Norman Warwick follows sidetracks & detours on
THE ROAD TO NOWHERE or everywhere?
As a retired seventy year old British-born, who has lived on Lanzarote for seven years, I remain an avid, if often disenchanted, reader of The Daily Mail. I think it has the best football reportage and journalism about Premier League etc. and in very broad terms I agree with its politics, and its coverage of the arts has some depth and carries some weight. So, what´s not to like? Well, these days I don´t like its mischief-making which is at worst, jokey and juvenile, at best provocative and pertinent but is most of the time is simply tiresome and troublesome.
If your read the recent text of a speech made by The President of Lanzarote about the way ahead for the tourism of the island, I think you will find she made some serious reflections on how her country might survive the prospective surge in tourist numbers that are already suffocating some of the island. However, The Daily Mail have been accused of editorialising her words, surely knowing their own interpretation would mean different things to different people, some of whom would read The Daily Mail story and feel as though Dolores Corujo had delivered a slap to the face of our tourist industry whilst others might just read the piece as a show of support to all sectors of our economy, including tourism.
Founded in 1896, the ‘Daily Mail’ is the second most read newspaper in the United Kingdom, and the most read by the British female population. For this reason, it is logical to understand the important and negative media coverage of said news in our main source market for tourists, from England to Ireland, from Wales to Scotland.
Of the almost 15 million tourists who arrived on our islands in 2022, 36% (5.5 million) came from the United Kingdom and Ireland. And of those 15 million visitors, around 19% (2.7 million) chose the rabbit island for their vacation enjoyment. The difference –or the importance of said issuing market- for the island of volcanoes is that, compared to that 36% average for the entire archipelago, the weight of British and Irish reaches up to 56% of the total of 2.7 million tourists arriving in Lanzarote the previous year. Or, what is the same, more than 3 billion euros of tourist billing only on that island last year.
There was talk as we emerged from the lockdowns of the pandemic about establishing a new tourism model that would identify and cater to niche markets such as sports, arts, photography, literature etc and Playa Blanca extended its harbour in expectation of promised small cruise liners including the port onj their itinerary of Canary cruises. Somehow that seems to have caused a North South divide on the island with Arrecife lobbying to preserve their current monopoly of the cruise liner business.
Sidetracks & Detour believe that the President´s words have been misinterpreted. She seemed to us (in our interpretation) to be speaking of offering something new to our visitors with a diversity of themes and locations that would also help spread our tourist footfall around the island and so ´disperse´ the crowd rather than reduce it.
Not all tourists want anything more than an airbed on the water and a cocktail with a straw in it when they visit Lanzarote on holiday. We certainly don´t encounter many British tourists at the arts exhibitions, concerts and poetry we report on these pages. That, in fact, is exactly why we do publish these pages, to inform visitors aware of what else the island has to offer besides the beaches, pubs and restaurants.
So, in view of all the misunderstandings about the future of the tourist industry, we travelled into Arrecife to see what the island´s capital was offering to the tourists. There were the beaches and the pubs and the restaurants, of course, but we also found visual arts exhibitions, new shops we had not seen before and a newly opened walkway from the Gran Hotel out to Islota de Firmina.
Our first stop was at the so-called Yellow House museum (left, dwarfing Norman Warwick) . Its real name is La Casa Amarilla, in Arrecife on Lanzarote, and it is an informative space of the Cabildo of Lanzarote which organizes temporary exhibitions focusing on the knowledge and memory of Lanzarote. La Casa Amarilla is the familiar name of an old house, former headquarters of the Cabildo de Lanzarote, in León y Castillo street. It is a two-storey building, a landmark in the city, and an example of eclectic architecture for administrative purposes. It was built in the 1920s right in the heart of the historic centre of the capital of the island, Arrecife. It was named a Cultural Interest Site in 2002, and it underwent intense renovation work that has turned it into a modern and functional building, remaining true to its original façade
It is an intriguing structure that can, and often does, house more than one exhibition at a time. The main collection to look at today had perhaps not been titled with tourists in mind: Funeral Rituals Of Inhabitants Of The Ancient Canary Islands (right) is not the most happy clappy of titles. However, many of the old customs and traditions still inform the funerals of today and remain a constant source of fascination. The Guancho Mummies, for instance, have become almost iconic, and arouse both our curiosity and admiration, because very few ancient cultures managed to embalm mummified bodies so successfully !
The exhibition also looks at special historic prayers, gender roles in funeral proceedings and mourning behaviour, (left) and the changing attitudes to appropriate clothing. It is all brilliantly presented with clothed mannequin, hundreds of lines of informative reading, strange and spectacular photographs, an audio visual service all supervised by a friendly and helpful female steward.
Details of exhibitions at La Casa Amarilla and details are always available at their on-line site at
We were keen to explore the recently re-opened and newly refurbished installation that we had read about in the local press. We were, however, slightly delayed on our fifty yard journey across the road to The Islote de Firmina by the perfumes and emanating from a recently opened shop called Natural Treasure, directly opposite The Gran Hotel. The premises is owned and run by Marta Bourke and it is crammed with Amber Jewellery, Crystals, Gifts and Natural Cosmetics and you can find them on facebook at naturaltreasurelanzarote,
This is quite a prime site, we would think, with residents stepping out from the hotels that encircle the shop as well as a busy footfall of local residents on their way to and from work from one side of the ´city´ to the other. And, of course, we must not forget those cruise liner passengers, with their deep pockets, who tour the waterfront with their deep pockets.
Marta was a delight to talk to and clearly had an interesting back-story to tell. We have therefore arranged an interview, so watch this space.
There was still one further distraction to delay our arrival at Islota de Firmina. The slow beers and the hot and cold tapas at The Parador, a street bar, always proves irresistable when we are on this side of Arrecife, and a half hour lunch always becomes two hours of watching the world and the girl from Ipenima go walking by. It was, as always a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.
However, pulling ourselves out of our seats at around 3.30 pm we were finally about to complete last forty of the fifty yard walk we had set out on 3 hours earlier.
So, we took the opportunity to visit the The Islota de Fermina in Arrecife which, after several years of closure and re-development had finally been officially opened to all members of the public a few days earlier on Monday, 30th January.
“It’s free to enter, it will be open to everybody and it will have a cafeteria that will be open from 10 am to 5pm” said Benjamin Perdomo, councillor for the Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism on Lanzarote. During the opening ceremony he added that the space would be used for events, mostly of a sporting nature but also including business meetings and conferences.
The small island that lies at the foot of the Gran Hotel in Arrecife was designed by César Manrique, but remained closed to the public for over 20 years, falling into disuse and damaged by vandals. The isle became known as “el islote del amor” (love island) as young couples would go there for a bit of privacy.
There had been controversy back in 2021 when Arrecife’s Ayuntamiento announced the re-opening of the Islote, but this turned out to be only a for a few select, invitation-only events.
Admission is free to The Islote de Firmina and remains true to a Manrique design. There are no ugly angles, only curved architecture around wide open spaces of land stretching right out into the sea. From end to end the walkway might be half a mile long, but (thank you Cesar) deliberately tempts you down so many ´sidetracks and detours that the distance you stroll to look óut from various view-points will be considerably longer. With a long back at the sea front shops of Arrecife and infinity horizons ahead of you in the seaward direction this looks to be a hugely bigger world than it actually is. There is a walker´s turning circle, quite splashy when the tide is high that took us back towards a coffee shop and poolside bar we had somehow missed. We took the opportunity to enjoy a café con leche and a cappuccino served by liveriesd waiters in the C:A:C:T: stripes and reminded ourselves to tell our friends Superintendent Sidetracks and DCI Detours and recommend them to pay it a visit.
It was two nights later when I was telling Superintndent Sidetracks about it when he interrupted me to say,….¨no, no, we went just a couple of days ago. What´s the point of it? It´s just the road to nowhere´! (right)
Changing the subject, the Super reminded me that we had recently spoken about visiting The Cactus Garden (another incredible Manrique design) to see one of the occasional concerts that are a new innovation at that venue just up the road from Teguise. These are likely to become monthly events, subject to the success of this trial run, and so far there have been concerts of dance and a piano recital. I was being reminded that we had agreed to visit the third such event, on 18th February, but with a sinking heart I realised I had foolishly booked in some interviews for this day and so would not be able to attend.
I spent the next day trying to re-arrange my diary, but to no avail, so I asked The Superintndent and DCI Detours to tell us what they thought of the new initiative..
I was able to listen to their findings the following day as we all travelled up to Orzola on the very Northern tip of the island to visit the home / gallery of Claudie, a multi-disciplinary artist who, over the past year or so has become a good friend of these pages, regularly updating us of her art activities,
As we were driving along the coast road alongside Caleton Blanco on the way to Orzola DCI Detours opened her notebook and read to me her observations of the previous day´s concert which Dee and I had been unable attend
´On Saturday 18th February,´ the DCI read from her detective´s notebook, ´The Cactus Garden (left) welcomed Chimbet, a young band made up of passionate musicians who are looking for their own sound and are starting their professional careers in Barcelona. The band is composed of three Madrileños and a rabbit farmer who are inspired by the cultural and musical scene of the city´. They are not only especi9ally adept in jazz but they also excel in other styles.
Chimbet´s compositions include both their own songs, with touches of Cuban music and jazz, as well as versions of standards touched with his own creativity. Chimbet’s influences range from John Coltrane and Eddie Palmieri, to current artists such as Miguel Zenón and Carlitos Sarduy, and also include styles such as flamenco and timba.
As we drove into Orzola, my wife Dee, aka Dutton The Button, reminded us of the nature of Claudie´s invitation.
DCI Detours also briefed us later on the way home from Claudie´s of impressions she had formed of the artist and her art, and of her home.
´In a Lanzarote winter that is bringing us cool days, Calimas, whirling winds with everything a shade of grey´ and quite a drop of rain I was cheered up because Claudie beat that lot with something colourful. She opened the doors to her home and her ´galleries and made us all very welcome to view old and new art, meet old and new friends and to learn more about her and her wonderful work.
We enjoyed a lovely hour or so as DCI Detours, on our way home, summarised in her usual diligent fashion; Apart from the classics such as acrylic painting, photography, jewellery, her tidal woods, beach magnets and so much more reflecting the artist´s love for the sea, there was some new stuff too. Her ´yellow house´ in calle peña hendida 11 is beautiful with an interesting piece of garden alongside and it is great that she occasionally mails out to her contact list to invite people to an open doors viewing of her premises in Orzola. It was lovely, really: a kind of come and say hello, bring friends and family to share a lovely Sunday´ .
When we stopped for a meal in Playa Blanca we all discussed the current state of the art the island. Had our President really said everything The Daily Mail had reported? Not in so many words, we don´t think.
Superintendent Sidetracks began the discussion with an overview
The cycle of concerts has just begun at Jardín de Cactus and offers a unique experience to the tourist / visitor. Between the months of January and May the visitor will enjoy the melodies of a cast of local emerging artists mostly, with the participation of artists, provincial and national, which will undoubtedly add more unforgettable moments to those already encountered on any visit to The Cactus Garden´.
I noted that, interestingly, we all seemed to think that art exhibitions, even those as somewhat macabre as the one we have described above being shown in La Casa de Marilla, new and enchanting shops such as Natural Treasure in Arrecife, beautiful tapas bars like Parador on the city´s sea-wall and even what the Super has dubbed as the road to nowhere that is Islotas de Firmina, a new concert series in the Cactus Garden and of course artists such Claudie with her exhibitions and home gallery, could all be seen as part of the island´s tourist offer. With only a slightly different gift-wrapping this parcel could be presented to tourists whilst effectively serving as an agent of social change (and of improvement rather than of decline).