São Brás is new culture centre

AMONG THE grounds of the ornate museum of São Brás, people are coming together to enjoy the culture of the Eastern Algarve. The Amigos do Museu de São Brás (Friends of São Brás Museum) are an organisation that prides itself on increasing cultural awareness among the local community, reports The Resident’s Ruth Sharpe.

In addition to raising money for cultural activities, the Friends encourage participation in events, with their focus being on developing a thriving multinational community around the museum. Founded in June 2005, the group has grown rapidly and, with more than 370 members, is now the fastest growing and most active cultural group in the whole of Portugal.

Lynne Booker, the co-ordinator of this group, came to Portugal eight years ago, after working as a headmistress in the UK and also for the EU’s Social, Economic and Cultural Committee. Since her decision to settle in Portugal, she has been drawn towards serving the local community. In partnership with Emanuel Sancho, the museum director, the pair have formed a cultural alliance making waves in the São Brás area.

The Friends are made up of a wide mix of European nationalities. Alongside the British members, about 10-15 per cent are Portuguese, 15 per cent are Dutch and 10-15 per cent are German.

When speaking to Lynne, she described how “language can definitely be a barrier”, however, the way in which culture is expressed, through arts and music, has a universal element in itself, which members can enjoy together.

The Friends group is based in the grounds of the São Brás Museum, the largest museum space in the Algarve. Weekly classes are held ranging from yoga to ballroom dancing, art exhibitions and monthly jazz programmes. This month also sees the launch of the Museum Tennis Club at Quinta das Raposeiras. The Friends of São Brás Museum choir, run by Walter Sulzer, is also an important part of the community. They already have 20 members who rehearse together weekly, in addition to instrumental chamber music groups.

The Friends are proving to be of great support to the new cultural centre, which is due to officially open later this year. When speaking to Emanuel Sancho, he described the centre as a support to the work already showcased in the museum. He wants the centre to host events that embrace all nationalities and to encourage people to enjoy the spirit of the EU and European culture.

Emanuel has been worked for the museum since 1992 and became director in 1998. The museum, founded in 1985, is privately owned and has a range of displays describing the history of the Algarve through fashion trends.

In the last eight months, the Friends have raised 9,000 euros, however, they need continual sponsorship in order to offset costs for events such as Arte Viva, a major live art and music festival taking place on July 15 and16, when over 40 artists will be exhibiting their work in addition to a variety of live street/theatre performances. Last year, the event attracted more than 2,000 people and is likely to attract an even higher number this year due to the rapid growth of the organisation. The Friends also need funding to continue their music, art and theatre ventures and to buy equipment such as stage materials.

To join the Friends of the Museum, you only need to pay 10 euros, giving you immediate access to information about cultural events across the Algarve. A newsletter is dispatched monthly in four different languages (Portuguese, English, Dutch and German) and you also have free access to the museum and the Friends library. As a member, you can volunteer to help with any of the events as well as press and school liaison.

The future looks bright for culture in São Brás. Any new ventures will gladly be considered by Lynne and her team, who are always looking to expand the activities on offer, to raise money to create as many cultural facilities as possible. Visit www.amigos-museu-sbras.org for more information or call Susana on 289 845 452.