“It has to challenge you”.

Counting reps for Hugo.

At the beginning of 2014 I accidentally started to do a new sport called Cross Fit, and with it came the need to learn a new language: AMRAP, CFWU, KB, OHS, WOD ….. mysterious acronyms for things I had no idea about. “Have you done the WOD? How did you do?” “I’ve bust my PB on the AMRAP WO” “You’ve got to do 21, 15, 9 OHS then KB swings”… WTF?  Well, if you have ever taken part in a CFWO (Cross Fit Work Out) then you would probably have heard of them: As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP), Cross Fit Warm Up (CFWU), Kettle Bell, (KB), Overhead Squat (OHS) and the big one, Workout of the Day (WOD). Why was it accidental? Because I had signed up for the online world wide game, the “Whole Life Challenge” (more below) which takes many of its ideas from the culture of Cross Fit. But what is that? Cross Fit? Being angry whilst doing aerobics? No, it’s a major life changing activity with added happiness benefits, but I can’t take the credit for getting myself into exercise, that’s got to go to the amazing, and inspirational physical trainer Lidia Villalonga.

Lidia with Quique

There are some people born to empower others, and in my opinion Lidia is one. She is a proud, modern Majorcan born and bred and she lives what she preaches. She trains early in the morning before the sun comes up so that she is fit and ready, and then she goes to work at the Sporting Fitness gym at the Country Club in Santa Ponca and spends her day helping a huge range of people to reach and exceed their goals. I am in awe of her determination, patience, intelligence and person-ability, because you’d think that someone who makes you do push ups may not be so popular? Wrong, wrong, wrong. Even when we’re struggling to finish a punishing set of Kettle Bell Swings we still love her. Why? Because she’s always honest, she respects her clients, she has a fabulous work ethic, and she genuinely encourages every body to get better. She’s also incredibly busy so we have to do our interview over a salad in the club where she tells me about her childhood and background.

When Lidia was a little girl she loved to go to her father’s shop and play but she knew from quite a young age that she would not go into the family business as she was drawn to a completely different life. “Although I loved it, I told my parents that I did not want to work for them when I was a grown up, I wanted to be a sports teacher. I loved”, she corrects herself, “Love all sports. I play them all. I love them. My dad said to me, “Are you sure?” because a sports degree was normally taken by a man. But I was sure.” She convinced them, and at the tender age of just seventeen moved from Majorca to Barcelona to take a degree in sport. “I left my mum crying like crazy in the airport, and me too, claro! But they were fantastic years. I loved studying.” Lidia stayed for six years, five for her degree and a further one to gain her masters. Although she adored living in Barcelona it was never on her agenda to stay longer than her course. “I love Majorca and my family is here. I couldn’t be anywhere else. Of course I want to travel and to explore the world, but I will always need to come home as well.

Lidia with some of the gang.

“My dad didn’t get the same chances as I did, when he was nine he had to go to work, and he built his business out of nothing, from a market stall to having clothes shops. He always said that you have to give the best to your client if you want to have business. I have learnt everything from the example of my parents. I owe them everything, I don’t think I will ever be able to say thank you enough”.

As we know, that old saying “The cream will always rise” still stands true, and soon after arriving back on the island Lidia found herself with the opportunity to work for Sporting Fitness at the Country Club in Santa Ponsa. “I started off part time, I was very happy because I was helping people who need help with their training. I was, and am, very motivated to help people improve their health; it makes a big change in their lives. And as the people got to know me I started to make my way in the club. To me my bosses are my clients in the gym, they are the people I work for”.

Lidia with Sabine and Gusi

It was at this gym, four years ago, that she discovered a brand new sport, Cross Fit, via “Another personal trainer, Rob, who was, and is, very passionate about it. It was completely new to me, but I liked it, I liked the philosophy and the ideas behind it, and very soon I was studying and then qualifying to teach Cross Training”.

What is Cross Fit? How to define it? In the interests of this article I nipped over to crossfit.com for this definition: “CrossFit is many things. Primarily, it’s a fitness regimen developed by Coach Greg Glassman over several decades. He was the first person in history to define fitness in a meaningful, measurable way (increased work capacity across broad time and modal domains). (VM: by that they mean improving on your personal best records, for example).  CrossFit itself is defined as that which optimizes fitness (constantly varied functional movements performed at relatively high intensity). CrossFit is also the community that spontaneously arises when people do these workouts together. In fact, the communal aspect of CrossFit is a key component of why it’s so effective”.

So, why is it good for us? Lidia answers, “You have to work all of your body together, you don’t need to spend a lot of time doing it, it’s intense and you use functional movements like squats, push ups, sit ups. They are essential to your life. It is the best metabolic exercise EVER”.

It’s also a lifestyle as it’s not just about what you do with your body that counts, it’s also about what you put into your body that makes the difference. If you know someone who is attending Cross Fit sessions then it is quite possible that they also know about a “Paleo” diet. The theory behind it is that our bodies have not evolved at the same rate as farming techniques and we simply can’t digest grains (e.g. pasta, and bread) or dairy products.  Think “caveman” and you’re more or less there. “There comes a point where you are working really hard in the gym and you won’t want to spoil that by putting food into your body which is not good for you, and that’s when you really start to make a change.  People make their own minds up, and when they do that this is when it really works. You won’t want to go back”.


That’s how I found myself eschewing carbs and dairy for a good chunk of this year in favour of higher protein and generous portions of vegetables. It’s also how I found myself competing (ha! Me!) against much fitter people (I lost, of course, but they still clapped because they are nice team types who want everyone to have a great time) and seriously growing to love the idea of being fit. It’s also how I found myself engaging in the Whole Life Challenge which encourages you to win points for good lifestyle choices including daily exercises (Cross Fit inspired exercises or as you wish, from playing Football to dancing Zumba, up to you) and stretches, nutritional goals and lifestyle changes. The interaction with the other people playing the game is a vital component as well, as Lidia knows. “If you feel part of something then you are more likely to keep taking part. The Whole Life Challenge was a very good way to build a community in the gym with people of all walks of life and fitness levels coming together. People get to know each other, go through some tough workouts together bond and become friends”.

The down side is outside of the Challenge you have to try to keep it going, and I am lucky enough to have some friends at the gym now that want to keep training outside of the game days. I tell Lidia that I was in the gym recently and voluntarily did a WOD (see above) without her egging me on which involved 45 “burpees” (sadistically difficult squat, jump, and press up combinations) and I felt proud about feeling sore in my legs. She grins from ear to ear. “You! …People who hated sports and now love to go to the gym, who can feel the power and strength and confidence in their own bodies, those are the best for me. It’s the biggest reward a trainer can have”.

As we approach Christmas and then the New Year it’s always a time for indulgence and then reflection. We may well set out to change things in our lives, but what prevents us from achieving these goals? Lidia knows, “People want everything without changing anything. That’s the sort of person who will fail. They want to lose weight or get fit without making any effort. But when you want to change you have to be outside of your comfort zone. If it doesn’t CHALLENGE you it won’t CHANGE you”.

I have never before, ever, in my life, ever had the experience of feeling strong and fit and full of potential the way that I have felt this year. Even though I remain the slowest person in my group, I really don’t care as I am still a winner as far as I am concerned because I am there. Imagine being the person who finishes the WOD last and still getting a round of applause, not because you’re last or because you are in some way deserving, but because you’re part of a team and that means that everyone encourages and looks out for everyone else. It’s a remarkable and addictive experience, and I can highly recommend it, and it’s entirely down to Lidia. As I interview her and learn about her background her own ethos and her love and respect for her own parents, as a parent myself, it just makes me love her more.

I can hardly wait for the next challenge which starts in 2015 on January 17th. Join in. Don’t be scared, it could be the most exciting day of the year, and possibly the first one of many brand new achievements for you, if you want it to be. To enquire about the gym and the WLC go via www.spcountryclub.com.  For more articles about people on the island visit www.mallorcastories.com.

Words and pictures by Vicki McLeod







A bit of a devil?

Diablo V, Mallorca, Vicki McLeod If you’ve noticed a new voice on the afternoon show on Radio One Mallorca over the past few months, you might have wondered who on earth “Diablo V” is and how he got that daft name. It’s the first question I mean to ask him when we meet to do his interview, but his naughty grin tells me all I need to know. Instead we start to talk about first records, record shops, growing up with vinyl and the Saturday morning ritual.

“I feel a bit sorry for kids now”, says Diablo,  “They aren’t ever going to have that experience of saving up all of their money and rushing down to the record shop on a Saturday morning to listen to the new releases to see what they are going to buy. These days we’re all bombarded by new music all of the time, it’s harder now for bands to break through and get noticed”.  I agree and we talk about what it was like for him as a boy who wanted to be a DJ back in the era when DJ-ing meant “putting on records” before the club scene changed all that. “My parents didn’t believe that it was possible to make a living as a DJ. When I left school I went and trained as a computer programmer and then went to work as a trainee systems analyst for a transport company. I knew I had to find a way to prove to my parents it was possible to earn a living in the music industry, but I also didn’t want to disrespect them.” So he started to work his day job and got himself several night jobs DJing in clubs in London and at the “Raindance Raves”. “It was back when music was less complicated, it was a mixture of soul and dance, and it was either good or it was not. There was no in between”. He soon started to attract the attention of promoters and began to secure paid work which eclipsed his day job and slowly but surely he worked his way up.  Diablo found himself in the position of being in the right place at the right time as dance music became more and more popular. “There was an eruption in the scene, and people went from worshipping bands to following DJs. BOOM!”  Of course, like every DJ worth his salt, eventually he found himself in Ibiza.

“Although I was born in Barcelona, my parents moved to London when I was young and I don’t yet speak Spanish very well. When I first moved to Ibiza it was before the season had started so the clubs were not open. My cousin got me a casual job labouring. Because my Spanish was so bad, I used to do pranks to get on with the other workers and have fun like turning the paint upside down, putting flour in the cement bags, and hooking up doors to fire extinguishers so you would regularly hear the shout of “DIABLO !!!!”  When club owners started looking for DJs the word got round that ” Diablo can DJ” and that’s how the name came about. Then the “V” came later, when Ministry of Sound took me on as a World Tour DJ, they explained that when they were selling me around the World people would google “DJ DIABLO” but that this would be a problem as there are hundreds of Diablos. So after a few weeks of talks, discussions, suggestions and web checks, we finally went with DJ DIABLO V – I’m the only one!”

I ask him about his most memorable gigs and he starts to list clubs and fellow DJs that even I’ve heard of: “Milton Keynes Bowl, Amnesia, Fantazia, Carl Cox …” the list goes on.  But what is it like I ask to be in front of a big, big group of people and feel their energy? His face instantly breaks into a wide grin, “Fantastic. It’s like being plugged into the mains. But you have to pay the bills, so not every one of your gigs is going to be amazing, it’s not until you get to a certain level that you can decide to pick and choose what you do”. As we talk about how the music industry has evolved Diablo gets serious, suddenly he’s not just the radio one prankster. “It’s not only musicians who have had to change the way they promote themselves in the music industry, it’s DJs too. “If you are a very good record producer then you have to also be able to DJ and do live events in order to earn money as the pirated music downloads has crippled record sales, and vice versa.”

Diablo V, Radio One Mallorca, Vicki McLeod, Phoenix Media, MallorcaDiablo first made it over to Majorca in 2010 when he was working for The Ministry of Sound. “I’d never been here before even though I’d lived in Ibiza for six years. My hotel was in Magalluf and I didn’t like it. As soon as I got there I wanted to change my flight and get out of there as soon as possible, but I played my gig and it went well. Another DJ, Martin, told me to give Majorca a chance and he took me to see Port Andratx. I realised how wrong I was about the island. It was much more what I had expected Majorca to be like.”

Diablo V found himself back on the island in 2012 when he worked as a resident DJ for the two of the biggest businesses in Magaluf: BCM and MCP. It was, in his words, with a wry eyebrow raised, “a long hot summer” but he started to make friends there. Then the opportunity arose for him to travel to Australia to Coolangatta on the Gold Coast. “I went there with the promise of a gig and I had my first two nights’ accommodation booked. The Aussies were kind of used to the “Too cool for school” type of DJ, do you know what I mean? The really serious posers, very production led rather than listening to the crowd and playing what they want to dance to.  I found myself in the middle of a Surfing crowd, I did really well that first night and they loved me. I DJed for some really famous surfers and they started speaking about me to their friends and one thing led to another. I really like the way of life over there, surfers are a great bunch of people, they live for living, it’s not about who does what or who wears what, it’s all about the personality, the character of the person. I like that a lot”.

IMG_6335When the season in Australia was finished it was time for a turning point for Diablo V as he realised that he needed to settle down a little and start to make a home for himself. “I hadn’t had a home of my own for three years. I’d been on the road for so long that I had become a nomad. And I had to decide where to set myself up.”  Australia or Majorca? Why did Majorca win? “Because it’s more central for accessing the rest of the world, and I love the island so much”. He’s certainly got himself settled in now with his regular weekday afternoon show on Radio One Mallorca (102FM and 105.6FM) from 2pm to 4pm, “ Next year I want it to be a lot more interactive with the audience and I’m planning some big pranks and fun and games”). Plus his regular nights at Mood Beach Bar in Costa D’en Blanes on Fridays and Saturdays where he plays soul and house with live saxophone accompaniment from Adrian Sanso-Ali. “I can’t wait to play the Mood pool parties next summer, they’re going to be amazing!”

One of the things I think I like the most about Diablo is his niceness, he is a polite, courteous guy who has a tonne of determination and talent. But you’re nowhere on Majorca without your network, and he’s built up quite a good one so far, “I’ve been very lucky that I have people who I would consider as councillors. I’ve got “go to” people that I ask for advice and who have helped me a lot: like DJ Doc C, the people at Radio One and Mood and Des Mitchell, the legendary DJ. Before you ever get to Majorca if you are in the music industry then you know about Des. Even with all his fame he’s a genuinely nice guy which is a rare commodity. I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have people around me who I can ask for advice from, people like Des.”

And what about New Year’s Eve, where’s he going to be to see the year out and welcome in 2015? “Originally I was going to be in Australia, but I changed it as I wanted to be here. I’m going to be at Mood Beach in Costa D’en Blanes DJing and playing feel good happy tunes with a live act as well. For me Mood is the best of everything, I like a lot of venues but the crowd at Mood have enabled me to cross genres of music and play a big variety of different styles.  New Year’s Eve is going to be a perfect end to a brilliant year for me. It’s an expression of everything I have learnt about the island and its people. I’m an old school DJ, I don’t want to play one style, I want to play music that makes people happy, and gets them smiling.”

I ask him if he has any New Year’s Resolutions and this happy, friendly, and very smart guy looks at me, grins and says decisively “No, right now there’s absolutely nothing in my life I want to change”.

Photos and text by Vicki McLeod

“It’s a universal story”

Drew Donovan

It’s a very damp afternoon in Palma when I meet up with Drew Donovan, the director and actor. It definitely doesn’t feel very much like Christmas, yet, but Drew is already in full on festive mode. I’ve caught up with him in between rehearsals for this year’s Isla Theatre production of “A Christmas Carol” and it sounds like it’s going really well.

PHOTO CREDIT Aimee K Photography (2)“We loved being in the theatre that we performed in last year, but we needed to move into a bigger venue to increase our audience size. We’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to use the Teatre Municipal Catalina Valls, on Paseo Majorca, right next door to the Bulletin offices. Right now we’re working on the Spanish subtitles for the show as we want to make it as accessible as possible to a Spanish audience as well as the English audience.” And it’s not just the theatre which is bigger, the cast has grown as well, “I’ve had to double up on kids for this year, because we have a lot of school matinee performances and I just couldn’t, couldn’t, ask that of the kids: that they should miss so many afternoons of school leading up to Christmas. Plus some of the actors from last year were not available so I’ve had the opportunity to recast some major adult roles”. Drew tells me that they are working in conjunction with the Ajuntament of Palma this year who are helping with the ticket sales. All the school shows are sold out which is marvellous news. If you want to bring a group of ten or more to an evening performance then you can pre-reserve with Isla.

The Christmas Carol company onstage PHOTO CREDIT AIMEE K PHOTOGRAPHYIt’s that classic Christmas tale. Ebenezer Scrooge, the famous miser is visited during the night of Christmas Eve by three ghosts who force him to reflect on his past and evaluate his future. But why is it important to Drew? “I wanted to do it twenty years ago, I worked on “A Christmas Carol” as my first professional job out of acting college, but there wasn’t a role for me in the cast, I worked as the driver! It was always my ambition to play the role of Scrooge, and last year I finally managed to achieve that”.  Drew moved to Majorca with his Swedish wife when his first child was still quite small. “We had our first son in New York, and we stayed for a year after that. I was working on and off Broadway in the theatre, but financially New York City is not the easiest place to be. Sandra’s mom owned a place in Soller so we were already familiar with the island and it seemed like a good place to raise a family. We had to cut our teeth a bit, like anyone who moves here, but we’re quite settled now.” Family life is very important to Drew, you can tell as he starts to tell me about how his own Christmas will unfold this year. “We’ll be doing our Swedish Christmas with the “Smorgasbord” of ham and salmon, beer and song!” I ask him if he feels he will miss out on turkey and all the trimmings, but no, he’s just celebrated an American Thanksgiving and had his chance to enjoy that feast. “I love to play Santa Claus for my kids, and that’s part of the Swedish tradition as well, every year you are supposed to be visited by Santa and that’s Papa’s job to dress up. You know your kids are getting old when they start to notice you’ve left the room at the party and then comment on your absence when Santa turns up! But I loved that innocence and fun when they were a little bit younger, I loved putting on the outfit, getting really close to them and then gazing into their eyes when they had no idea it was me”. Drew’s played plenty of roles associated with Christmas, not just Scrooge and Santa, but Jesus as well, but what other parts would he like to play in his career? “I’m probably too old now to play some of the more romantic Shakespearian roles; I would have loved to have played Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, that’s a great part. But I would like to have the chance to do more Shakespeare, or perhaps Stanley from “A Street Car Named Desire”, I’m quite at home playing tortured characters. “I ask him about what frightens him, what would challenge him and he immediately answers “Anything where you are carrying the show on your own. You’d worry, am I good enough, am I up to the job, do I have the emotional depth. But I’ve been in the situation and you have to go through the process of fumbling with the part, learning about the character. Then you begin to get to know them, you learn your lines, get “off the book” and then you can find the moments and the truth in the situation.”

PHOTO CREDIT Aimee K Photography

What then is the truth of Scrooge, of “A Christmas Carol”; the message is still very relevant to us isn’t it? “Yes, it is, it’s about doing things selflessly for other people.  I think it’s an important lesson for everyone to keep learning: the themes of the story are forgiveness, helping your neighbour and being a kind person. It’s the same as following the example of great people such as Martin Luther King and Ghandi and trying to emulate their courage and loving actions.”  The intention is to let the annual production of “A Christmas Carol” become a new tradition here on the island, last year it was very well attended, and this year the hopes are that this will be repeated. “I would like to keep it coming back”, says Drew, “it could become a family tradition that people look forward to. Like you always put the same ornaments up on the tree, so going to the show every year also becomes part of the holiday season here. It’s a universal story; we all fall from grace from time to time, it’s important to remind ourselves not to take things for granted”. And with that Drew walks back out into the rain sodden streets of Palma, which have taken on a distinct look of Victorian London as the evening has drawn in.

Ticket prices are 10, 12 and 15€. The show will run from December 12th until the 21st. You can find more information at http://www.christmascarolmallorca.com or http://www.islatheatreproject.com. To read more articles about people on the island visit http://www.mallorcastories.com

Text Vicki McLeod

Production photos Aimee K Photography


Let’s hear it for the Bray

Stuart Bray, Vicki McLeod photographerIf you’ve met Stuart Bray then you will almost definitely have been charmed by him. He’s got those sort of bright blue eyes that can blink boyishly innocently at you whilst asking you a tricky question. Normally when I meet Stuart he wants a favour out of me, and today is no different. He asks me a question that would usually receive a response similar to “jog on sunshine” from anyone else, stares at me like Puss from Shrek with his hypnotic eyes, and then waits for me to say…. “Oh…. Go on then!”

Stuart moved to Majorca in 2004 after having run a very successful advertising agency in the UK for a decade. “I decided to sell up and move and do something new, I wanted to be near the sea, and it was a toss-up between St Tropez and Majorca”. What gave Majorca the edge? “It’s only two hours away from Bournemouth airport, I wanted to be close to my family and my friends, and it’s got a lot of boats!” Stuart has been in, on and around boats since the tender age of four when his family would cruise the Thames on their day motor boat, and since moving to our island he’s made his love of boating into just one of his passions, but more about what makes this very charming man tick later on.

Stuart didn’t have the greatest of luck with his first two ventures in Majorca (which to be honest does sound familiar, most people I know have had a rocky start to their time on the island) being left in the lurch by a boat builder who went bankrupt, and the second one dramatically sinking, along with all of his savings. However, Stuart Bray is not the sort of bloke to let that faze him, and he literally bounced back and in 2008 started Bray Marine which is a brokerage for boats between 12 and 45 metres. He works in Majorca, Italy and the Middle East. “Boats are great, I love to find them, to list them, market them and then sell them!” Stuart admits that he needs constant challenges to keep him fresh and so the nautical industry definitely suits him.

What about what he gets up to when he’s not brokering the sale of motor yachts? Well, it turns out he’s a bit of a living room DJ on the sly, and when we discover that we both grew up in the Watford area, and even went to the same nightclub, (the erroneously titled Paradise Lost) the interview falls apart for a while whilst we reminisce about the Eighties, about fashion, music and clubbing.

Stuart Bray

Stuart and his partner Caron at last year’s event.


I ask about Stuart’s family, his mum and dad who he says have been together since they were teenagers and are now in their seventies and still hold hands. We agree that this is some sort of achievement, and even more so when he tells me that his mum has been quite seriously ill with cancer recently. Which brings us to the motivation behind the interview: the Bray Marine Charity Christmas Ball. “I did it last year and we had a great time, and I wanted to do it again this year. But this year it’s more personal, my mum has it, I’ve got three mates who have it. It just seems to affect everyone. So the Bray Marine Christmas Ball is an opportunity to dress up glam and bling it up a bit. I know that girls like to dress up and I know there aren’t really that many opportunities to do that on the island out of season, so I came up with the Ball idea. Really it’s a chance to get together with friends, have a great night out, a great dinner, some fun, some laughs, and raise money for charity. I’m going to separate the money out so that fifty percent goes back to the Cancer Research UK charity because I think you need to keep investing in research around the disease, and the other fifty percent I am going to be giving to the Cancer Support Group right here in Majorca. They’re doing an amazing job. They are supporting a lot of people who are going through treatment,  I mean, can you imagine being diagnosed with cancer and being on your own here on the island? It happens a lot. There’s a lot of ladies of a certain age who are maybe getting diagnosed and even though they have lived here for years they maybe don’t speak fantastic Spanish, and they are stuck. The Cancer Support Group are helping these people with translations in the hospital and with so much emotional and practical things, they are vital!”

FINAL XMAS Party FlyerThe event is next Saturday 6th December at 7.30pm  Tickets are 49€ per person and include welcome cava, a delicious three course dinner, and house wines and beers with your meal. There will be plenty of chances to meet up with friends and make some new ones as well, and this is a great chance to have your office Christmas do and get involved. There will be fun photo booth, Richie Prior from Radio One Mallorca will be your MC for the evening and there will be some great DJs playing after dinner as well. If you can’t make it to the dinner then you can come to the after party for 20€ per person which includes your first drink. Doors open at midnight.

You can book your tickets directly with Mood. Email info@moodbeach.com or call  971 676 456.

To read more articles visit www.mallorcastories.com


Seize the day

The full cast“This island is full of talent!” I’m sitting backstage in The Auditorium in Palma talking to Alex Coehlo, one of the cast of the musical “Rent” and we’re both raving about Majorca, “It’s incredible, it’s such a small island and it’s got so many amazing people living here!” Alex tells me that all of the company come from Majorca. “Everyone lives here, we were cast in August and we’ve been rehearsing together ever since. I can honestly say I’ve never worked with such a talented group of people”. Wow, that’s high praise as Alex has been working as an actor and performer for … well, let’s just say he’s got a touch of grey in his hair. The dressing rooms are beginning to buzz with activity as the company arrives to do their technical rehearsal and you can feel there’s a lot of love in the air. Perhaps it is life imitating art as the show they’ve been rehearsing is all about love, and life.

Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning revolutionary rock opera Rent tells the story of a group of bohemians struggling to survive and still express themselves through their art and “measuring their lives in love.” Against the gritty backdrop of New York’s East Village, these friends strive for success and acceptance while enduring the obstacles of poverty and the AIDS epidemic. Among them are a songwriter, his downstairs neighbour, an exotic dancer, his filmmaker roommate, the roommate’s performance artist girlfriend who’s recently left him for a woman lawyer, a philosophy professor, his soul mate, and their former friend and current landlord. Larson’s inspiration for Rent ’​s story came from several different sources. Many of the characters and plot elements are drawn directly from Giacomo Puccini’s opera “La bohème”, the world premiere of which was in 1896, a century before Rent ’​s premiere. La bohème was also about the lives of poor young artists. Tuberculosis, the plague of Puccini’s opera, is replaced by HIV/AIDS in Rent; 1800s Paris is replaced by New York in the early 1990s. The name reflects the struggles the characters have to pay their rent, and how their lives are torn, rent apart. Larson wanted to set it “amid the poverty, homelessness, spunky gay life, drag queens and punk” in the East Village neighbourhood of Manhattan, which happened to be down the street from his Greenwich Village apartment.

The musical was first performed in a limited three-week workshop production at the New York Theatre Workshop back in 1994. Larson had worked for five years on the score of the show, waiting tables to make ends meet whilst he created what was to become a smash hit. Dramatically he died suddenly of an aortic dissection, (believed to have been caused by undiagnosed Marfan syndrome) on January 25, 1996, the night before the off-Broadway premiere. The show went on to win a Pulitzer Prize, the production was a hit, and a rock musical theatre legend was born. Now it has been performed all around the world.

Marian (Brownie) UribeSo what relevance does the show have to us now, right here in Majorca? Marian (aka Brownie, playing the character of Tom Collins) answers that it’s just as relevant now as it was in the nineties. “The message is that there’s ‘No Day But Today’. You have to live your life and be in the moment. We really only have today.” Alex adds “it reflects a lot of what we are still going through as well, the economic struggles and the marginalisation that people feel when they are cut out of society. Some of the characters in the show are struggling with illness and yet they still find ways to be happy and thankful.”

Rent El Musical, Marian, Mark, Mallorca, Photo by Vicki McLeod

Mark (left) and Brownie


The show, which opens next Tuesday and runs until Sunday at The Auditorium will be performed in Spanish, brilliantly translated by the show’s young director, twenty one year old Palma born Mark Witz. I’m staggered when I realise that he’s fresh off the block and yet has inspired and led a cast of fifteen performers, with a live six piece band and has by all accounts done a great job bringing the whole thing together. Why take such a risk? Mark answers me simply, “I wanted to touch people’s hearts.” Mark has been studying music since he was seven years old, I ask him if the show has become an obsession, “Yes!” he admits, blushing and laughing. Brownie, who aside from performing in the show is also the assistant director, picks up the story, “Mark has been working on the translation for three years, and then this summer we organised the casting and it just all came together. It’s been such a pleasure for us to work together.” Brownie moved to Majorca from the Czech Republic twelve years ago to live with his aunt and has had his own struggles, just like character he portrays. I ask him if he’s living the message of the show as well, “Six years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes, it was a big shock for me, I was in a coma for three days. We never expect that moment to come, but you have to accept that death is life. Now all the things I have right now, this opportunity with the show, the friendships in the cast and company, the potential we have, it’s all very important to me. These are my dreams coming true”. And what about the future, after the show closes next week, what ambitions do you have for the production? “I would love to take this show to the mainland as well, and show people what we can do, spread the message that life is just about today so don’t waste your chances, enjoy your life, don’t have regrets, be in the moment.”

The elements are there for the show to be a hit, Majorca is a tough residential market to crack, but I think they will do it. Mark says, “It is scary, but we started with nothing so we can’t lose”. Kudos must go to him, to Brownie and the rest of the production team including Sandra Mayol, Carlota Carballo and Marga Bonnín. When you consider the immense achievements that this young team have made with very little resources you’ve got to wonder what could they do with some actual backing?

If you can get a ticket, go and see Rent next week: you will leave the theatre high on life, ambition and hope, I certainly did.

To read more articles about people on the island visit http://www.mallorcastories.com

By Vicki McLeod

Published in the Majorca Daily Bulletin on Sunday 23rd November 2014

“Make it yours, this festival is for you”

Sandra Seeling Lipski, Evolution Film Festival Mallorca, Photo by Vicki McLeod

I went to meet a very impressive woman this week: Sandra Seeling Lipski. She is the founder and director of the Evolution Film Festival which is held next week in Majorca.  The festival will feature movies and documentaries (long and short) in English or subtitled in English, which have been created by film makers from all over the world. Sandra was born in Berlin, grew up in Majorca and then moved to New York and then LA to study and then work professionally in the acting and film making industry.

So why did you decide to start a film festival back on your island? “When I started I was 27 and very naïve and I just did it. An innocent! This thought had occurred to me why isn’t there a film festival in Majorca? Why not, it’s the perfect place, it’s central in Europe, the connections to get here are amazing. I just thought: I’m just going to do it, and that’s pretty much what I did. I’d never even done an event before, I just had that feeling that I needed to do this. My parents live in Majorca, and my brother has a business here as well so I was coming here regularly anyway, so I thought why not just bring a bit my LA life with me?

“The first year went pretty well: we had around 450 guests. I thought nobody would come, but somehow these people found about it, and it was a very international audience. And then I started to have people contact me asking if we would be doing a second year, even I wasn’t sure. But then I thought, okay, let’s do it again, and we had 1500 guests. The positive response was just overwhelming. There was a real festival spirit. People would go to the cinema and watch the movies and then go to the bar afterwards and talk about the films. It’s a conversation that gets started, which I love. And then meet up again and talk over coffee at the free morning events that we do. We will be doing some at Rialto Living this year: directors come, actors come and you can talk to them and be in this very casual environment and meet people that maybe you have always wanted to talk to. So I created these little get togethers and brought all of these movies here and somehow it just blossomed.

Evolution Film Festival, Mallorca

Tone Adsero, Director of Hotel Cort, Esperanza Crespí and Sandra Seeling


It’s not easy to do something like this is it? “Of course, there’s also been the point where I’ve thought, well maybe I’m going to have to quit as there’s not enough money and not enough help and this, and this, and this. But somehow, it kind of just wanted to happen again. We have a fantastic new graphic designer who has come on board who has helped us to revamp our new logo and look, and that has helped us to attract new private sponsors who are really important. This year we have Hotel Cort sponsoring the rooms for the film makers, they are making it possible for them to have accommodation whilst they are here. We have Mercedes who are doing all of the transport for us, Rialto Living who are hosting the Café con Cine mornings. The Ayuntamiento have given us twenty bus stops where we can put our posters. And we have a fantastic relationship with the people at Teatro Principal, and Cine Ciutat. They love us and support us, it’s pretty amazing. They love the event, that’s it is young people and that it’s fresh and new. I’m not there yet where I want it to be, I need to be able to have a budget to pay the people who work on the festival next year so we’re looking for 2015 sponsors.”

Evolution Film Festival, Mallorca

Helium, the Oscar winner for Best short film 2014, showing at the festival.


What’s the process? “I start to choose the movies in March, and then come over to Majorca in May and speak to the sponsors, and then I come back for the six weeks prior to the festival. And I also organise the Los Angeles edition of the festival which is terrific promotion for the island, it introduces the island to film makers who may come over here and shoot a movie.”

Evolution Film Festival, Mallorca

Druid Peak. The festival’s opening film.


How do you choose the movies? “The first year we had about 100 submissions, the second 150 and this year we’ve topped out at 230 submissions. I watch them all and choose from the programme from this. In this year’s festival we have 43 films! We have feature films, short films and documentaries, so we have a bit of everything. It’s an international festival. We are going to show three movies from local Majorcan film makers: Pep Bonet, Toni Bestard and Nofre Moyà. The films fall under the theme of “Cultural Differences”, how our society treats senior citizens, our relationships between humans and animals and nature, the power of music and an extensive offer of genres including drama, comedy, suspense and musicals.   They are all unique, and forty of the films are premiering for the first time in Spain. I chose them because they are socially and environmentally relevant, that touch upon themes which are in the news right now. ”

What can we do to help? “We’ve created this festival for you, please talk about it, get involved, come to the screenings, tell other people about it, make it yours, it’s for you”.

There will be a “warm up screening” on Sunday November 2nd at Es Baluard. The festival officially opens on November 6th with a gala at Teatro Principal. The festival screenings are all at Cine Ciutat until November 10th. There will be three “Café con cine” meetings at Rialto Living on the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the festival. You can see the full programme of the Evolution Mallorca International Film Festival and buy your festival tickets online at http://www.evolutionfilmfestival.com. Tickets are 5€ or you can buy a festival pass for the entire event for €45. To read more articles about people on the island visit http://www.mallorcastories.com.


Majorca’s Ray Of Light

A Ray of Light, 2, Palma de Mallorca


Next week on Thursday evening (the night of the 30th, at 7pm) you will be able to attend the premier of a new documentary about Majorca’s stingray population. The short film is called “A Ray of Light, 2”, it’s the sequel to “A Ray of Light” which was made a couple of years ago by a then emerging film maker, David Diley. His subject was the efforts of a local resident of Majorca, dive teacher Brad Roberston, to improve and conserve Majorca’s marine environment and its population. “A Ray Of Light” went from a standing start to 100,000 views online and changed both Brad’s and David’s lives for the better. I spoke to David Diley this week.


Film Maker David Diley

“What seems like forever ago, Brad and I had talked about a project he had come up with, a survey to find out more about the yearly appearance in the Bay of Palma, of big numbers of Stingrays, many of which we have since discovered, were heavily pregnant. The concept being that he could set up a Stingray survey, utilising volunteers from the yachting community alongside divers and try to understand this annual aggregation more, how big the numbers are, why they’re there and maybe even where are they coming from and going to after they leave?

“This was a monumental undertaking from the get go because there was no money, no real support from government except from our ever-present and always super cool friend, Gabriel Morey. We talked about how, in order to get people interested in protecting the Stingrays, we would first need to know a lot more about them and their yearly visits to the Bay of Palma. Anyway, long story short, a few months later, Brad emailed to tell me it was up and running and he was conducting surveys with a small handful of divers.

“I had been working like a dog for two years solid and figured I needed a holiday. I had been planning on going over to stay with Brad and his wife Bea anyway and then one night, I had the idea of shooting a short film about the project but not the usual “… this is bad, look at these horrible images of dead things, we’re all gonna die” type, more of an engaging story about the very, very rare breed of people who sacrifice, sacrifice and sacrifice all for a cause they believe is worth fighting for. So, my “holiday” turned into a film shoot and the rest, as they say, is history.

“Brad was spending all his own money on the surveys, losing working days, burning through fuel like there was no tomorrow, using all his own gear and surviving on about three hours sleep a night, I paid for the production of the film entirely out of my own pocket and battles with bureaucracy were a daily occurrence. We needed to inspire people to care about an animal which just isn’t as inspiring as sharks or tigers or as easily marketable as whales and dolphins. The issue here was that we had what was a complete oddity in the Med, a healthy population of a marine creature, so we figured we should do what we can to maintain those healthy numbers and use it as a reason as to why marine protected areas in the Mediterranean, especially those around the Balearics, are so important.

“The results of that holiday, A Ray Of Light, took us by surprise in the level of success it attained: it headlined various film festivals around the world and has been viewed in 151 countries to date! So I’d always intended to do a sequel because the reaction to Brad and his work was overwhelmingly positive, indeed, as more people saw the film, the level of support for Brad’s work increased to the stage where he was able to raise sponsorship to start  Asociación Ondine, which became an official non-profit, grassroots marine conservation organisation based on the island.”

But what’s the big deal about stingrays? With their round, flat bodies and undulating wings and their close relationship to sharks, which are some of the sea’s greatest predators, stingrays may fit some people’s definition of “exotic.” Yet stingrays exist worldwide, from freshwater rivers to the open oceans. No matter what habitat they occupy, an analysis of the creatures that they eat and the organisms that eat them suggests they have an important role to play in the ecosystems they inhabit. Research has established stingrays of every variety as upper-level predators, meaning that they hunt and consume other animals, even those that consume other organisms themselves. Their foods of choice include molluscs, crabs, small fishes, and worms. Although stingrays often are listed as top-level predators, hunted by no other creatures, it has been established that some sharks and large fish eat stingrays and they have a positive effect on their environment, which means it is a very good thing they are in the waters around Majorca.

A Ray of Light 2, Palma de Mallorca

“I don’t want to give too much away but A Ray of Light II is a longer film (29 minutes) much less retrospective with a first person insight into Asociación Ondine’s biggest conservation project to date. It focuses on the effects the first film had on Brad’s life and conservation on the island, the growth of Asociación Ondine, and the huge changes to Brad’s personal life and also confronts the challenges and more controversial aspects of marine conservation in Majorca. Where the first was something of a vignette, the sequel is a more rounded, documentary style film which asks the difficult questions and gives the important answers. In short, I am really, really proud of it.”

A Ray of Light II gets its full premiere at Palma Aquarium on Thursday October 30th, where they will also be screening the first film. Marine biologist and Vice President of Asociacion Ondine, Gabriel Morey will be giving details of findings of the Stingray Survey to date. David, Brad and Gabril will also be doing a Q&A session afterwards. The event is free. Doors open at 7pm.

You can find more information here: www.asociacionondine.org, here: www.officetoocean.blogspot.com, and read more articles about people in Majorca here: http://www.mallorcastories.com

By Vicki McLeod