Pablo Hurtado
Founder of Baking a Better World
Pablo Hurtado is one of many young Spaniards that live in Edinburgh. He came to this city to study for a PhD at the university but, in his spare time, he has created a very entertaining and curious way to help others - he bakes for a better world. 

Why Edinburgh? Why did you choose this city?
I didn´t exactly choose Edinburgh. I was doing a Masters in London and I was looking for a subject for a PhD. My priority was to find a project that I really liked so the city itself wasn´t very important for me. I even made contact with a laboratory in Aberdeen (I don´t know what I was thinking of!). The most interesting project I found was in Edinburgh. I called the laboratory and this is where I am just now. I have to admit that I was very lucky because I love Edinburgh and I wasn´t expecting to find such an incredible city as Edinburgh is. 
Has your job anything in common with the baking world?
Not at all! My PhD is about Reproductive Health. Luckily, my job doesn’t have anything in common with baking. However, in both fields you need to be very patient. I use baking as a hobby and to escape from everything else. In fact, since Baking a better World came into existence, there were some weeks that I became quite stressed with all the orders. I guess this is something similar to how a real pastry chef feels. 
What was the initial idea for Baking a better World?
I have always wanted to help others but, for different reasons I have never done enough. I suppose that this happen to all of us. We prioritize things. For this reason, I really wanted to start to do something. Ever since I have been living in Edinburgh, I have sold some cakes, but I haven´t done it for the purpose of earning money. The idea came up one Friday when I sold a cake in the afternoon just before attending an event where we watched a documentary about the young people who had vanished in Iguala, Mexico. At the end of the film, they started to collect money for their families who have to fight quite a lot to try to find their relatives. At that moment I had £20 in my pocket and I said to myself: “This is not much but it will help them a bit”. That night I was talking with some friends about making cakes for different good causes and next day, I had the Baking a better World Facebook page running. 
What exactly this initiative consist of and how does it work?
It is very simple. I make cakes, mini cakes, muffins, cupcakes… and 100% of the money collected goes to some social cause or charity. Here in the UK people are constantly buying cakes and all kinds of sweets in supermarkets and different stores. There is always something to celebrate and a cake to eat. I can offer homemade cakes for a reasonable price and I also get the chance to donate all that money that they are paying to some organisation. Everybody can see my cakes on my Facebook page where they can also choose or suggest an organisation.
How many charities have you collaborated with since you started this project? How much money have you collected?
Almost £600 in the last month and a half and that has gone to 18 different causes. Some of this money has gone to main charities such as the Red Cross, Doctor without Borders etc, some has gone to other more specific organisations. For instance, two weeks ago I heard that a doctor from my building was going to an island in Greece to help all the refugees that are arriving there these days. She was collecting money to buy basic medicines and equipment to take with her. I contacted her and I told her that I could sell muffins to the neighbours and donate all the money for her cause. People responded incredibly well. It was amazing, and we finally collected double the amount that we originally expected. 
Are the Scottish supportive and generous?
Extremely. In the United Kingdom there is an entire world around charities. Everybody gives money. There are lots of events and it is not strange to see people working or giving time to one of the thousands charities spread across the whole country. In Spain it is difficult to find anyone who has contributed with an NGO in a direct way and most of the people only donate to the most famous organisations or just when there is a disaster or something like that. I have to reckon that I envy a little bit all of this in this country. 
What is your favourite place in town?
There is a hill close to the Royal Observatory of the city, which I love. It is not really well-known and you don´t often see many people. The views from there are just amazing, specially the views of Holyrood. There is also a pathway you can go to enter the woods and follow the river. I really like to go there. 
What is the best place to get lost in the city?
Holyrood on a cold and sunny Sunday morning (I know, I’m asking for too much if I want a sunny Sunday). The park is empty and you do not have to climb to the top of Arthur’s seat, just walk through the park and around the lakes. 
What do you like the most about this city?
The Fringe festival. There´s no doubt about that. In Spain it is not a famous festival so I had no idea that it would be so incredible. I cannot even count all the plays and shows I went to; some of them were completely surprising and fresh. It is a festival full of talent, new ideas and young people just wanting to have fun in a way I could not have imagined before.
What would you change?
The weather!!! There is no doubt about that either. I lived for one year in the North of Sweden, and I can assure you that I much prefer that weather than the Scottish one. I do not mind so much the cold or the short winter days. I like a cold winter, but the Scottish weather is just horrible. How many days can we live without the sun? Just with this grey and depressing sky?
How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?
Kieran Wood
Performance Supervisor at the Edinburgh Dungeon

First of all, could you tell us a little bit about your background and how did you end up working at the Edinburgh Dungeon?
 I studied performance and English at University in Liverpool before becoming a full time actor looking for work in both theatre and on the screen. Between auditions I was working for a Theatre in Education company, going with a couple of other actors to schools all around the country and performing shows with an educational aspect. Being from Edinburgh I'd known about Edinburgh Dungeon and I’d been on a tour when I was younger so I knew it was educational, scary and fun so when I returned from a tour and was looking for my next project I applied for an audition. That was nearly 5 years ago now and I haven’t looked back since.

Could you describe a day at the Dungeon?
We always start the morning with a group warm up to ready our voices and bodies for the day ahead. It’s good fun because we’re all together and it shakes away the morning tiredness and brings up our energy levels. Then it’s into costume and make up. When we start we’re shown how to apply our own make up – we use a professional brand which is also used in movies and on TV. Each character in the Dungeon has a distinctive look so we have to know how to achieve each one to a high standard. Once we look the part we go onto the show floor and when we’re on the sets and looking the part it’s a lot easier to get into character. Then it’s a bit more warming up, maybe a run through of the show and a check of the props and special effects. It’s not long after that that the first audience of the day arrives and we’re off! Each actor will play about 3-6 characters each day so it’s always fresh as I could be a Torturer for the morning, then a cannibal after lunch and maybe a Judge for the end! It’s a great mix of funny shows and some with a bit more of a scary edge. It’s pretty non-stop some days so there’s no time to get bored and each group is new and different so it keeps it exciting.

What do you like the most of your job?
 It’s got to be either the variety or how much we are a big, slightly weird family at the Dungeon. Each day is different because I get to play such a weird and interesting array of characters for so many different audiences. I could go from being a bumbling medical student in 1827 doing gory autopsies or showing a Hen Party how Burke and Hare murdered their victims, to having a family group running and screaming around my cave as an inbred Cannibal, or escaping a collapsing close with them as the Foul Clenger fighting the plague with fire in 1645! And I love the special shows we do for Summer, Easter, Christmas and most especially our big Halloween show!

Do you have any anecdote or funny moment while working there that you would like to share with us?
 I remember I was waiting in the Sawney Bean cannibal cave for a group to enter after they had finished their boat ride. I was hiding in a dark spot just beyond the entrance where I could see the group before they saw me. At the front was a boy about 11 or 12, looking a bit apprehensive as he inched forward and just behind him was his mother, followed by the rest of the group over a narrow bridge to the cave. I could hear her reassuring him saying “Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be scared of, it’s all just pretend, nothing’s going to jump out at you, you’ll be fine” As they entered I gave a roar and jumped out from my hiding place. That’s when his mum physically picked him up, screamed and threw her son at me before turning around and scrambling away from me through the rest of the group! I think all that reassurance had actually been for herself as her son seemed fine. I think maybe her usual protective mothering nature failed her momentarily as she was happy to sacrifice her son by throwing him at a bloodthirsty cannibal so she could make her escape. Everyone reacts differently to a scare I suppose but I couldn’t help but break character and giggle ever so slightly as I caught him, stopping me in my tracks mid screech, and tried to convince her to return into the cannibal’s lair.

Why would you recommend visiting the Dungeon?
We really do have a fantastic team of trained actors here who want every guest to have a giggle and a scream and escape the Dungeon having had a really entertaining time. If you like some scary fun and want to learn a wee bit about the darker side of Scottish history then the Edinburgh Dungeon really is the place to visit in the capital.

What is your favourite place in town?
The Royal Mile. There’s always something going on with street magicians and performers, great pubs and restaurants, parades and it’s a buzz during the Fringe too. Plus its full of history from the Castle down to Holyrood.
What is the best place to get lost in the city?
It’s either in the National Museum on Chambers Street with so much to see, just walking around the old town looking at the architecture or….on a bit of pub crawl, I have too many favourite pubs and bars in this city to mention!

What do you like the most about this city?
 I love how it is ancient, dark and steeped in history at the same time as being fun, young and vibrant - especially when the festivals come in the summer months.

What would you change?

Not much really. I’ve lived all over and travelled a fair bit but without question Edinburgh is my favourite city at any time of year. It’s beautiful too.
How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word? Magical!

Icíar Bollaín
Director and actress
Icíar Bollaín (Photo by Jose Haro)

She has acted in more than 20 films and she has also directed six, some of them have won many awards. Now, Icíar Bollaín is turning her hand to the documentary world and through “In a Foreign Land” she deals with the theme of emigration as a consequence of the current crisis.
Where did the idea of making “In a Foreign Land” come from?  
For some time, I had been hearing a lot in the news about this new wave of emigration and its conflicting figures, so I started to ask myself if this was the same thing that happened in the 60´s. I did some research later and discovered a common denominator amongst all the people I spoke to. The portrait they drew about the labour situation in Spain: lack of opportunity, for many precarious working conditions even sometimes even degrading… This situation was clearly horrendous so, although emigration as a theme is crucial, I consider it more urgent to talk about the crisis. “In a Foreign Land” tries to explain what has happened and why.

This is the first time you have made a documentary. Why did you choose this format?
The documentary is easier in the sense that it is cheaper and faster. It has a certain flexibility and I think that the situation in Spain is evolving extremely rapidly. When you are making fiction, the planning is very complex and this does not allow you to make all the changes that a documentary piece does. Apart from that, I had never done it before and it seemed a new road to explore.

What is the most surprising or moving thing you have heard from all the testimonies?
I have been very struck by people´s nostalgia which is similar to that of people in the 60´s. Maybe I thought that nowadays living with the Internet, low cost flights etc, nostalgia wouldn´t be so great but I think it is the same. In the documentary you see a young guy that is happy because everything is going well but he feels that he is missing the most important thing in life: his family. I think Spaniards are very family oriented. The job situation in Spain also struck me. People didn´t feel appreciated.

You currently live abroad in Edinburgh but otherwise would you have chosen emigration as a topic? I think so because I have always been attracted by people who are adventurous enough to go to a different place. Perhaps I wouldn´t have done it in the same way. There is also the matter of identity. What happens to your identity when you spend many years in another country? I am passionate about this because there comes a moment when you are neither from here nor there for better or for worst. On the one hand, this is very enriching since you have two cultures but on the other hand you don´t feel entirely comfortable in where you are. People don´t know your past, you background… and in your country they don´t know your daily routine. We are almost at the point of being “transnationals”.

Since you were very young you have worked as an actress and in more than 20 films. Do you miss being in front of the camera? I really love acting and I do it when I have the chance but the truth is that there are not many roles for women over the age of 40. Even though, I don´t rule out working as an actress again because it is a great and humbling experience. It is very nice to be on other shoots because I learn a lot. 

What´s story got to have to make you want to tell it ad bring it to the screen? I always try to choose stories that are interesting and worth telling. When I go to the cinema, I look for something that moves me, entertains me, that teaches me something that I didn´t know and I have never seen before.

What is your favourite place in town?
I love Blackford Hill. I walk and run there, I like the view, the observatory etc… I recommend going to see the place on open door days. Everything is very charming. I find it fascinating that you can walk in a wood not so far from the city centre. I come from Madrid and you can´t do this in Madrid.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
Any nearby town/village. You take a train and in just half an hour you are in some beautiful village such as North Berwick that could be anywhere; sea, countryside…

What do you like the most about Edinburgh?
The light. Although there is not that much in Winter, it always fascinates me and I´m constantly surprised by the colour of a street, a sunset, a corner in the city…. It is the light of romantic paintings, constantly changing.

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word or sentence?
Edinburgh is a fairytale city on a very human scale. The city and its people are very accessible.

Haz clic aquí para ver la entrevista en español.
Marian A. Aréchaga
Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival Curator

How did the idea of organising a Spanish film festival in Edinburgh come about?
The seed for the idea to create the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival was planted when the Spanish Consul Miguel Utray approached me and a ‘film buff’. Together we explored the possibility of establishing a relationship between the Hispanic Studies Department at the University and the Ministry of Culture in Spain with the intention of setting up a cinematic festival in Edinburgh. Patricia and Santiago helped me to form a team within the Hispanic Studies Department to make this idea a reality. We also wanted to support Spanish cinema, a cultural industry that has been struggling to find funding in recent times.

How did you find the experience of being a curator? 
The experience has been very positive because we found lots of people who have helped us to make it possible. It is a pleasure to know that people appreciate the effort and want to collaborate. We have allowed everyone to participate and the proof is evident from the many volunteers and sponsors.

How was the selection of films for the first edition conducted?
I have selected all these films because I obviously think that they are great movies and they can reach a wide audience including British. I also wanted to get schools involved because it is important that children and teenagers watch films in a different language. 

What does your job consist of at the university?I work as Spanish teacher. Cinema is one of my favourite passions because it has made me experience great moments, to think, to cry… At uni, first year students have to watch eight movies to acknowledge the evolution of Spanish society from the fifties until present time.

How did you end up in this city?A love story that I will explain to you some other day haha…

What is your favourite place in town?
My favourite place in town is Holyrood Park. 

Where is the best place to get lost in the city? It depends if you are alone or with some good company. 

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?

 Haz clic aquí para ver la entrevista en español.

Ian Kendall

When did you start feeling attracted to magic?
On my fifth birthday a magician called Poz pulled an egg out of my ear. It blew my mind, and I’ve been obsessed ever since! I discovered the more technical side when I was 17, which is almost thirty years ago…

What does your show consists of?I have several different shows. If I am working with close up magic, it’s a mixture of cards, coins, bands and various other items. Almost everything I do involved the spectators in an interactive way, so there’s very little ‘shut up and watch’ magic. For stage shows, it’s similar, but the routines tend to be larger, and longer, because I have more time to expand the presentation. On the street, it’s very loud and in your face.

What skills are necessary for a good magician?
You need to be very focused; there’s a lot of practice that needs to happen and very few people have the discipline to work on something for two or three hours at a time – especially if you have to do that for several months before you get any real progress. Magic is not a path for people who like fast results! You need to be a good communicator – if you cannot interact with your audience in real time, you are not going to be a particularly entertaining performer. Others, but no less important, are self awareness, an ability to analyse a situation, quick thinking and creativity.

What do you like the most about your profession?I get to bring people back to their childhood state of wonder. Plus, it’s not an office.

What does a magician expect about the audience?I don’t think we are entitled to expect anything, but there are some things that we would like to happen. First and foremost, they need to be in the mood for magic. Trying to get someone to be interested in a card routine if they are not in the mood is as close to impossible as you can get in the real world. It’s a bonus if they realise that they get back as much as they put in; if they are flat and disinterested (and it’s not the fault of the performer), then that has an negative impact on the performance as a whole. If the audience is enjoying the show, and they let you know, it lifts the show and everyone has a better time.
What is your favourite place in town?
 There are so many. In my youth the Museum on Chambers St was my refuge when I was feeling low – I love to walk around in there. I like to walk along the shore between Silverknowes and Cramond when it’s not raining.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
Wandering around the old shops in Newington is fun, but that could be Stockbridge or Bruntsfield as well. It’s hard, because I couldn’t imagine being lost in Edinburgh!

 What do you like the most about this city?
The closeness of green land and the city centre. The view of the Castle from anywhere. Being able to leave my house and walk to the shore in ten minutes.

What would you change?
The one thing that is impossible to change; the weather

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?

If you would like to know more about Ian Kendall, visit his website by clicking here. 

 Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

Rob Hain

Are cities and buildings your favourite theme for painting?
I like places and buildings of character that have a history to them. The more unusual in appearance, the more likely they are to appear in the painting.

Which city have you found most inspirational?
Edinburgh is an amazing city with something for everyone. It is good to look at, as well as being a top international cultural city with a unique living history. My only problem is to decide what to leave out!

How would you describe your style?
My painting style has obvious pictorial and narrative echoes of Lowry and Brueghel but with a strong emphasis on colour. In a sense, the colour takes priority as the structure can always be altered. I also like to include an element of humour.

Do you remember the first picture you ever felt proud of?
When I was young I did a drawing using felt pens on a large sheet of paper. It had butterflies and strange plants in it and I titled it 'Summer Sun'. To make it presentable I stuck it on a piece of hardboard using black duct tape. It was entered it into a painting show in the village where I lived at the time which was judged by the famous ornithologist Peter Scott. I didn't win anything but Peter Scott told my dad that he really liked it.

What would you have done if you hadn't been an artist?
When I left school I was apprenticed to be a colour retoucher at a lithographic plate makers in Oxford. It was incredibly boring so I used to make my own prints to stick on the wall. After a near-fatal motorbike crash the only thing I found I could do was paint. I went to Art College to learn as much as I could and afterwards worked on a building site to earn some money. I cherished a dream of becoming an artist one day. Perhaps, if it wasn't for my accident I may still be at the platemakers in Oxford.

How important is painting in your life?
Painting is a spiritual experience for me. When I am completely engaged with my work everything else becomes less important. I almost have a feeling of weightlessness.

What is your favourite place in town?
 In terms of the best view, asking me what my favourite place in town is, is like asking who is my favourite child. It's an impossible question to answer as they are all special in their own way. Having said that, the star of the show has to be the castle. Then you have to work out the best view of the castle. Princes Street, The Grassmarket, The Meadows, Calton Hill, The Botanics... you see what I mean?!

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
I love the numerous closes in The Royal Mile. They are like intricate mazes connecting communities.

What do you like the most about this city?
Edinburgh is one of the most welcoming cities in the world. It is host to one of the biggest arts events which attracts internationally acclaimed writers and artists. It is this spirit of enlightenment that I find most attractive.

What would you change?
The traffic?!

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?
Edinburgh is illumined!

Visit the Art Gallery section to see some pictures by Rob Hain. Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

Raúl Campos
Edinburgh´s favourite Bus Driver & Best UK driver 2012

How long have you been in Edinburgh and why did you choose this city?
I came to Edinburgh from Madrid around five years ago with a luggage full of dreams and chorizo! Before that, I spent a whole year working as a waiter to learn the type of job I would surely be doing once I travelled abroad. That year, I remember that I searched for possible destinations in which to live because one thing was clear: I needed to live abroad to learn English but I wasn’t sure where to go. Every time I typed Edinburgh on the Internet, good opinions were expressed. There was always someone talking about the charm and beauty of the city so I thought that it was the perfect choice. The fact that there is a direct flight between my city and Edinburgh also helped me to take the decision.

Have you worked somewhere else before becoming a bus driver?
Yes. During the first month, I worked as a kitchen porter and for the next seven months, I worked as a waiter in several places through a hospitality agency. In the eighth month, I got a contract with Edinburgh Bus Tours to work as an occasional bus driver and after that, I was transferred to Lothian Buses regular service because both are sections of the same company. Since then, I have not changed and I have been working on Lothian Buses for more than four years now.  

What do you like the most of being a bus driver for Lothian Buses?
I really love my job. People are surprised when I say that normally I don´t like driving and, every time I have the chance, I avoid driving. I prefer if someone else drives (if I trust the person), but the bus is a different story. It is a very interesting environment where funny events always happen and this atmosphere breaks all the monotony. Every day I carry hundreds of different people and I interact with them very often.   When I talk to my passengers I discover little parts of their lives and I show a bit of mine. On the other hand, in my job you don´t feel the pressure of your bosses behind you. When I drive the bus, I know what to do. When I finish, I go home and I switch off so I don’t spend a single second of my time thinking of work.

How do you feel about being named bus driver of the year by the passengers?
To be honest, it made me feel very happy. However, I am totally aware that there are hundreds of better bus drivers than me in this city. They are very good at their job and I learnt from them and am still learning from them. Nevertheless, I feel very proud when people take time to write to the company to say I´m doing the things right. Normally, people always write letters to complain. The 21 letters I have received to thank me for my job are extremely important to me, but it is also very important when an old man gives me a sweet or a passenger makes me a paper bird with the bus ticket… Or simply, when someone wishes me a good day.  I think I don´t do anything special. I just say good morning and goodbye with a smile. It is just good manners. Unfortunately, in my profession, this is not very common. That is why people are usually surprised by it.

What do you miss from Spain?
My family, of course. It is something irreplaceable, a very important part of my life. I am such a family guy and I love them all from the little ones to the oldest. It is a bit difficult to explain how I can feel happy far away from them but the thing is I cannot be happy in the place they are just now, not at the moment. I also miss my close friends. I have friends here but, sometimes it is difficult to find the same kind of link with new people as I have with the old ones.

What is your favourite place in town?
Probably Blackford Hill. The view from the top is impressive. You can see the entire city and I love picking out the buildings from this point. It overlooks Arthur´s Seat in an incredible way because from Blackford Hill, Holyrood itself is also part of the landscape. Besides, this is a place I visit often and I have already some good memories from there.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
When I need a walk the best place to get lost is Hermitage of Braid, close to Morningside. It is a little path along the banks of the river. When you walk along this path you totally forget the fact that you are living in a city. The only things you can hear are birds and the sound of trees moving in. It is quite similar to Dean Village path but with fewer people.

What do you like the most about this city?
Definitely its size. It seems ridiculous but for me, this comes before the beautiful architecture or the mysticism which is breathed in every corner and street. Its size is perfect - small enough to go everywhere on foot and meet people you know, wherever you go. But it is also big enough to find a wide range of events and activities. Whatever you like, Edinburgh offers to you.

What would you change?
I would change Edinburgh´s winter. It is too long and, above all, very dark. This affects me a lot. The fact that it becomes dark quite early wouldn’t be a problem for me if, at least during the day, it was sunny and clear, but this is not the case. This makes you experience long periods with no contact at all with solar light and obviously, this affects you even at a subconscious level.

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word or sentence?
If I had to describe Edinburgh with just one word, it would be 'charm'. If I had to describe my experience in this city, the word would be 'reborn'.

Carlos Lischetti
International Sugarcraft Artist

How did you start in the baking and sugarcraft world?
I started by chance when I was a child. I used to try desserts recipes I had at home such as sponge cakes or birthday cakes for my sister. Little by little, I discovered that people liked what I made and that is how I set out on my professional career. When I decided to work in this field, I started to take it seriously with courses in Rosario my home-town, where I worked in a bakery for nine years. It was there that I got experienced and I improved all the techniques I had gained on my own. During that period of my life, I learned a lot. After, I kept on learning abroad in Buenos Aires, Paris and London. I have also worked in different countries. That has made me have a wider perspective on my profession. 

How did you learn to model figures with sugar paste?
The courses helped me to improve the modeling techniques but I have mainly learnt by making what I saw and I liked it. With lot of practice, I have found my personal style. I always try to give my figurines a personal touch. 
What is the process to create one of your figures?
Normally, I start from a paper sketch or an image which I divide into shapes and pieces for an assembling process later on, once I have made them in sugar paste. My work consists of taking a 2D figure and turning it into a 3D using just sugar. In this process, I usually work with my brother Elio, who works as animator. He designs sketches and I start my work from there. Besides, he also helps me with the combination of colours and with the photographs. We are identical twins and, generally talking, we understand each other very well.
What are your favourites desserts?
When I am eating, I don’t have a personal favourite dessert but I like fruit salads. If it is me preparing the dessert, I would choose something with chocolate like a cake or a mousse, mixed with passion fruit or raspberry. I have a classical taste. And, of course, as a good Argentinean, I love pancakes with dulce de leche
What are your plans for the future?
I just published my first book, “Animation in Sugar” and I am extremely happy with the respond. They are re-printing a new edition as the first one ran out very quickly! It is something I have been working for and I am thrilled. To publish a book means that you can show all your work everywhere around the world and I like the idea of spreading the word about what I do. 
What is your favorite place in town?
The pubs and coffee-shops in Broughton Street.
What is the best place to get lost in the city?
The alleys on the Royal Mile.
What do you like the most about this city?
The size of the city. It is a very comfortable city to move around. 
What would you change?
The front of some buildings. Some of them are quite dark. 
How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?
A city full of contrasts.
To know more about Carlos´ work, click here 

Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

 Peter Harkness
VIII Dan Master in Taekwon-Do

How did you discover Taekwon-Do?
I discovered Taekwon-Do in the early seventies. I started to practice Karate-Do first but a friend told me about this Korean martial art which he said was more based on kicking. The instructor Mr. Hock Aun Teh from Malaysia was really impressive and I decided to join his class at Lauriston Church Hall.

What is the philosophy behind this sport?
Taekwon-Do is a worldwide sport but it is first and foremost a martial art which has been used in war. It was invented by a Korean called General Choi Hong Hi who presented it to the world on 11th April 1955. It means literally "foot hand art or way" and through the scientific principles of this martial art a person learns to use their body to its maximum potential in self-defense situations. The "Do" of Taekwon-Do comes from the philosophy of Korean and Chinese philosophers and General Choi's life experiences when his homeland was under Japanese rule. He faced execution and was held in solitary confinement for seven years when his plot to overthrow the Japanese imperialists was discovered. The five tenets all students learn are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control and indomitable spirit.

How can a person use Taekwon-do in his/her daily life?
Taekwon-Do can obviously be used for self-defense in your life but just as important is that it is a healthy activity which you can practice alone without any equipment. If you practice Taekwon-Do diligently under a qualified instructor you will become proficient at Taekwon-Do. Therefore those who have persevered and succeeded in Taekwon-Do know that with a qualified teacher and intense practice you can succeed at anything.

What sacrifices have you had to make to become and 8th degree black Belt?
I have not made many sacrifices to be an VIII Dan Master. Taekwon-Do has been my hobby and from 1986 it has been my full time profession. My work has taken me to many countries I would never have thought to visit. I was privileged to go places with General Choi such as Germany, Netherlands, Republic of Ireland and Israel on behalf of International Taekwon-Do Federation.

What is the best age to start practicing Taekwon-Do?
I think from six years old to sixteen years is ideal time to have best opportunity to excel in Taekwon-Do. However you can still be a very good black belt if you do start later in life. 

What is your favorite place in town?
My favourite place in town is George Street on a sunny morning.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
You can enjoy getting lost anywhere between Stockbridge and the clock at Morningside. 

What do you like the most about this city?
What I like about Edinburgh city centre is the magnificent buildings. It’s a step back in time when you walk down The Mound. 

What would you change?
I'd get rid of the two sets of traffic lights at the junction between Hanover Street and George Street. 

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?

Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

Fiona Gomes
Founder of Yakety Yak Language Café

How did you come up with the idea of setting up a business about languages?
I like languages and had a basic knowledge of a couple of languages but never used them.  I thought it would be nice to use them - maybe just to be able to chat in another language, perhaps over a coffee, but I did not know of a way of doing that.  So the idea of Yakety Yak started!
I did not know if there would be anyone else in Edinburgh interested in a coffee and a chat in a foreign language, but the only way to find out was to try it.  And now, 2 years later, there are lots of interesting, friendly, witty people who meet up every week for chats in 8 different languages.
How the Yakety Yak system works?
We have set times and places for our conversation sessions in cafes around Edinburgh and anyone who has some knowledge of the language can drop in and join us.  We generally have at least 2 groups of different abilities at each session, so you join the group which is the best for you. Each group has a tutor who is a native speaker of the language to make sure you improve, and to ensure there is no temptation to lapse into English because you don’t know a word!
Why do you think YY has become very popular in just two years?
We are flexible - you do not have to sign up for a 10 week course with us, you just pop in when you can, so you only pay for the times you come, but also because we have fun. We chat about anything and everything, so coming to YY becomes part of your social life, relaxing with friends over a coffee, and improving your language at the same time.
Have people in the UK got good skills for learning a foreign language?
Yes. We have a reputation for not learning other languages but I have been very impressed with the number of people who speak 1 or more languages very well.  However I think if we started learning foreign languages much younger than we currently do we would find it a lot easier and less of a chore.
What is the most popular language in the YY sessions?
French is the most popular language, and also the language with the most advanced groups. I think this is because in Britain French used to be the 2nd language taught in most schools so most of us have some French tucked away in our brains somewhere, we just have to find it.  Spanish is a close 2nd to French in popularity.
In your opinion, why have most of the customers remained regulars?
I think there are 2 reasons; our fantastic tutors, who are friendly, patient, encouraging and enthusiastic and our customers, who are interesting, sociable and full of great chat.
What is your favorite place in town?
Looking at the Castle from Princes Street on a cold winter’s day at sunset.
What is the best place to get lost in the city?
The Botanics, the Royal Mile, the Meadows – there are so many places to wander around and discover new nooks and crannies.
What do you like the most about this city?
Edinburgh is big enough to have plenty to do and see throughout the year, but there are also quiet, unspoilt places such as the Pentland Hills just on our doorstep. 
What would you change?
When I am cycling, I would flatten some of the hills in Edinburgh, but generally there is not much I would change.  (Apart from maybe ban the tramworks!)
How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?
Home!  I love travelling and seeing new places and cultures but Edinburgh will always be the place I come back to.

 Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

Mark Beaumont
Cyclist and Adventurer

Your last adventure took place in the Canadian Arctic as part of a rowing expedition. Is rowing harder than cycling? What is the North Pole like?
Rowing draws on a lot of the same strengths as cycling in terms of physical and mental endurance. I am still more of a cyclist at heart and find it easier. The expedition was as part of a six man team, lead by Scottish adventurer, Jock Wishart and we were trying to be the first to reach the 1996 North Magnetic Pole. It was an incredible part of the world to see. So few people have been there and it is changing very fast, with less ice cover each year. In the summer, the archipelago of islands in the Canadian Arctic are very arid and barren, but the sea ice fields are some of the most impressive and intimidating landscapes I have ever come across on expedition.

How do you prepare and train yourself before your expeditions? 
The training for the Arctic was very different to past expeditions as it was rowing and not cycling and it was in a team rather than solo. Most of the team training was on the English Channel, but I also did a lot of my own rowing on the Edinburgh canal and out in the lochs of Perthshire.

On your trip cycling the Americas (from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego) you also climbed the highest peaks. What was the most difficult moment of that adventure?
On Denali, the first climb in Alaska, I witnessed an accident where a couple of climbers lost their lives. For me, that was the hardest part of the expedition, as it really hit home as to the risks involved in committing to that dream.

What place did you like most or what do you keep the best memories of from your trips?
I love the deserts. The sense of space out there is incomparable to anywhere. The Atacama Desert in northern Chile has to be one of my favourite landscapes. In terms of culture, I loved Iran, a place that was very different from what I expected. The people were so friendly throughout and I felt very welcomed.
You broke the previous World Record for cycling around the world, by 81 days. Did you expect that result at the beginning of your cycling? 
Yes, the old world record was 276 days, but I was always trying to break my own target of 195 days. I did so by less than 8 hours. It was a well planned expedition and I was never targeting the old world record.

How many people travel with you on your expeditions? How do you plan one of your trips? 
On the cycle around the World or down the Americas I am alone for most of the time. The world was just over half a year and the Americas journey took about nine months. However, every few months I am joined by a BBC cameraman to film me in a different part of the world. The rest of the time it is just me and my cameras on the road. In the Arctic it was a very different set up, as I was asked to join the expedition as both, a rower and film maker to make a documentary which will be on BB2 Scotland just before Christmas.

If we talk about Edinburgh, what is your favorite place in town?
I have lived off Broughton Street and the top end of Leith Walk and love that whole area. It has a great down to earth feel with good food and pubs.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
I still love going running up the crags and over Arthur's Seat - the views up there always remind me what a great city it is.

What do you like the most about this city?
Having lived in Edinburgh and Glasgow I love them both for different reasons. Edinburgh has a diversity of social life and a food scene which is second to none in Scotland.

What would you change? 
The traffic and whole travel infrastructure!

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?
Steeped in history but modern and fun loving.

Ronald Rae

When did your passion for carving granite become your profession?
I started carving granite when I was fifteen. I was given my first commission when I was 33! I am now 65 - whether I am paid or not I continue to carve granite. It is not really a profession - it is my very breath.

Why did you choose to work with this material?
To me granite is the most beautiful stone in the world. It sparkles in the sunshine, it is a broth mix of colours and it endures.

What is the most difficult part in hand-carving granite?
Carving granite plays havoc with my joints. At the end of each day I am aching all over. I now have arthritis.

How long can a sculpture take you?
It is slow business carving granite by hand - most sculptures take many months. My largest sculpture the 20 tonne Lion of Scotland took me a year to carve.

The Lion of Scotland has been voted the best-loved sculpture in Edinburgh. How do you feel about it?
I feel humbled by the feedback I have from the public.

Apart from the sculptures, you also write poems and make drawings. Where do you get your inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from my empathy for mankind.

What is your favorite place in town?
The Royal Botanical Gardens. I love the venerable trees and the changing colours of Nature. This is a place where I can totally switch off and be.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
Standing in front of Rembrandt's portrait in the National Gallery of Scotland.

What do you like the most about this city?
The skyline against the sunsets in December and the buzz of the city during the Festival.

What would you change?

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?
I have lived here for forty years and I always feel like a tourist - the city never ceases to surprise and astound me.

Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español

James Matthew                                                      
Rugby Referee

How was your first contact with Rugby?
My first contact with rugby was through school and subsequently through mini and midi rugby.  I played a variety of different positions during my playing career until I stopped playing after I finished university in 2004.

What is the most difficult part of being a referee?
I took up the whistle in 2005 and the most difficult part then was trying to remember all the laws! Now the hardest thing is maintaining consistency for the players on the field whilst trying to help provide an entertaining game for the players and spectators. 

How is your daily routine in your job?
I have a full time job as a health club manager so my refereeing is done in my spare time.  A typical week involves reviewing a game DVD on Monday or Tuesday, training on Wednesday, a run on Thursday, match on Saturday and completing match paperwork on following Sunday. 

Are you keen on any other sport?
I am keen on most sports in particular football, touch (rugby) and athletics.

What skills a referee must have?
A referee needs to understand and read the game to appreciate what players are trying to do, be a good communicator, have a strong mentality and above all else, have eyes in the back of your head!

What is your favorite place in town?
Stockbridge which is where I live.  I love the community feel; it is almost like a little village in the town.
What is the best place to get lost in the city?
The Dominion Cinema; a step back in time to how cinema should be.
What do you like the most about this city?
I really love the Edinburgh Fringe Festival; the city comes alive with so many visitors.
What would you change?
I'm not a fan of the Scottish Parliament building; it just looks awkward!
How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word/sentence?
A beautiful city where you can experience four seasons in one day!

When did you start feeling attracted to painting?
It was quite a long time ago. I was ill in the 1980’s and was given the book ‘Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain’.  I did the exercises in the book, and realized that I could draw. Then, once well again, work took over, and it was not until much later that I had the time to think about developing this.

Has painting always been an important part of your life?
All my life I have worked teaching English to foreign business people, but all the time, since the 80’s  I had that little voice in my head reminding me that I could draw. When I retired, I was living in Ireland and my greatest interest was dancing. I did a lot of dancing but I realized that I could not keep dancing forever. I needed to do something a little bit less physical so I took some art classes. That was in 2003 and, at that time, I had no idea that painting would take over my life. Since then it became very important to me. 

What inspires you?
At the beginning I was painting dancers and also wild flowers. This was of course because of my own interest in dancing, and also because of my husband´s interest in gardening. I wanted other people to feel the joy of colour and movement that I experience when I paint them. 

Is there any artist you especially admire?
I admire Monet for his gardens and flowers; and for the dancing I have been inspired by an American artist that not many people know about in the U.K.  Her name is Gloria Coker. I came across her by chance on the internet. She does a lot of colorful extravagant work with dancers, sportsmen, people in markets etc.

What is your favourite place in town?
The Royal Academy and the National Gallery in Princes Street. I love also walking along the Water of Leith.

What is the best place to get lost in the city?
When I came here to Edinburgh and did not have many friends I discovered The Filmhouse. It is a place where you can go alone and lose yourself in a really good film. 

What do you like the most about this city?
I like the fact that it is manageable and easy to get around in. You can walk nearly everywhere. The architecture is fantastic and I keep discovering new corners to explore. Every time I have a visitor I take one of the City Bus Tours. Every guide is different and tells different stories. The other thing I really appreciate is that the sea and the countryside are so near and accessible. 

What would you change?
I wish the place was not constantly being dug up. Ever since I arrived, there have been road works everywhere. 

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?
‘Splendid’ is the word I would use to describe Edinburgh. I would use this word for its architecture, its skylines, its history and its people.

Tim Barrow                                                  
Actor and Film Director

When did you become interested in cinema?
I came to cinema quite late. I was brought up on theatre and music, and the idea of being an artist or actor was the most immediate. So it has been, and still is, a huge pleasure to discover films, and broaden my cinema education. I feel like I’m very far behind! So it’ll take the rest of my life to catch up – which means there are loads of adventures and discoveries ahead.

Can you name a film which has marked your life?
“The Killing Fields”. An awesome and important piece of filmmaking. Those people had something very powerful and profound to say. A lesson for all filmmakers in asking why they make their work.

What is the experience of recording in Edinburgh like?
Fantastic. It’s a brilliant city to work and film in. People are discreet, polite and they leave you alone. The locations are endlessly fascinating. Everyone in the crew loved working here. It’s intimate so you get to know the city very quickly. Though the shoot was very intense, it felt comfortable filming in my home city. We had 3 weeks of sunshine and the place just sparkled.

How would you describe the story of The Space Between?
An Edinburgh love story and redemption tale. Two strangers are brought together and given the chance to turn their lives around. A story that goes from dark to light.

What is more difficult, being an actor or being a director?
Each has its own unique challenges, but there are more for a director because you’re in overall charge of the work, or should be. Acting is a fantastic way of life, and a joy to be part of a tight, talented ensemble. Directing is an honour because you work with richly talented people across the spectrum – musicians, actors, artists, sound recordists – and are responsible for bringing everything together. The workload increases, but so do the rewards.

What is your favorite place in town?
I love Calton Hill. I love the closes of the Royal Mile, and the elegance of New Town. But my favourite place is out by Cramond. The island is very special.
What is the best place to get lost in the city? 
Your own imagination.

What do you like the most about this city?
The light. It’s pure magic. The light changes constantly, but always makes the cityscape look dramatic and beautiful. The sandstone changes all the time as the light colours it.

What would you change?
Nothing. The city has evolved over hundreds of years and will keep going. I love it as it is.

How would you describe Edinburgh in just one word?

To see the Trailer of "The Space Between" click here

Haz clic aquí para leer la entrevista en español


  1. I really like the interview Adri. I will check out his film and the other movie he mentions for sure. Just one bit of feedback, could you put at the beginning of the interview a small text telling a bit about the person being interviewed? Good luck with your blog is really good!

  2. Thanks for the comment and feedback Noelia. I´m constantly working in the blog so the introduction will come.