Georgia and England

By | Category: Travel destinations

For those of you who didn’t recognise the flag underneath our logo in yesterday’s e-letter or on this page, it is the flag of Georgia.
Why Georgia?
Because like England their patron saint is St George. And like us they celebrate it on the 23rd too. But the 23rd of November – yesterday – rather than as we do in April.
It is not only a patron saint that is common. Pantomime comes to the capital, Tbilisi, each December. This isn’t a one-off though for the Tbilisi International Players has performed Cinderella in the past and, this year it will be Sleeping Beauty. And seemingly like everything else in Georgia, it is in a new building, the Marjanishvili theatre. For many though, this year’s production will be closer to the British pantomime tradition rather than the Georgian twist that has been added in previous years. But Panto isn’t the only theatre.
A flourishing arts scene in Tbilisi has grown up and they host an International Festival of Theatre which straddles September and October. As the stature of Georgian theatre has grown internationally, invitations to perform abroad have come in. In 2010 there were about 40 overseas invitations for the theatrical companies to perform abroad. And the feeling is reciprocal. This year John Malkovich performed with the Vienna Academy Orchestra.
The main theatre is the Rustaveli which last night had an experimental production of Hamlet. And the musical running through November is Oliver! It comes as little surpise then to learn that the British Council is a permanent partner.
Last month, the Shavnabada choir visited the UK and plan to return next year as well. This isn’t there first time over here either. Their mix of Georgian monastery and folk music caused great interest in 2010 when they visited and that led to them being asked to return.
For the last seven years there has been a British Georgian Society which aims to foster cultural links between the two countries and in Yorkshire there is a Northern Georgian Society with their own choir, Samzeo. This weekend in London sees the end of a tour by the Sakhioba Ensemble, a group of twelve men who sing traditional folk and sacred music, who have gathered international praise since they started just five years ago. You can hear some of their music by clicking here
The connections don’t end with culture. Bristol is twinned with Tbilisi and Newport, in Monmouthshire, with Kutaisi which next year becomes the centre of government for the country. Batumi, the Black Sea beach resort has no twin city in the UK nor does Rustavi, the industrial and only other city with a population exceeding 100,000. But Rustavi also has an internationally renowned ensemble that is older than that of the Sakhioba. Now over forty, it has performed in seventy countries and have recentlyannounced they will be recording 300 different Georgian folk songs
As a new holiday destination for Britons, it won’t only be for the sun, the sea, the mountains and the food that attracts us. The cultural links are there already.

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