein argues that each company's goal is to become the dominant force in its respective field. Meanwhile, other corporations, such as Sony or Disney, simply open their own chains of stores, preventing the competition from even putting their products on the shelves. This section also discusses the way that corporations merge with one another in order to add to their ubiquity and provide greater control over their image. ABC News, for instance, is allegedly under pressure not to air any stories that are overly critical of Disney, its parent company. Other chains, such as Wal-Mart, often threaten to pull various products off their shelves, forcing manufacturers and publishers to comply with their demands. This might mean driving down manufacturing costs or changing the artwork or content of products like magazines or albums so they better fit with Wal-Mart's image of family friendliness. Also discussed is the way that corporations abuse copyright laws in order to silence anyone who might attempt to criticize their brand. 

 "No Jobs"

 In this section, the book takes a darker tone and looks at the way in which manufacturing jobs move from local factories to foreign countries, and particularly to places known as export processing zones. Such zones often have no labor laws, leading to dire working conditions. The book then shifts back to North America, where the lack of manufacturing jobs has led to an influx of work in the service sector, where most of the jobs are for minimum wage and offer no benefits. The term "McJob" is introduced, defined as a job with poor compensation that does not keep pace with inflation, inflexible or undesirable hours, little chance of advancement, and high levels of stress. Meanwhile, the public is being sold the perception that these jobs are temporary employment for students and recent graduates, and therefore need not offer living wages or benefits. All of this is set against a backdrop of massive profits and wealth being produced within the corporate sector. The result is a new generation of employees who have come to resent the success of the companies they work for. This resentment, along with rising unemployment, labour abuses abroad, disregard for the environment, and the ever-increasing presence of advertising breeds a new disdain for corporations. 

"No Logo"

 The final section of the book discusses various movements that have sprung up during the 1990s. These include Adbusters magazine and the culture-jamming movement, as well as Reclaim the Streets and the McLibel trial. Less radical protests are also discussed, such as the various movements aimed at putting an end to sweatshop labour. Klein concludes by contrasting consumerism and citizenship, opting for the latter. "When I started this book," she writes, "I honestly didn't know whether I was covering marginal atomized scenes of resistance or the birth of a potentially broad-based movement. But as time went on, what I clearly saw was a movement forming before my eyes."

jeudi 9 février 2017

MoMA replaces Picasso and Matisse with artists from countries affected by Donald Trump's 'Muslim ban'

New York’s prestigious Museum of Modern Art is taking a stand against President Donald Trump’s travel ban by replacing pieces by Picasso and Matisse in favour of artists who originate from seven Muslim-majority countries affected by the executive order.
Mr Trump instated a temporary travel ban on refugees and people from seven Muslim-majority countries: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. A Seattle federal judge on Friday blocked the ban, which the President has called “ridiculous”.
The New York Times reports that the day before the travel ban was blocked, curators at MoMA began replacing works by Picasso, Matisse and Picabia in the fifth-floor gallery with pieces by Iraqi-born British architect Zaha Hadid, Sudanese painter Ibrahim el-Salahi and Iranian video artist Tala Madani. 
Each new piece has been taken from the museum’s permanent collection. Next to each work appears a piece of wall text, stating: “This work is by an artist from a nation whose citizens are being denied entry to the United States, according to a presidential executive order issued on Jan 27, 2017. This is one of several such artworks from the Museum’s collection installed throughout the fifth floor galleries to affirm the ideals of welcome and freedom as vital to this Museum as they are to the United States.”
The fifth floor galleries traditionally document Western modernism until the 1940s, but now they will include works by several Iranian artists alongside Hadid and el-Salahi, such as sculptor Parviz Tanavoli and photographer Shirana Shahbazi, the newspaper reports.
Speaking to Quartz, Christophe Cherix, the museum’s chief curator of drawings and prints, said there will be more works by artists from the seven countries displayed over the ensuing months. 
“A number of artists in our collection suddenly couldn’t travel the way they used to and share their work and ideas. We wanted to reaffirm that belief that art [museums] should be a place where people from all over the world can gather,” he said.
Other major artists being reshuffled from the fifth floor galleries to make way for the works include Kokoschka, Ensor and Boccioni, while a large steel sculpture by Iranian artist Siah Armajani has been set in the lobby.

Mr Cherix assured people that paintings such as Van Gogh’s ‘Starry night’ and Matisse’s ‘Red Studio’, which are hugely popular, will remain on display. He said the idea behind the change in the permanent collection on display was to find an “inclusive gesture”

  • jeudi 2 février 2017

    10 amazing UK experiences for 2017

    The great British bucket list: 10 amazing UK experiences for 2017

     It is that time of the year when we all gaze out of the window, take note of the gloomy grey skies, and start pondering our next escape to sunnier places and brighter horizons. But what of a sojourn on domestic shores? Britain will be a bubble of major celebrations, big anniversaries and intriguing events in the next 12 months. And if you are thinking of staying at home next time you go away, any of the following options may prove enticing.


    1. Join the culture club in Hull
     With not a whiff of disrespect intended, it is not often that Hull has the chance to stand on the podium and declare itself to be the focus of all things artistic in Britain. But 2017 is the year that the dot on the map officially known as Kingston Upon Hull strides into the spotlight as the UK City of Culture. If this title has a ring of unfamiliarity about it, this is because it is relatively new – it only comes around every four years, and has been bestowed just once before (on Derry-Londonderry in 2013). Nonetheless, the next 12 months in Hull promise a feast of exciting endeavours. Exhibitions will include “The Transglobal Art of Mark Wigan” (April 6-23 at the Museum of Club Culture) – a celebration of the work of a graphic artist who studied in the city. Events will include “Digital Dystopias” (February 10-14 at Middleton Hall) – a “cyber film festival” which will dissect what it means to be human in the modern age.

     2. Find your inner Darcy in Hampshire

     There is always something slightly odd about “celebrating” the anniversary of someone’s death, but 2017 makes it an exact two centuries since Jane Austen departed for the great library in the sky (on July 18 1817) – and her romantic genius will be remembered again with a year of events in her native county. Jane Austen 200 ( will be a Hampshire-wide flurry of exhibitions, talks and performances. “The Mysterious Miss Austen” (May 13-July 24 at Winchester Discovery Centre) will look at the author’s life via an array of first editions, items from her wardrobe, personal letters and portraits. Winchester Cathedral (, where she is buried, will be running regular Austen-themed guided tours of the church that will finish with coffee and cake. And Jane Austen’s House Museum (, in the photogenic village of Chawton – where she lived and worked for her final eight years – will be an obvious focal point, its red-brick facades still redolent of the early 19th century.

     3. Shake an elegant leg in London or Edinburgh…

     Some anniversaries are more obscure than others. And John Weaver would surely never have guessed that his actions on March 2 1717 would have any later significance. But it was on that day, three centuries ago, that this dancer and choreographer staged what is now deemed to have been the first ballet performance in Britain – a rendition of the mythological yarn The Loves of Mars and Venus. The cradle in question was London’s Theatre Royal, Drury Lane – an institution which ranks as the oldest British theatre still in continuous use. While this capital-city landmark will not be tipping its hat to this rather under-the-radar tricentennial, there are plenty of other places wherein you can glimpse this most elevated artform. The English National Ballet ( pirouettes across 10 different UK venues, and will be putting on versions of Romeo And Juliet and The Nutcracker in 2017. The Scottish Ballet ( will lend its athletic finesse to an all-dancing take on the Brothers Grimm fairytale Hansel And Gretel later this year.

     4. …and linger in the Scottish capital for the best of the fests

     Talking of Scotland, Edinburgh’s festival season ( turns 70 this year. This noble birthday will bestow an extra glitter onto the big guns – the Fringe Festival (August 4-28; and the International Film Festival (June 21-July 2; – and bring a little extra profile to “lesser lights” like the International Science Festival (April 1-16; and the International Storytelling Festival (October 20-31; Admittedly, this won’t save you from the irritating mime acts who clutter the Royal Mile – but then, you can’t have everything.

     5. Seek out a noted leader of yesteryear

     There is always a risk in pinning too much hope to a Guy Ritchie movie – for every Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels there is a RocknRolla – and the reviews are not yet in for the former Mr Madonna’s latest directorial outing, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword (as a note of caution, it features an appearance from one David Beckham). But its big-budget swordplay – set for release on May 12 – is likely to reinvigorate interest in the well-trawled legend of the Dark Ages monarch. Many a location from Cornwall to Shropshire claims a link to this fabled (and probably fictional) figure, but the Arthurian motherlode is in Wales, where the water feature that is Llyn Ogwen has long been associated with Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake. You can find it in Snowdonia National Park ( – as a fine excuse for a weekend walk. Alternatively, Carmarthen will turn its attention to the king’s spell-casting chum when it holds its regular Merlin Festival (March 25-26; – 48 hours of street magic and general merriment.

     6. Watch the Romans ride back into the present

     While reliable facts about King Arthur are hard to come by, Britain’s lengthiest slice of Roman heritage is rather more based in reality. This year will see the unveiling of a fresh attraction at Hadrian’s Wall – Hadrian’s Cavalry, a spectacle of men on horseback that will recreate some of the power and pomp of imperial Rome in what is now Cumbria and Northumberland. The thunder of hooves will be audible along the 73-mile-long site, with costumed regiments appearing at the likes of Housesteads Roman Fort near Bardon Mill, and Chesters Roman Fort and Museum near Hexham, between April 8 and September 10 ( In July, the latter ( will become the home of a new slab of equine-themed contemporary art.

     7. Board a boat back to the 19th century

     Military might of a different era can be observed in Hartlepool, where HMS Trincomalee ( clocks up its double century this autumn. This doughty frigate is the oldest warship still afloat, dozing through its retirement as a museum piece berthed at Jackson Dock. It was built in the Naval Dockyard of Bombay (Mumbai) as Britain flexed its colonial muscles, and launched into the waters of the Arabian Sea on October 12 1817. It has a companion, too, should you find yourself in Dundee – where HMS Unicorn is not yet ready to blow out 200 candles (a mere stripling, it slipped into the ocean on March 30 1824), but is just as fascinating a part of this country’s naval heritage (

     8. See the round-ball game without the razzmatazz 

    These days, football tends to be as much show-business as sport – at least at the top level of the game. But its roots will be particularly visible in Glasgow throughout 2017 as Queen’s Park – the oldest club in Scotland – ticks off its 150th birthday. Founded on July 9 1867, it stands as a wonderful anomaly – even though the team currently plays in the third tier of the Scottish league system, its home is Hampden Park, the national stadium. This leaves tickets (from £12; in wholly ready supply – the average attendance for Queen’s Park matches is around 750 people, and the cheers echo around an arena that has a capacity of 51,866. You can trace the story further at the Scottish Football Museum (, which, helpfully, is also at Hampden.

     9. Cycle like an Italian – but not in Italy

     It may not have quite the kudos of the Tour de France, but the 2017 Giro d’Italia will be the 100th edition of Europe’s second most significant cycle race. Splendid – but what does this have to do with the UK? Everything, if you are a keen amateur cyclist, and you plan to be in Belfast over the weekend of June 3-4. For these two days, the capital of Northern Ireland will be the scene of the Gran Fondo Giro d’Italia ( – a two-wheeled extravaganza which sees riders tackle one of two challenging courses of steep slopes and tricky gradients (the Strangford Route is a “mere” 36 miles; the Mourne Route is a tougher 108 miles – entrance fees from £55) on closed roads. Why? This is the third staging of this dislocated event – although the main reason for its existence is sound. The 2014 Giro d’Italia started in Belfast as part of an attempt to broaden its reach – and this way to involve the public in the process has been inked onto the calendar ever since.

     10. Remember the rise of the rainbow in Suffolk

     July 27 1967 was a keynote moment in the development of modern Britain – the day that the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised homosexuality in England and Wales. Half a century on, this milestone will be marked with a country-wide series of exhibitions. One of them will be held at The Red House ( – the home, near Aldeburgh in Suffolk, where the composer Benjamin Britten lived with the tenor Peter Pears. “Queer Talk: Homosexuality in Britten’s Britain” will examine the secrecy within which the two men – partners for 39 years – had to conduct their relationship. The National Trust will also contribute to the discussion at a number of its properties. “Sutton House Queered” – part of a wider “Prejudice and Pride” programme ( – will be a year-long feast of art at the restored Tudor mansion in Hackney, east London.

     Further ideas, suggestions and 2017 events can be unearthed via the tourist-information sites,,,

    Chris Leadbeater, travel writer 5 JANUARY 2017 • 4:41PM