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West End Extra - The XTRA DIARY
Published: 1 August 2008

Roman Marquez Santo standing beside the sculpture honouring the Brigades
Honouring the Brigades heroes

THE inscription on the side of the sculpture reads: “We came because our open eyes can see no other way.”
As I stood on the South Bank recently at a memorial meeting to honour the International Brigades who went to Spain to fight Franco in the 1930s, I had the words of the poet C Day-Lewis pointed out to me by a wizened old man wearing thick glasses.
I turned to speak to him, and in a thick Spanish accent he began telling me what brought him to London on this fine July day.
His name was Roman Marquez Santo and he had come to the annual meeting from Barcelona.
“I was in a workers militia in 1936,” he told me. “I was with three friends in Barcelona and when Franco rose, we went on to the streets to do something abut it.”
He was involved in the fighting in the Catalonian capital as rebel troops tried to secure the city for the fascists.
“We were up against trained and armed men but we were determined,” he recalls. “Later in the war, when we heard help was coming from the
International Brigades, it was such a wonderful feeling. I have come to honour them.”
I asked Señor Santo where he had learnt English, and this remarkable 94-year-old told me he started learning it just 12 months ago.
“I came here last year and made a speech,” he said. “It made me realise I should work on my English.”
Patron of the International Brigade Memorial Trust and Professor of Spanish History at the London School of Economics, Paul Preston, also spoke.
Among the crowd I also spotted veterans Sam Lesser and Jack Jones – the former leader of the Transport and General Workers’ Union – and Bob Doyle. Bob, who lives in Tufnell Park, was in the merchant navy and jumped ship to fight the fascists.
He was captured and spent a horrific nine months as a prisoner of war before being repatriated. Seeing these veterans singing “The Internationale” with tears in their eyes brought home the sacrifice this generation made.

A starring role for Cuban cigar star, Eduardo!

FROM Tony Montana to Tony Soprano, the cigar has always been the accessory of choice for gangsters.
Sure, a fat cigar in the mouth is one thing for your street-cred, but wouldn’t it be much better if you actually knew how to make one?
Well roll up, roll up to Covent Garden next week to see one of Cuba’s most dextorous cigar rollers showing off his skills first hand.
The exotic-sounding Senor Eduardo Diaz Gonzalez is production manager at Havana’s feted El Laguito factory – home to the McDaddy of the cigar family – the Cohiba.
He will be leaving a plume of smoke over his homeland and jetting to the Segar & Snuff Parlour in Covent Garden Market on Wednesday and Thursday to teach budding rollers how it’s done.
Eduardo, 33, is from a long line of hand-rolling cigar aficionados and the spectacle promises to be anything but a drag.
But remember, when the work is over and it comes to smoking it, go easy – you want your friends to be green with envy, not laughing at you throwing up in a corner.
Demonstrations run from 11am to 6pm at The Segar & Snuff Parlour, 27a The Market, Covent Garden.

What’s new book about? Chris puts us in the picture

CHRIS Orr is something of an Ayatollah of the art world.
Whether it be getting his hands dirty in the studio or musing over the latest academic currents, he has been a towering presence for decades.
This was recognised at the highest level earlier this year when the Professor Emeritus from the Royal College of Art was even awarded an MBE in the honours list.
His latest work is something of a different offering as the Londoner chances his arm in the publishing world. But don’t expect pages of prose. As always it’s his pictures that tell the story.
“A book is a very difficult thing to do and I’m certainly no JK Rowling,” he said.
“But doing it allows a kind of unfiltered journey into the labyrinth of my mind which you couldn’t get any other way.”
And imagination is the key. Chris says the book of sketches, ideas and drawings was intended as a proverbial kick up the backside for art-lovers who have become too comfortable with ready-made interpretations. There is no hand-holding – just layers upon layers of pictorial subtext to play with.
“I think thought is too often surpressed these days,” says Chris. “Free thinking just doesn’t happen because we are bombarded with second-hand opinion, too much onus on critics, technology and very formalised ways of doing things. I want these sketches to encourage people to be free with their ideas and permit them to dream.”
And imagination really means dreaming – something Chris says has been lost from the art world. As his opening sketch says: “I have a dream. I have a lot of dreams.”
Join Chris in his dreamworld at the Jill George Gallery in Soho, where sketches from his book, the Multitude Diaries, go on display.

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