Rijeka and Brighton – my home towns

Rijeka and Brighton – a brief comparison prompted by the opening day of Rijeka’s European Capital of Culture year in February 2020.

It was almost 20 years ago to the day that I first came to Croatia, more specifically to Cres, Opatija and Rijeka. I was here to write a travel piece for a Brighton based magazine for which I was the production assistant – when the editor called out across our office “who wants to go to Croatia for a week?” I stuck my hand into the air eagerly although not being 100% sure about where I’d be going. On that trip, I experienced a tiny piece of Croatian life and the Rijeka Carnival and was greatly impressed. In 2003, I left Brighton and Hove (the city’s full title) and moved to Rijeka.

Rijeka and Brighton

In the following years, I visited many parts of the country but I always thought that the city was different and even the Croats I met on those trips told me that Rijeka stood out as being alternative. From music to art to literature this city has proved this to me with the opening of the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture (ECoC) this February and it made me realise that Brighton and Rijeka have several things in common so I put together a list:

  • They are both cities by the sea – south of their capitals – obvious I know. Brighton is the closest big city to London and a huge tourist destination. Rijeka is Croatia’s third-largest city, not, unfortunately, a big tourist destination, however, in the past it was a very important industrial and transport hub and with ECoC and all that this investment, opportunity and status will bring, it now has much more potential.
  • Theatres – both cities have theatres which came into popular use in the late-19th century. In Brighton the Theatre Royal and in Rijeka the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc. In each city, there is also an unused venue. Rijeka’s Opera hall was recently opened for the opening day of ECoC when several rock bands played well into the night and it has recently hosted a dance event, which will surely boost its rejuvenation. Whilst in Brighton the Hippodrome’s future is still in the balance. Both these venues have seen better days during their century-long lives.
Rijeka’s Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc and Brighton’s Theatre Royal
Rijeka’s Opera hall and Brighton’s Hippodrome
  • Both cities have old original cinema theatres. The Duke of Yorks picture house in Brighton is an art-house cinema. It was one of the first in the world and was opened in 1910. It has experienced many lows and highs over the years but has survived and today it is still the oldest working movie theatre in the UK. Rijeka has Art-kino, which under a different name was founded about 1928 and then went through many variations and premises over the decades. The movies were incredibly popular in Rijeka, with films being shown from all parts of Europe, America and the Soviet Union. In fact, at one point in time Rijeka county had more cinemas screens than any other town in Croatia (45) and in the first six months of 1950 more than 750,000 cinema tickets were sold in the city. A law was even in force at the time which meant that the sale of tickets by touts outside before a popular film was screened became a criminal offence – those found guilty were fined, imprisoned or even expelled from the county! During Rijeka 2020 ECoC there will several locations arranged for open-air film screenings around the city and even on the roofs of tower blocks. Brighton also has open-air cinema shows during the summer. Both cities also have multiplex cinema complexes, however, these two small independent art-house cinemas have survived where other theatres have disappeared or been repurposed, and they still draw in the crowds.
Rijeka’s Art-kino and Brighton’s Duke of Yorks picture house
  • Graffiti and murals. Both cities are adorned with murals and let’s say artistic graffiti. With tasteful and professional illustrations buildings, parks and other public spaces can be really brought to life, enhance the image and even become talking points and landmarks of towns and cities in place of drab, grey, depressing, crumbling structures. During Rijeka 2020 ECoC there will be an international festival of murals and street art will appear around the city painted by local and foreign artists.
Brighton’s Prince Albert pub mural and Rijeka’s IVEX building mural
  • Rijeka was and still is a centre of new music. In the 60s the first rock bands in the former Yugoslavia emerged here, in the 70s and 80s punk and new wave groups such as Paraf flourished. Later in the 90s and early 2000s, the club and dance scene was led by the Fun Academy and Quorum Colours. Brighton has always been an innovative place for new music. In the late 80s and 90s, it was a key place for the emerging dance and rave scene, which I really enjoyed. In the mid-90s I played bass in a rock band. My friends and I did it for the joy of music – we didn’t expect to be famous – we weren’t – but like so many others we did it for the fun of playing. 3-4 times a week we went to gigs, in pubs and clubs. This is similar to the feeling I have in Rijeka now – there is a varied musical scene, from flamenco to bluegrass and I have got to know several musicians by helping them with their English language as well as reminiscing about the heady 90s rave scene and concerts by bands that people here would have enjoyed seeing. Of course, all the musicians I’ve met here are much more proficient and professional than I was back then. One particular star from Brighton, Fatboy Slim has played in Croatia several times and Nick Cave, who is immensely popular in Croatia lived there for many years (bumped into him twice in Brighton’s shops).
  • Brighton is one of the key centres for the publication of The Big Issue magazine which was established in 1991 to help homeless people get back on their feet and make a small living from writing and selling the magazine. The Big Issue was one inspiration for Rijeka’s own magazine called Ulične svjetiljke which is now sold throughout Croatia.
The Big Issue was the inspiration for Rijeka’s Ulične Svjetiljke
  • Universities – both cities have renowned universities and big student populations. Several campuses and faculties are spread around each city. The students’ energy and enthusiasm are a constant drive in both communities. And of course, with large numbers of students come festivals and events to cater for them. Rijeka has the multi-day Student Day Festival – the largest in the region, which has just celebrated its 10th anniversary. It features cultural, educational, sports, humanitarian, entertainment and scientific events for up to 40,000 students from Rijeka, all over Croatia as well as nearby countries. The highlight being the weekend of free concerts in the very centre of the city featuring famous local names – something that made me reminisce of student gigs back in the early 90s in Brighton.
  • In Brighton the culture of recycling is firmly established. It is the only city in the UK which has a Green Party Member of Parliament. In the city, every household has separate bins for each kind of waste that is then collected by the council and dealt with. The City of Rijeka is trying – with separate containers for waste plastic, paper and glass for each neighbourhood, and it regularly distributes leaflets about how to cut down on unnecessary waste and raise awareness of recycling. Recently the city received more money from the government for the expansion of its recycling facilities. There is also one excellent initiative in the city called Riperaj, which is Croatia’s first repair café. It was opened in late 2019 and offers its citizens a free repair service (excluding any necessary spare parts) for their household electrical items and furniture and anything that would otherwise be thrown into the rubbish and end up in a landfill. It also offers a programme of workshops for everyone who wants to learn more about recycling and repairing household equipment. Repair cafés are a rapidly worldwide growing concept. Brighton also has its own Repair Café which was opened in 2012. During ECoC there are several green initiatives, such as Zeleni Val, beginning in Rijeka including the conversion of previously unused roofs of tower blocks into gardens and the greening of deserted areas owned by the city. Something that the local communities are invited to get involved with.
Rijeka’s Riperaj repair cafe opened in 2019 – the first in Croatia.
  • There are many other ways which Rijeka could also benefit from sustainable and renewable energy. Off the coast of Brighton, there is a massive wind farm with more than 100 windmills. Imagine the electricity which could be generated when the fierce “bura” wind blows!! Solar power too when considering the number of sunshine hours which the Adriatic Sea enjoys – in fact, a solar power plant on the nearby island of Cres is due to be constructed. Recently the Port of Rijeka was given a waste collection device – the Seabin – the first in Croatian waters. This simple, inexpensive bin for collecting surface waste is a global initiative that aims to clean up the water around harbours and ports.
  • Brighton has a very big gay community. The Brighton Pride Festival is the largest and proudest LGBT event in the UK with an average of 450,000 attendees every year. Although Rijeka does not come close to this kind of event, it is important to note that in 2013 the people of Rijeka voted against the proposed Article 61 of the Croatian Constitution which was upheld nationally as proclaiming that “Marriage is a living union between a woman and a man” – effectively meaning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional. Croatia’s first lesbian organisation – LORI – was established in 2000 in Rijeka and it supports the rights of the LGBT community in society. During ECoC there will be the annual Smoqua festival of LGBT culture which will feature performances, a concert, an exhibition, artist and activist interventions in public spaces, workshops, panel discussions and other activities in order to introduce visitors to the importance of queer and feminist history and it will be attended by participants from around the world. Just recently, in 2019 a new website, aimed at gay travellers and tourists was launched by a woman from Rijeka – gaytravelcroatia.net. Since living in Rijeka I have met many friendly, open-minded people of all generations from school children and pensioners, artists, writers, musicians and professors with whom I share the same passions, opinions and positive outlooks as those I know back in Brighton. Although the two cities do not share similar histories, I think that Rijeka’s past has only added to its diversity and tolerance for others as well as the desire for change and improvement.
  • Both Rijeka and Brighton like to feel as though they are different and independent. People visit Brighton for a weekend away, for the arts, nightlife and shopping. The community feeling is very close. In the 2016 Brexit referendum 68% of Brighton’s residents voted to remain in the EU. For me, Rijeka too has a similar feeling – immediately after the ECoC opening ceremony on the blackboard of a popular bar in Rijeka – Caffe la Guardia – whose daily pearls of wisdom over the years have been highly amusing and succinct, stirred up some reactions – read into this what you will.…..

Of course, this is just a quick list of things that immediately came to my mind after enjoying the opening ceremony of Rijeka’s year of holding the title of European City of Culture – many people I spoke to in the days following that day agreed that Rijeka should have a similar, although more modest, event every year. The year-long programme and the lasting effects after 2020 could be the initiator for a new annual Rijeka festival – RiStartFest (?) which would bring extra energy and interest to the city just like Brighton’s world-famous Festival

Late February saw the annual Rijeka Carnival Parade through the city centre. An extra special event this year to celebrate the European Capital of Culture, and something that I experienced 20 years ago on my first visit to Croatia. Every year I am always impressed by the effort, ingenuity and joy that its people can create and in doing so make it unique – just like my previous home of Brighton.

So Rijeka, in the words of your own annual carnival slogan may you always “be what you want to be.”

I was on Croatian National Television’s HTV1 chatting about Rijeka and Brighton with ‘Romano Bolković – 1 na 1’

Rijeka Trails – website and brochure translations

Latest website and brochure translation for the tourist boards of Kastav, Klana, Viškovo, Jelenje, Čavle, Kostrena, Bakar, Kraljevica and Rijeka. Full of detailed paths and trails for all ages. It features the distances, difficulties, GPS coordinates, altitudes, walking times, sights and facilities of each route.

website: https://rijekatrails.com/en/
pdf brochure: http://www.visitrijeka.eu/docs/tzrijeka2013HR/documents/194/1.0/Original.pdf

London Calling Comedy LIVE in RIJEKA 23.04.2012

Brod MARINA – 23.4.2012

LONDON CALLING COMEDY is back in town!
Kontakt osoba – Sonir Srdoč 091 5109 621
Rezervacije karata/ticket reservations:
Zagreb: ssonir@gmail.com

Britain’s rising young talent, a true English gentleman and Paddy’s return!

MC: Geoff Whiting (England)

HEADLINE ACT: Paddy Lennox (Ireland)

OPENING ACT: Alfie Brown (England)

MID ACT: Jeff Leach (England)

Organizatori/Organisers
Udruga Urbani Ured
Sonir Srdoč

Kontakt osoba – Sonir Srdoč 091 5109 621

Ulaznice u pretprodaji od ČETVRTKA, 12.4.2012:
Dallas Music Shop i Brod marina
Na dan predstave 60kn u predprodaji 40kn.

GEOFF WHITING – England

“wonderfully confident, highly entertaining…” Scene Magazine Bristol

Celebrating 15 years on the stand-up circuit, Geoff has a wealth of experience in working at all the notable comedy clubs in London, UK and in Europe from audiences of 12 to over 1,000 people. His entertainingly funny, strong, versatile act launched his career not only on stage as a stand-up comedian but equally on the TV screen with regular appearances for the BBC and radio.

Interestingly, he is one of only a handful of comics worldwide to have performed stand up comedy in a pod on the London Eye (for BBC: The One Show). Over the years, Geoff has worked alongside some of Britain’s most famous household named comics such as Michael McIntyre, Harry Hill, Dara O’Briain, Omid Djalili, Lee Mack and Lee Hurst.

ALFIE BROWN – England

“Immensely self-assured and stylish” – The Guardian

Alfie Brown is a comedian and presenter from South-West London and in 2006, at the tender age of 17, Alfie launched onto the comedy stage and has since established himself as one the most exciting people currently rising in the field. Described as stylish and unique as well as ‘One of the best young comedians around’ (Time Out), Alfie has a bullet-proof arrogance combined with thoughtful, passionate perspective on a range of topics that somehow sets him apart from the others.

Already at such a young age in his developing, exciting career path, he has managed to feature on primetime TV (BBC2) and has performed his stand-up at the 550 seater Lyric Theatre in London’s west end. Alfie is a devotedly passionate Liverpool FC fan.

PADDY LENNOX – Ireland

“Simply a scream.” The Telegraph

In February, Paddy burst on stage with London Calling and became an instant hit with Croatian audiences, so we’ve asked him to return for his 2nd London Calling Tour! Paddy is an engaging and instantly likeable comic, with a warm and natural approach, combining topical material, observational routines with impressive improvisation and banter to give you some great entertainment.

Recently, Paddy’s been working the corporate scene including shows for the BBC, ITV and Radio. As an accomplished comic actor, he has already created a pretty impressive list of theatre, film and TV performances. Paddy tries to play the piano to help him unwind.

JEFF LEACH – England

“Summer’s favourite festival comedian!!” – Esquire Magazine

Jeff Leach quite simply is hilarious, entertaining and the girls love him! Geoff started his journey as a DJ and quickly made his way onto TV as a presenter before appearing as host of UK’s Big Brother in 2009 as well as other BBC, ITV and Channel 4 shows. He started doing stand-up comedy in February 2010 and is set to be a household name that just seems to be getting stronger within the comedy circuit across the UK.

He performs his own revealing brand of stand up comedy whilst writing and performing sketch and character pieces. In the past year he has become a London New Comedian Awards Finalist and Leicester Square New Comedian semi-finalist and performed sold out shows at the Edinburgh Festival. He’s one to watch out for and we are delighted to have him with us on tour in Croatia.

http://www.londoncallingclub.com/

 

Eco active holidays on the island of Cres – video

Experience the beauty and heritage of the Croatian islands of Cres and Lošinj.
Recover from the stress of modern life by living a traditional way of life and activities on the islands. Would you like to be islanders for a couple of days and get to know the life of the people who live here? We offer activities such as: shepherding, olive picking, fishing, hiking, walking and dry stone walling, or explore the islands on mountain bikes.

Visit Secrets of Cres / Tajne Cresa: http://www.tajnecresa.com/indexENG.html

Iz starih bejski albuma – community exhibition, website, cultural research

Iz starih bejski albuma

Ovom izložbom predstavljaju se ljudi koji su početkom 20. stoljeća živjeli u Belom koji je tada brojio oko tisuću stanovnika. Većina ljudi iselila se nakon II. svjetskog rata, a danas je gotovo nemoguće zamisliti da je Beli bio toliko napučen i pun života. Fotografijama se na simboličan način Bejani vraćaju u taj prošli život kroz sjećanja njih samih, njihovih potomaka i poznanika. Posjetitelji ovoga mjesta, pak imat će priliku kroz izložbu steći predodžbu o ljudima koji su živjeli u ovom mjestu iznimne kulturne baštine i prirodne ljepote koja ga okružuje.

http://www.vidagents.com/beli/

Beli, CresFrom the photo albums of old Beli, Cres

Through this exhibition we are presenting the people who lived in Beli during the first half of the 20th century when there were about 1,000 inhabitants here. Most of them emigrated after WWII and today it is almost impossible to imagine that Beli was so lively. Photographs in a symbolic way give back life to those people of Beli through their own memories, the memories of their relatives and acquaintances. Visitors have the opportunity to learn about the people who lived in this place of an exceptional cultural heritage and the natural beauty which surrounds it.

This exhibition was a huge challenge. I had to gather 100s of old photographs from the old villagers of Beli – retouch and restore them to their original glory with Photoshop and then try to place names and stories to the people featured in them.

It was a very satisfying event when the exhibition opened in the old olive mill in Beli and to see the response from the local residents and those from around the world who then began to share their pictures and memories over the group page created on Facebook. – Martin

http://www.vidagents.com/beli/