Exporting our Culture Through a Poet

in Features

Gabriel Moreno our Cultural Ambassador is very active in the London Poetry scene and he also organizes events to showcase our brand of ‘Llanito culture abroad. Joe Adambery caught up with him as he preparesd to fly to the Rock for a rare solo concert here.

We have never had an ambassador in London taking the pulse of our culture scene while living away from the Rock. You have now been in chair for some months and made that work and even used the bridge as an advantage… please tell us if it gave you any headaches and how did you develop that link.

There are always headaches and stomach aches when it comes to exploring and sharing Gibraltarian culture as we are still in the process of discovering and explaining the diversity of styles and influences which shape our art. Then, as you well point out, there is the added difficulty of living abroad. However, they say a challenge can be flipped, just like a Spanish omelette, to reveal the ready-to-be-cooked possibility of success. 

My intent was to use this physical distance to both explore the intricacies of Gibraltarian art forms as seen from an outside perspective and also, most importantly, to represent our identity in the UK through autochthonous forms of creation. I wanted to show our dear English comrades who we are, part of our culture, through examples of our painting, poetry, music, dance, plays, novels, essays, etc. I also used my contacts in the poetry and music world to showcase what we ‘llanitos’ do and try to plant a seed in the mind of the British audiences so that they might consider our identity as something particular to Gibraltar rather than a mere extension of the remnants of an empire.

The results have been compelling. I have been amazed at how many stereotypes can be questioned through art. I also realized England and its people don’t really know us. They see us through the lens of politics and history but have no idea about how we feel, eat, live or dream. Art can help us explain ourselves to the world and being in the world has helped me add my miniscule grain of sand in this respect.

I have also liaised with other Gibraltarian artists who live in the UK, especially novelist MG Sanchez. Together we explore themes concerning the intrinsic shape of Gibraltarian identity through writing and I am excited to showcase Gibraltar through art in an event we are celebrating at The Tower Theatre, Stoke Newington London on the 5th September. 

Q: Looking back on nearly a year of cultural events how would you explain your stewardship and contributions to a future incumbent.

Bringing a talented array of UK musicians to experience Gibraltarian culture and collaborating with them in a show at the Inces Hall in April 2022 has been one of the highlights of this year of stewardship. Throughout the year I have enjoyed a tight collaboration with Gibraltar Cultural Services and this has been fundamental. The bond has proven to me that a close working relationship between artists and cultural institutions is vital when it comes to investigating and celebrating culture. I hope I can inspire future incumbents to keep on exploring our identity through art and to showcase what Gibraltarian culture is really about. Not only on the Rock but also in the UK, Spain and beyond. 

Have you enjoyed the stewardship and has it enriched your links with your expatriate community any more than what you thought when you were chosen.

I have enjoyed this stewardship immensely and I have found it has made me grow as an artist and made me realise that all my poetic and musical output is closely linked to my identity as a Gibraltarian. I have also got closer to expat artists and have discovered a new way of collaborating with my hometown which I have not even envisaged. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to investigate my ties with my own roots and what they mean to other writers, singers, painters, dancers and artists. 

Q: You live in a major cultural hub capital and work in culture professionally …has that in any way helped you with your initiatives or does the direction come from GCS over here and you implement them over there.

I have been lucky to work with Gibraltar Cultural Services in devising a one-off Cultural Soiree. My experience running events in London has been useful to both conceive and produce this event but Davina Barbara and the whole GCS team have been pivotal in providing the infrastructure for the event to work. I want to thank Seamus Byrne, Tasmin Griffith, Edward Dove and the whole team for that.

Q: Is it too soon to evaluate your artistic contribution yourself or would you rather read about what someone thought about your contribution after your year as ambassador has ended.

I would rather that others speak benevolently or condemn my actions and words as Cultural Ambassador or as a human being in general. One must take praise and criticism with an equal pinch of salt or smoked paprika if you prefer. To my mind you should question your effort more than your results and be at peace with the idea that when it comes to culture and art, we are all novices and apprentices. Culture and art are intrinsically complex things and they bring about more questions than answers. The beauty is in the voyage of discovery and I am definitely proud to have sailed in those winds. I hope that we all sail together in a similar direction to continue the search.

Q: You have been an educator (and in a way still are one)… has your work with local children inspired you and enabled you to make a judgement call about how we rank and how we are developing as a cultured community.

Working with children in Gibraltar was inspiring. I led some workshops both as a poet and as a musician and the results were uplifting. The experience confirmed what I already suspected: Gibraltar is a perfect place for artistic expression. If we lead our children to the vast pool of diverse influences and cultural roots available on the Rock, we could create incredibly unique artists.

We have the Mediterranean, the English Language, Africa, Spain and our specific identity which can be the engine for true, unique and genuine art. Children teach us what the future will look like and it seems to me it looks fine in terms of art. My only worry is that we lose our bond to the Mediterranean world and the Spanish language which seems to be a treasure trove when it comes to possibilities and techniques for artistic expression. I hope the youth investigate art beyond performative Britishness and find their own ways of singing, writing, painting, skating, dancing and performing – the ‘Llanito way. 

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