Toledo: walls, synagogues and marzipan

Half an hour away from the hot and dry Spanish capital Madrid, lies Toledo, a city that fits elegantly within the tall, sepia-toned walls taking you back to medieval times of walled in castles and forts. The city, which is the capital of the autonomous region Castile-La Mancha has been declared a World Heritage Site, and it’s easy to see why. Its little winding streets – reminiscent of Mexico’s Guanajuato – let you walk up and down to the centre with views of the cathedral, and its monasteries are romantic and peaceful, It’s not only this beauty that makes Toledo a great city to visit; Toledo is also culturally, historically, and religiously rich with architecture and customs reflecting Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

Toledo’s Jewish quarter is very popular with tourists. Santa María La Blanca is considered the oldest synagogue in Europe, and can be found there. Its white walls and golden decoration lend themselves to Moorish architecture, giving the synagogue characteristics of a mosque. It’s cool and peaceful inside, making it a great place to take a breather from the Spanish heat.

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Toledo is also hugely famous for their mazapán. Apparently this specifically Spanish type of marzipan – made of almonds, sugar, honey, and eggs – was invented by nuns at Convento de San Clemente to feed the undernourished people of the city suffering from famine. Toledo is also known to shape these little sweets into figures of animals. Head to the convent to try the original mazapán still made by the nuns, or to the shop Santo Tomé which has a wider variety of marzipan.

I just wish they were vegan.

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Lucy Rose at Rio Cinema, London

Last year, English singer-songwriter Lucy Rose put her trust and faith in Latin American fans and accepted their invitations to play in their hometowns for free and stay with them. Some of her flights were paid for by fans that just could not last another minute without seeing Lucy Rose in the flesh.

Lucky for me, I was in Mexico at the time and travelled from my small flat in Colima to beautiful Puebla to stay with a friend and introduce her to one of my favourite artists. We were all blown away as we sat cross-legged on the courtyard floor staring up at Lucy Rose as she performed an intimate acoustic set for us.

Fast forward 12 months and Lucy Rose has released a documentary narrating her travels around countries including Chile, Argentina, and Mexico, and has been visiting independent cinemas around the country to screen her film as well as a play a little gig. I’d never been to a cinema gig before so this was a totally different experience for me.

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Beginning with her documentary, which was highly emotional, Lucy Rose took a little break before heading back on stage to play a set that encompassed all three of her records to date. Both the documentary and her performance were stunning. She is one of the most humble artists I’ve had the pleasure to listen to, and the privilege to meet. Hearing her wonderful anecdotes about fans that she stayed with, and seeing just how much the trip impacted her, brought me to tears. Before playing ‘I Can’t Change It All’ from the new record Something’s Changing, she explained that the song was actually written for a fan. She wanted to do something for him after realising, to her disappointment and shame, that there was very little she could do to improve his situation. So instead she wrote him a song, the album closer.

It becomes clear that Lucy Rose returned to music after going through some self-doubt and lack of confidence because of her fans and the way they have welcomed her with open arms, introducing them to their families, and the way they have experienced her music in such a personal way.

Her shows continue to reiterate the power and influence of music, and the reality that the industry doesn’t have to be completely commercial and consumerist, and can be for just the artist and their incredible fan base.

Watch the documentary below.

Thoughts on Glastonbury 2017

This year at Glastonbury was my third; my third time litter picking on the Pyramid Stage for Bhopal Medical Appeal, glimpsing the oddities that Glastonbury has to offer between watching talented artists perform, and sampling the festival’s vegan eateries. This year was a lot quieter on the music front compared to back in 2015 when I had a packed schedule and had to run from stage to stage to catch the likes of Rae Morris, FKA twigs, and Everything Everything. This year left me with some thoughts on the music scene and the chaotic festival itself. 

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Where’s the rain?

We’re not Brits if we don’t talk about the weather, right? The day we arrived, Wednesday, was an absolute scorcher and although the following five days weren’t as warm, the lack of rain made this year’s experience wholly different. Litter picking around the dusty tracks of Glastonbury as trucks drove past wasn’t pleasant, but at least we didn’t have to trudge through the mud for six hours. Instead, punters were in a much better mood this year dancing under the sun, sitting up on Stone Circle until the stars came out, and watching their favourite artists perform.

Corbynmania

Glastonbury was extremely political this year with more and more people heading to the Left Field to catch leftist artists and speakers make some noise for politics that actually make sense in today’s society. Beans on Toast, who played in a tiny tent at Common People back in May, attracted a huge crowd at Left Field as he sang about political puppets. The politics of Left Field moved to the Pyramid Stage on Saturday afternoon as Jeremy Corbyn spoke to thousands of Glastonbury punters. Chanting ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ to ‘Seven Nation Army’ at the Silent Disco was a surreal experience. Corbynmania took Glastonbury by storm.

White white white

Over the last few months I’ve become more aware that the music scene – or at least the music I tend to listen to and enjoy – is saturated by a white population, mainly men or those fitting the criteria of heteronormativity. This year at Glastonbury I found that our little group made of up of friends made on previous years volunteering and family was mainly non-white, leading me to observe that we were one of very few Asian groups amongst the hordes at Glastonbury. Why is it that Glastonbury remains so white even with a fairly diverse line-up bringing different genres, identities and cultures together?

Vegan heaven

Festival food is great with its diversity in cultures and tastes, and I knew that as a vegan I’d be okay with the variety of options. If ever in doubt at Glastonbury head to the Green Fields area and the Greenpeace Café for a small but tasty selection of vegetarian and vegan food. Somewhere between there and the Healing Field I grabbed a soya Chai and a hearty falafel pitta, sat cross-legged on rugs and taking a breather from the rush of Glastonbury. A stall I was keen on heading to before even stepping on Worthy Farm was Club Mexicana, which opens its stalls in various markets around London. Tofish tacos and BBQ jackfruit burritos were the highlight of my Glastonbury foodie experience. Even my omnivore brother was impressed. 

It was great to be at Glastonbury again this year especially having missed it last year due to being on my Year Abroad, and a pleasure to work alongside BMA volunteers clearing up the Pyramid Stage. Love The Farm, Leave No Trace.