Thursday 9th – Serbian Group

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Wednesday 8th – Serbian Group

Today opened with a talk from Estzer Tarsoly on the stream of structural-linguistic complexity that characterises the Danube region, touching on a plethora of languages from German to Romany to Ladino.  As the lecture overran, we proceeded straight into the project tutorial where we continued editing our film.  It’s coming on well, and is surprisingly stress-free.  Perhaps the meltdown moment lies ahead and we shouldn’t tempt fate, but we even seem to be grappling with the complexity of MP3 imports into Premiere Pro.  Jelena was en route to the Faroe Islands but her colleague Svetlana filled in excellently with a very interesting lesson on Balkan music – from turbofolk to Starogradska muzika!
All the best,
Rory

Tuesday 7th June – Serbian Group

Tuesday’s lecture was entitled ‘Time of the Gypsies: Romani Culture along the Danube.’  Professor Michael Stewart gave an entertaining exegesis of Romani culture and language in the form of a participatory online quiz.  Our discussion on anti-Romani prejudice and discrimination continued into our academic tutorial with Sasha.

Two hours of productive group work followed.  Amusingly, we had to re-take our group selfie on the grounds that our previous submission was not enough like a boyband’s promotional pic.  A new image with our heads pushed sufficiently together has taken its place.  Sura and Helen did a sterling job with our poster, and Alfred’s film editing has turned twenty minutes of raw footage into a polished masterpiece.  The transitions are particularly refined.

Our final language tutorial with the fantastic Jelena Ćalić was, appropriately for her, focused on Novi Sad’s famous EXIT Festival.  We are now equipped with all the necessary lingo to travel to and enjoy a trip to one of Europe’s most famous festivals.  We also read out a list of prohibited and accepted items at the festival – generously informing us that we are allowed sunglasses and small umbrellas.

All the best,

Rory

Monday 6th June – Serbia

Monday morning began on a cheery note with a two hour-long discussion on the Holocaust.  Actually, this is a bit unfair – Gwen Jones’ lecture on ‘Jewish Life (and Death) along the Danube’ ranged far beyond the Shoah, touching on rural Jewish life in Romania, urban culture in the coffee-houses of Vienna, and even allowing us to sample some Danubian Jewish music.

Following the customary Prêt-break, we moved into our cluster room on Bedford Way to start editing our poster and film.  Sura and Helen made rapid progress with the former, and the poster was nearly complete by the end of the session.  Me and Alfred took some time at the start struggling gamely with the Adobe Premiere Pro editing software, but left the session content with the footage we’d spliced together.

Our language session with Jelena was a veritable feast of burek and turška kafe.  In addition to giving us an excellent crash-course in ordering food and drink in Serbia, Jelena had been kind enough to make us some cheese burek and Turkish coffee.  Whilst she assured us that the burek was very easy to make, it tasted so nice that we almost couldn’t believe her!

The evening’s UN conference was a bonanza of transnational, inter-institutional and local cooperation.  A collective intellectual brainstorm on the effective implementation of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it was a unique experience. 

All the best,

Rory

Sunday’s Blog – Serbia

After the slate-grey gloom that pervaded the first week’s skies, spending Sunday afternoon strolling around South Kensington in the baking sun was a welcome change.  Although our appointment with Anja was for 2 pm, in an outbreak of responsibility we decided to meet at South Kensington tube station at the admirably early time of 12:30.   We took our time taking background footage of the cityscape, and were able to locate Anja’s small studio above a swish-looking bar with plenty of time to spare.

Anja was extremely friendly and welcoming, with the intensity of her answers leavened by an eager laugh and self-effacing sense of humour.  In addition to being a generous host and interviewee she is unquestionably a very fine artist – check her work out here http://anjapredojevic.com/gallery.html.

All the best,
Rory

Friday 3rd of June, Serbian Group

Friday began with a talk from Wendy Bracewell on ‘The Danube through Travellers’ Eyes’, lucidly discussing the perspectives and writings of travellers across the centuries seeing the region as a gateway from west to east.  This was followed by an academic tutorial with Sasha, in which we went on to discuss the impact of globalisation on regional culture.  How could a theoretical world government (or ‘global citizenry’…) protect vulnerable cultures and traditions, and how would they choose between cultures without prejudice?  A variety of (albeit tentative) solutions were advanced!

After lunch we heard from Edina Csányi, a lawyer working with the European Union, giving an interesting ‘Practitioner’s Perspective’ on the EU’s Danube Strategy.  It was very kind of her to come from Luxembourg to speak to us.  Jelena (along with her niece and daughters!) then gave us another brilliant language session, intertwining a discussion on the locative case with the natural landscape of the Serbian Danube.  The locative case was sonically highlighted by a song from Serbian alternative group Darkwood Dub.  I’ll be listening to them again! 

All the best,
Rory

Thursday 2nd June Serbia

The third day of the Danube programme was dense but rewarding.  It began with an engaging talk from Tom Lorman on ‘The Danube: a History of Highways and Floods’.  As a History student I really enjoyed Tom’s ability to link history, culture and geopolitics in an amusing style.   We then went into an academic tutorial with Sasha where we composed a list of questions to send off to our artist interviewee Anja ahead of Sunday’s interview.  A quick detour into Bloomsbury Farmers’ Market for lunch was followed by a photoshop and poster-making tutorial from Chee-Kit Lai. 

Jelena gave another fascinating language session, with more of a focus placed on literature and (particularly ex-pat) culture than the normal mix of phrases and grammar.  Discussion ranged from 18th century man of letters Dositej Obradović to modern fashion designer Roksanda Ilinčić.  Obradović’s first impressions of London were particularly interesting, recalling the awe and enthusiasm more commonly shown by western travellers to the east than vice versa:

When I gazed from an elevation at the awe-inspiring greatness of the limitless expanse of London, the most beautiful and the most famous city in the world, I cannot utter a single syllable.”

Our project tutorial with Sasha was mainly focused around practicing with the camera for Sunday’s interview.  The evening concluded with an excellent documentary film on Romanian dwellers in the Danube Delta and a superb ‘Taste of the Danube’ reception in the Print Room Café.

All the best,
Rory

Serbian Group Wednesday 1st of June

The second day of the Danube Global Citizenship Programme began with a lecture on documentary film making from Dieter Deswarte.  Helen and Alfred came away with a new-found appreciation for the importance of perspective, angle, framing and the ‘rule of thirds’.  This was followed by a workshop with Sasha.  Alfred was given the group’s video camera for the week, although we were all slightly concerned to find out that it cost £800.  Let’s hope we don’t leave it on the tube.

Jelena gave a lucid explanation of the peculiarities of Serbian grammar in the afternoon, interspersed with anecdotes and tales from Balkan history.   It was particularly interesting to learn that all foreign words in Serbian are given the masculine gender.  However, my attempt to thank Jelena as she left the room somewhat misfired – I confused “hvala” (thank you) for “zdravo” (hello)…

In our project tutorial with Sasha we began messaging potential interviewees for our film and poster.   Whilst the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch is yet to respond, we were delighted to receive a response from the young Serbian artist Anja Predojevic.  We will be interviewing her at her South Kensington studio on Sunday afternoon.  Her response came as a relief to me, as I had belatedly realised after messaging her Facebook page that my profile photo (taken in Split) and my cover picture (taken in Pristina) could have been dangerously politically controversial.   The day finished with a mock interview with Sasha, giving us an opportunity to practice our filming and hone our skills of interrogation.

All the best,
Rory

Serbian Group Tuesday 31st May

Bleary-eyed from the bank holiday weekend and dreary-spirited by the British summer drizzle, nearly 1000 students trooped into the UCL Institute of Education’s Logan Hall on Tuesday 31st May to begin this year’s Global Citizenship Programme.  Thankfully, the introductory presentations were rather more lively than the weather outside.

After a gap for lunch, Eszter Tarsoly and Zora Kostadinova gave an enthusiastic explanation of the rationale behind the Danube programme.  Following this, Tim Beasley-Murray passed around a pile of blank maps of the Danube region, which gave the group a chance to (light-heartedly) demonstrate our epic geographical ignorance.   Having enlightened the cohort, Tim gave a fascinating lecture on ‘Rivers and Global Citizenship’, making broad points about the paradoxes of rivers as a dividing and uniting social and geopolitical force along with finer details about the peculiarities of the Danube.  N.B. – future generations looking to design international rivers for optimal trade should learn from the Danube’s mistakes and flow away from agricultural economies rather than into them…

Our introductory session to Serbian/Serbo-Croat/Serbo-Croat-Bosnian (!) with Jelena and Sasha was also great fun.  Although our class was slightly svelter than we’d hoped (five), we were given a fascinating insight into the sounds and letters of the language, along with an interesting background to the complexities that characterize the Balkans.

All the best,

Rory