It Rains In Spain

IRIS interview – Cherry Radford

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In a new series covering writers, musicians and artists inspired by Spain, IRIS Magazine talks to the British writer Cherry Radford, author of the highly acclaimed novel Flamenco Baby, a passion-laden tale of romance and dance.

Cherry Radford can certainly claim to know her music – a former piano teacher at the Royal Ballet Junior School her writing resonates with a deep knowledge and passion for the art of dance. Her love of Spain started early in life, and thus a natural gravitation towards flamenco was inevitable.

We caught up with Cherry and posed her a few Spain-related questions.

Why are you so inspired by Spain?
I’m hopelessly attracted to the warmth of the Spaniards and the fluency of their language. Then there’s the flamenco and the way it covers all the different emotions.

I was interested in the idea that music could change someone’s life; if there’s one type of music that could do that, this is it. It’s certainly made a difference to mine.

What was your first experience of Spain and were you hooked immediately?
Playing with pine kernels on a Catalonian beach with little Spanish friends, joining in with the village sardana in the evening… I was four years old. Oh yes, I was definitely enganchada from the start. And if I hadn’t been, it was going to happen sooner or later during the next thirteen summers my half-Spanish mother took us there.

Are there many parallels between ballet (a large part of your past) and flamenco? Do you prefer one or the other?
Two exquisite art forms, steeped in tradition and bound by strict rules on technique – I am in awe of both. But classical ballet is anti-anatomical and ethereal, while flamenco is more individualistic, performed by all ages and shapes, and always a tierra (into the earth). I love both, but flamenco reaches me on a deeper level.

Where did you find the inspiration for your main characters, Yolande, Jeremy and Fernando in Flamenco Baby?
Yolande is probably someone I might have been if my life had turned out differently. Jeremy was inspired by a gay man that I once fell deeply in like with at a party. For Fernando I had Rojas and Rodriguez of Nuevo Ballet Español in my mind, having seen them perform at the Sadler’s Wells Flamenco Festival (there’s a clip of these guys on my website – enjoy!)

Are you inspired by all aspects of Spain or just the music?
Pretty much, but I don’t like their driving.

You have an unlimited budget and seven free days in Spain, what would you do?
Ah, so with private jet… three days in Madrid with Spanish friends, enjoying Parque del Retiro, cake in the old El Riojano tearoom (Calle Mayor), the crazy Teleférico cable car thing that goes over the Casa de Campo, and some flamenco at Casa Patas and Café de Chinitas; a day in Granada looking round the Alhambra again and having a coffee by the River Darro; a day in Sevilla on one of those giant bicycle-for-two things in the Parque de Maria Luisa with a Sevillano Twitter friend; and rounding off with two days swimming at Mónsul beach near Almería.

Will your next work be centred on Spain?
Half of it, yes! It’s a dual viewpoint story, set in the ludicrously contrasting locations of central Madrid and the Beachy Head cliffs of the English South Coast…

We know you’re a Spain fanatic but you live in the UK, could you recommend anywhere in the UK for fellow Spain lovers to get a fix? (Restaurants, shows etc)
The two-week annual (Feb/March) flamenco festival at Sadler’s Wells in London is a must. I was very honoured when this year they sold Flamenco Baby there along with the flamenco CDs in the foyer!
Once a month you can enjoy shows of visiting Spanish artists at the friendly Peña Flamenca de Londres in Pimlico. Foodwise I’m blessed with AguaDulce in Brighton – where my gorgeous flamenco teacher performs most Thursday nights.

When writing a book so clearly inspired by Spain and her culture do you have to take special care with your research?

Yes, and reading and Googling is never enough – I have to be there. The Granada flamenco course chapters in Flamenco Baby were written real time while I did exactly the same course as Yolande. I’m currently making frequent trips to Madrid to make myself as madrileña as possible. Well, madrileño actually, I’m writing from a male viewpoint!

Would you ever consider moving to Spain?

No – because I’ve already decided I will!

Cherry Radford’s Flamenco Baby is out now and available at http://www.cherryradford.co.uk

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