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LARRY YASKIEL is the keeper of all the stories

LARRY YASKIEL is the keeper of all the stories

by Norman Warwick

Larry Yaskiel is 85 years old; still working, still Lanzarote´s most eloquent English-speaking advocate, still writing informed and informative articles, even in the most recent edition of the quarterly Lancelot magazine of which he is the honorary Editor and still sharing memories of his first career as a recording company executive in the heady days of the sixties. It is a delight to occasionally meet up with Larry and his lovely wife, Liz and over cups full of coffee and a cornucopia of cakes at a place in Puerto Callero, so quiet and peaceful even when busy. As always with Lancelot and Larry and Liz, the conversations simply go anyway the wind blows, as JJ Cale would have said.

The Keeper Of All The Stories a character I invented, or more probably re-invented, when working as a peripatetic creative writing facilitator with a primary school class back thirty years or so ago. IO had asked each child to write about themselves and the promise they wanted to make to the world. We agreed we had to make sure their stories were looked after until they were old enough to judge the merits of the story and how they were doing on delivering that promise, and then set another exercise in which they described a guardian, The Keeper of All The Stories.

That character became central to nearly all my subsequent writings, appearing in un-read novels and scarcely seen plays and whispering hardly heard songs, sometimes in the guise of the real life Townes Van Zandt, the life-like Rex Bob Lowenstein (from a song by Markl Germeno and The Sluggers, or as the corporeal of the spirit of all storytellers.

Little did I know then that sometime after 2015 I would meet the man I would come to think of as, really, The Keeper Of All The Stories after he gave a talk at Cic El Almacen, a homely little arts venue in Arrecife, known as The Warehouse. The venue has exhibition rooms and an upstairs cinema and a wonderfully buzzing downstairs restaurant and bar. Larry fully engaged his audience as he spoke fluently in English and Spanish. There was film and photographs of the likes of Sandie Shaw and Leo Sayer, and the conversation was laced with references to Hendrix and Humble Pie. I remember such gatherings in the UK often descending into indiscretion but Larry stands above all that. He celebrates the artists he mentions without lauding them but speaks of their good characteristics and the wonders of their music.

He similarly advocates the Lanzarotan lifestyle he has embraced, and has been embraced by, since retiring here in the nineteen eighties after retiring from the music business. He speaks eloquently of early pioneers on this modern-day island, like Olivia Stone and like Cesar Manrique, a late artist by whom Lanzarote remains enthralled.

Larry is the author who has published the most pages on Lanzarote in English, reaching readers in the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, New Zealand and Australia.

Lancelot Digital news desk reflected in a recent piece on how much Larry has brought to the island and offered an overview of a (below)  second glittering career, for a man who had mingled with shining stars in his first career in music.

When the magazine was born in 1985, it became the first insular publication in the Anglo-Saxon language and one of the first with such characteristics in Spain. In the late seventies, Larry and Liz were two English tourists in Lanzarote. The couple had been together for a few years and discovered that the island was their place. He had been a successful executive in the music industry, at the biggest labels, alongside big groups and artists, like Supertramp, the Bee Gees and Jimi Hendrix, living in a frenzy between Britain and America. Larry’s memories in music are reflected in the book La Rocola del Bar Rumba (left). Larry Yaskiel, a lifetime in Rock, with a prologue by Miguel Ríos, a publication edited by the Cabildo de Lanzarote in 2019.

Shortly after settling in Lanzarote, they received the invitation, from the Lancelot Editorial Group, to direct a magazine focused on the English market. Larry, with a wide network of contacts in the English music press, sought the best advice and the couple began their adventure. The interest in disseminating the local culture of the promoters of the new magazine brought them closer to Lanzarote artists and historians, such as César Manrique, Francisco Hernández Delgado, Maruchi Rodríguez and Agustín Pallarés, who influenced the style of the publication. This, together with the commitment made by the leaders of the Cabildo and municipalities that are more sensitive to culture, allowed the consolidation of the project. 

Larry’s personality, an intellectual with an insatiable thirst for knowledge, prevented him from limiting the magazine’s content to a mere tourist guide. He read all the bibliography available in English and broadened his search at the British Museum in London, making findings that he shared with the archives and historians who sponsored him, as well as with his readers, disseminating chapters of the history of the relationship between Lanzarote and the Anglo-Saxon world that the majority of the population was unaware of. All this knowledge is reflected in the book The British Connection with Lanzarote and the Canary Islands. 600 years of history (right) , published in 2018 by Remote Editions, a work that was presented at the Cervantes Institute in London.

Larry Yaskiel’s desire to find all the possible links of Lanzarote in the world led him to follow a trail to, for the first time, in the 1990s, achieve personal contact between the descendants of the emigrants from Conejeros who in the In the 18th century they emigrated to the United States, some founding the city of San Antonio in Texas and others settling in the state of Louisiana, very close to New Orleans. The relationships encouraged by Larry Yaskiel promoted a flow of meetings on both Atlantic shores, which distinguished Larry and Liz, in practice, as authentic ambassadors. In recognition of the work carried out, the Library of Congress of the United States requested a copy of Lancelot in English during the celebration of the bicentennial of that institution. 7

This diplomatic function, not officially recognized, would not have been possible without the educated character, “British” in the most “polite” sense of the term, noble and affectionate of the couple, who have earned sympathy among all sectors in which more have been related: the press union, technicians from institutions, associates of different groups of Lanzarote society, companies and educational centres. Since the 1980s, Larry Yaskiel has been regularly given talks in English to high school students, the Official School of Languages ​​and schools. In 2012, the Lanzarote Teachers’ re paid tribute to him, presenting an index of 150 articles written and published by Larry on different topics related to Lanzarote.

The reputation of this English gentleman enables him to provide a service and make use of his contacts, as in the receptions of representatives of British embassies and consulates. An example of this was when he facilitated Brian Eno to be present at the Visual Music Festival. 

Today Larry’s voice still guides the visit of English tourism in the audio (recorded many years ago) of the bus that runs through the Timanfaya National Park. 

Larry was also one of the hosts for the adventure tourism internship expeditions at the University of Chichester in Lanzarote, an activity that has been carried out in January for the last twenty years with Professor Duncan Reavey. Sidetracks and Detours reported on this recently in an article entitled Fantastic Festival Fun For 2022 published on Monday 28th March and still available in our easy to negotiate archives filed under aata.

It is true that Sidetracks And Detours are not only friends of Larry and Liz Yaskiel but are also such huge admirers of the couple that our daily not-for-profit blog is based in both intent and ethos on what they have done for Lanzarote and, they would say, what Lanzarote has done for them.

The couple has been such a model of integration, civility and friendship, that they have simply become part of the island and have made friends here regardless of nationality, like a family, with a close collaborator, a designer for decades, in Betty Romero from Lanzarote. 

So, it was fantastic to read the current edition of Lancelot and see how much Larry is still making a great contribution to its pages and to learn of how much regard in which he is still held.

photo 5 Reflecting Larry´s keen interest in the connections that link The Canary Islands and Great Britain, a letter to the editor seeking conformation of a Spanish writer compared to Charles Dickens received an encyclopaedic response about Benito Perez Galdos (left) , a revered writer for his own works, who also translated several Dickens works into English. Although he died in 1920 he remains on the education curriculum over here, and is regarded as one of the fines writers since Cervantes. We look forward to researching more about him and producing an article of our own later in the year.

This season´s Lancelot also carries a piece that reflects the esteem in which Larry Yaskiel is still held by detailing a recent meeting between Larry and Liz and Hugh Elliott (right) , the British Ambassador to Spain. Although they were here only for a brief  weekend to step back from such high profile work and find a space to remain incognito, the Ambassador and his wife Toni but sought out Mr. Yaskiel for a meet and a chat. Larry told us how impressed Mr. And Mrs Elliott had been by the island, having rented a car and driven round it and enjoyed the volcanoes, countryside, towns and villages´ and all the friendly people they met. Apparently they also took a ferry trip across to Graciosa and took a stroll along the islands endless beaches and registered 22,000 footsteps on ´fit bit´.

Hugh and Toni had wanted to meet Larry and Liz to tell them how much they enjoy reading Lancelot. They relayed to Larry how often they are surprised by some of the connections they learn about in the magazine. They said they had been amazed to learn that cochineal dye from Lanzarote was used to colour the uniforms of the Household cavalry and The Canadian Mounties in the nineteenth century.

Coincidentally on the same page of the Spring edition of Lancelot there is a story about a forthcoming fashion show on the island of cochineal dyed clothing designs. We have articles in our easy to negotiate archives about the dye-industry that sprang to major prominence on Lanzarote for a long period.

We have also passed on through our pages recently some of Larry´s notes about plans to mark in January 2023 the twenty fifth anniversary of The Lanzarote Campus of Chichester University. Larry´s article in the Lancelot Spring edition tells of how that symbiosis all began and how essential it has become to enhancing the education of not only uni students in England but also of student teachers etc here on Lanzarote. He describes in some depth the exchange programme that makes that work.

Lancelot makes no pretentious claims (that we are guilty of , perhaps, here at Sidetracks And Detours), about their services to the arts. They are as much about history and geography and serendipity as they are about music and dance. What they deliver then is holistic text that reflects the history and traditions of music and dance, of the work songs, the poetry and vision that is such a part of life here on Lunate. Note, though, that on the strap line at the bottom of the cover photo of Lancelot Spring 2022, the word Culture precedes ´dining out, holiday homes and tourist attractions´.

There is one final article in this edition of Lancelot that I must refer you to. Versions of it have been carried elsewhere but in Lancelot the story of newly created statue, Fisherman With Marlin, has an entire page dedicated to it. I will not be able to resist editorialising (ie pinching) this piece because it is actually all about the relationship between the later writer, Ernest Hemingway and the skipper of his fabled boat The Pilar. Hemingway, of course, wrote the novel The Old Man And The Sea, a book I hated when studying it for O levels in 1967, despite the how much the work was lauded by Mr. Drury, my teacher who worshipped Hemingway and Steinbeck as, now, do I !

The statue depicts what I now see as the epic struggle between fish and fisherman described in the novel, and will stand in pride of place on a roundabout on major road somewhere, joining two or three other sculpting at other locations that reflect Lanzarote´s fractious but forgiving relationship with sea that surrounds us.

So, we will run a feature on this new art installation over the next few weeks, but because I so often take sidetracks & detours whilst following Larry´s thoughts, you can be pretty sure there will be features coming up not only on the skipper and the sculptor but also on Hemingway and/or Steinbeck

You see, meeting up with Larry and Liz is about so much more than Puerto Callero and coffee and cake: it is about cochineal and culture and Chichester and continuity. He might be The Keeper Of All The Stories but he is a benevolent bookmark forall who are willing to read and carry forward and re-locate the stories he keeps.

Larry and Liz are good people. Their stories are the stuff of aphorism and in Larry´s series of stories down the years, the stoicism, determination communication and growing confidence of the people of Lanzarote have become signposts to our modern parable.

Don´t miss our daily posts for the rest of the week which include a closer look at the Hemingway statue, and a gig review of Carmen Boza, a wonderful singer-songwriter seen recently at ´The Warehouse´, mentioned elsewhere in this piece.

With so much to read you might like an educational and musical accompaniment,… with Hot Biscuits.

My pal Steve Bewick, radio presenter, writer and recording and visual artist is due to visit Lanzarote in May and I-m sure there´ll bew music venues he´d like to see and hear, and I have a few tales to tell him from The Keeper Of All The Stories. So why not listen to Mr. Bewick´s Hot Biscuits Jazz Programme this week? Following on from his solo broadcast on South African jazz of the 1960-70’s Gary Heywood-Everett, a mutual friend of Hot Biscuits and Sidetracks And Detours, explores the sounds of Jazz in SA of the contemporary period including Indico Zaba, Zim Uquana, & Bukani Dyer (left), to name but three. If this looks interesting then tune in 24/7 at www.mixcloud.com/stevebewick/

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