Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Rapturous applause, enthusiastic stamping of feet and three curtain calls greeted the new Principal Conductor Designate of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra tonight.

Ukranian conductor, Kirill Karabits took the podium in his first concert in his new role with the orchestra in a programme including Beethoven's Violin Concerto (soloist: James Ehnes) and Shostakovich's 11th Symphony.

Violinist James Ehnes delivered a dazzling performance in the Beethoven concerto which he played with great panache, seemingly effortless fluidity and excellent techical accuracy. He seemed truly at home with the music. Applause and the roll of stamping feet recalled Ehnes to the stage after the concerto when he played a solo Bach gigue.

The second half of the concert featured Shostakovich's 11th Symphony, "The Year 1905", which was inspired by the massacre of civilians in a peaceful protest in St. Petersburg that year.

It's not a work for the faint hearted, but following the instruments as they tell the story is well worth the effort. The variation in dynamics displayed by the BSO was breath-taking.

Maestro Karabits created a wonderful arc from subtle pizzicato strings to brash brass sounds to savage sawing action in strings and thundering sounds of the gong, cymbals and timpani. A special mention must be given to the percussionist who played large up-turned bells in an audio-visual spectacle.

Kirill Karabits has said Shostakovich's 11th Symphony inspired him to become a conductor:
"I remember listening over and over again to the LP disc of that piece conducted by Kirill Kondrashin. So, after 19 years I’m deeply excited to finally conduct it for the first time in my first programme as a principal conductor of BSO".

Audience members will no doubt follow the ongoing career of violinist James Ehnes and I'm sure many will return on Wednesday December 3rd for Maestro Karabits' next conducting engagement with the Bournemouth Symphony.

Kirill Karabits was elected unanimously by the members of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. He is the first Ukranian to head a British Orchestra.

The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 and will be broadcast on Monday December 1st at 7pm. Click HERE for details...

Tonight's concert tours to Guildhall, Portsmouth tomorrow (Thursday) evening at 7.30pm.

Monday, November 24, 2008


The European Union aims to generally support equality for its citizens regardless of which country s/he is living in.

This means general freedom of movement as well as freedom of trade, employment opportunities and freedom of consumer choice.

The banking sector definitely needs greater freedom for European citizens and greater portability of your financial/credit history when moving country.

This afternoon I tried to buy violin/viola strings on the internet, with my bank card. It's a solo card. The website I logged onto wouldn't take a solo card. I rang this particular website and was able to buy the strings over the phone with the same solo card which the website wouldn't accept. The man I spoke to said this often happens with solo cards.

Two weeks ago, I tried to buy train tickets on the internet. Yes, with the same solo card. More obstacles. You can't use a solo card on this particular train company's website. I rang the reservations line. You can't use a solo card over the phone to book train tickets with this company. However, you can buy tickets if you go in person to the ticket office at the train station. With the same solo card.

I rang my bank to ask about changing my card. They suggested 2 options
  • (a) upgrade my account. This might allow me a different type of card which would be more accepted than a solo card. However, the new account would cost £6.95 per month in charges.
  • (b) get a (free) credit card. This would have no charges provided the bills were paid on time. However, I'm not eligible. Why? Because I don't have sufficient funds moving through my bank account in the UK. That's because I'm a full-time student. Ah, so why don't I get a student credit card. Because I went to 5 different banks when I first moved to the UK and wasn't able to get a student account, for various reasons I won't go into here.
Now, my credit rating has suffered because my bank applied for a credit card for me, which was duly denied.

I have a good credit rating in Ireland and credit cards. However, that's irrelevant to banks here. I have effectively the same financial status as a person who has never earned money in his or her life, except that I don't seem to be allowed open a student account in spite of being a student. I'm meeting with my bank customer services officer later this week to try and get this sorted.

Meanwhile, I can't buy train tickets online with my UK bank card. I can't buy a cinema ticket at the local cinema with my UK bank card.

Has anyone else from outside the UK had a similar experience? Let me know.

Now this is where the EU comes in. If Europe is supposed to help with freedom of movement, freedom to study throughout the EU and equal treatment, why is it different for an Irish mature student?

I'm going to follow it up with various representatives of the European Union. Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.


My next blog post will be on the challenges of banking in a European country which is not your country of birth/origin. However, before doing that, I should at least give the following short summary from the European Union Website This is the latest information from the website, and as the legal disclaimer on the original site says, it is subject to change and updating.

What is the European Union?

A unique economic and political partnership between 27 democratic European countries.

What are its aims?

Peace, prosperity and freedom for its 495 million citizens — in a fairer, safer world.

What results so far?

Frontier-free travel and trade, the euro (the single European currency), safer food and a greener environment, better living standards in poorer regions, joint action on crime and terror, cheaper phone calls and air travel, millions of opportunities to study abroad … and much more besides.

How does it work?

To make these things happen, EU countries set up bodies to run the EU and adopt its legislation. The main ones are:

  • the European Parliament (representing the people of Europe);
  • the Council of the European Union (representing national governments);
  • the European Commission (representing the common EU interest).

What about the future?

The EU is not perfect — it constantly has to be improved.
It’s up to you! What do you want the EU to do and not to do?
Discuss the issues with your friends, your family, your colleagues.
Then tell the policymakers what you think.

The EU’s future will be decided through dialogue, debate and democracy.

How can I have my say?

  • Contact your local MP — EU policies are part of national politics.
  • Contact your MEP — the European Parliament enacts EU laws.
  • Contact the NGOs (consumer associations, environmental pressure groups, etc.) — they advise the EU on policy.
  • Contact the European Commission — which proposes EU policies.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Bournemouth University students could turn the tables on local critics and have a greater influence on their local MP after the next general election.

Based on statistics from the Electoral Commission, if every student voted, this would account for 26% of votes in the Bournemouth West constituency. If you compare the current number of students against total votes cast in 2005, the student vote would account for 48% in the constituency.

Local politicians are aware of the potential influence of the student vote. Conservative parliamentary candidate Conor Burns says he is supportive of students and believes they are interested in politics, especially student debt, loans and grants. He said some local residents blame students for the stag and hen party culture in the town. He emphasised that students and local residents need to work together to build a community.

“Bournemouth should welcome the student population, should welcome the university, but with respect. They study here, the live here, and they vote here.”

Student Ben Saunders is registered and will be voting.
However, he says this is to please his father. He says politicians need to sort out current economic crisis before looking at student specific issues.

Unlike Ben, Laura Davies is not registered. She thinks she needs to know more about politics in order to vote. However, she is clear that the government needs to offer more financial support to students.

The Liberal Democrats are particularly concerned about students including Laura who aren’t on the electoral register. Local chair, Ben Prescott highlighted some student residences where voter registration forms were not updated with newer residents.

“Obviously this means that the only students then registered to vote are those that happen to be in the same flat/room two years in a row.”

However, if students are reluctant to participate in the Students’ Union, one might consider them even less likely to vote in a national election.

President of Bournemouth University Students Union (SUBU), Fred Ruffle has tried to introduce an “e-ref system” to allow students vote online on union matters. However, low turnout at SUBU Annual General Meetings means this system can’t be introduced.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Houses in Limerick, Dublin and Cork cities have been searched by Gardaí (Irish Police) in the ongoing investigations into a savage murder in Limerick city last Sunday.

28 year old Garryowen rugby player Shane Geoghegan was shot dead in a case of mistaken identity as he walked home after watching the Ireland vs. Canada rugby match with friends.

Mr Geoghegan is the latest victim of an ongoing gangland feud in Limerick.

In a 90 minute Dáil (Parliamentary) debate on Wednesday, opposition deputies called on the Irish government to introduce tougher legislation on gangland crime to avoid any more deaths in Limerick city.

Minister for Defence, Willie O’Dea has said the government will offer all assistance possible including new legislation in order to aid efforts by Gardaí to tackle gangland crime.

He pointed out that in spite of political differences with opposition parties; he believes members of all political parties can be united these efforts.

Community leaders have this week condemned the murder.

In a statement read at Shane Geoghegan’s funeral on Wednesday, Bishop of Limerick, Donal Murray said:

“This senseless killing of an innocent man with his whole life before him is further evidence of the futility of this evil feud, and the callous inhumanity with which it is pursued.”

A minute’s silence will be held before the upcoming rugby match between Munster and the All Blacks at Thomond Park next Tuesday.