Latin fever to sweep city

DEBRA FOX meets an adopted Geordie who is bringing a Spanish flavour to the region

DEBRA FOX meets an adopted Geordie who is bringing a Spanish flavour to the region

HIS accent is recognisable as Spanish but after six years in Newcastle, Paco Betheucourt Llobet is combining his native culture with Geordie culture.

Paco is now in the thick of the organisation and build-up for the Vamos! Festival, starting in Newcastle on June 4.

Paco, 32, is originally from Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands.

In 2005 he was attracted to Newcastle by the university’s music department and is currently studying for his PhD. He moved to the North East with partner Aranccha, 27.

Paco says: “The music department was very famous and I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with a lot of great musicians, and work with them too.”

Paco is also one of the administrators for the Newcastle Flamenco Collective, the group which will be performing throughout the Vamos! festival. The Newcastle Flamenco Collective connects flamenco musicians, singers and dancers up and down the region, from Scotland, out to the expanses of Northumberland, and down to York and Leeds. Alongside his studying, Paco travels to schools in the North East, providing a variety of musical workshops and lessons. Starting out, it was only a few schools every couple of weeks, but now that word has spread and his popularity has grown, Paco has the pleasure of visiting up to 15 schools per week.

Treating the youngsters to a variety of musical fusions, from world music to guitar lessons to flamenco, is one of the best things that Paco has ever done.

He explains: “I love sharing my culture with these children, and seeing them learn something new. Seeing them appreciate the music and learn to dance the flamenco is lovely.”

The sharing of a native culture with others is a message that is interwoven throughout the Vamos! festival.

Paco said the festival is an opportunity to bring a bit of his own culture, whether it be through music, dance or even food – or all of the above – to the people of Newcastle.

And now the North East has become a home away from home for Paco who said that he and Aranccha are surrounded by many friends, some who have moved with them from warmer climes, and the new ones they have made since arriving here.

He says: “Both Aranccha and I have friends around us all the time, old ones, and new ones from both of our works. The people in Newcastle are so warm and kind so it was easy to meet new people.”

Despite enjoying the fusion of culture, the jobs, the people and the experiences he’s had since his arrival, Paco admits that one thing in the North East is not quite the same as back home.

“I really do miss the sun,” he laughs. “We have had some good weather recently here, but hopefully that won’t be it. Back in the Canary Islands it is like that all of the time.”

From June 4 until July 11, Newcastle will be swept up in a frenzy of all things Latin – dancing, music, food, and fun with the Vamos! festival.

Events will take place all over the city, from dance classes, performances and music to film viewings, educational workshops and full-blown nights on the town.

But before all this can start, there is a flamenco event taking place at the Saville Exchange, North Tyneside, on May 19, to get everyone in the mood.

The night will consist of some fiery flamenco dancing and music, set to the poetry of the esteemed Federico Garcia Lorca, and Paco and his team of fellow musicians and flamenco dancers from the Newcastle Flamenco Collective will be providing entertainment on the night.

Paco says: “The Lorca event is going to be a really interesting project because it’s going to combine the poetry of Lorca about flamenco, with dancing and music.”

Hailed by Paco as the pre-Vamos! warm-up, the Lorca event promises a warm, intimate evening with a selection of enjoyable entertainment.

Paco was also quick to hail the Pena event, due to take place at Newcastle’s Dance City on June 11, as part of the festival, as a fantastic event for the whole family and also an event that will deliver a party flavour.

He said: “The Lorca event is going to be calmer and more intimate, but with everything going on at Dance City, it will be more like a party.

“It will be very open with events for adults and children going on. We have dance classes and workshops and at the night we have DJs and tapas and a lot of music and dancing!”

Throughout the Vamos! festival, there will be a variety of entertainment on the go, from food to films, music, dance, workshops and a whole host more.

The extensive festival programme provides something for everyone.

Paco said: “Vamos! is an inclusive event. It brings all cultures and all people together, and it’s going to be great fun.”

The Lorca flamenco event is taking place on Thursday, May 19, at the Saville Exchange, North Tyneside. Advance price of £10, 0191 643 7093.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer