Monthly Archives: November 2014

Baba Israel on creating The Spinning Wheel in memory of his late father

The Spinning Wheel - Brochure imageTheatre and Hip Hop artist Baba Israel is celebrating the life of his late father Steve Ben Israel, a New York jazz musician, stand-up comic, counter-cultural activist and member of the iconic Living Theatre, with an exciting international collaboration with Unfinished Business Artistic Director, Leo Kay. Combining spoken word, live music by Yako 440 and video by AlbinoMosquito, their dynamic show The Spinning Wheel is here this Saturday 22 November, 7.30pm. Baba Israel  answers some questions ahead of its only London performance:

Why were you inspired to make this show for your father?

Losing my father was very difficult and early on I knew that creativity would be an important part of the healing process. I did a poem for my father 8 days after he passed at his favorite jazz club smalls in the village with Omer Avital’s band. This was the first moment I started to dream about this show. I also made a promise to my father hours before he passed that I would carry on his creative legacy. I did not want his work to be lost and wanted to share it with new audiences. I felt that it was relevant and that there were people who did not encounter him who would dig his material. Another key inspiration was when I was Artistic Director of Contact in Manchester and I presented my collaborator Leo Kay’s show it’s like he’s knocking which dealt with the loss of his father. It has been important to have a co-creator who has worked with such personal material but also brought an objective eye. Leo also really challenged me to find a honest an open space as a performer and writer that I think makes the show deeper, richer, and more present for the audience.

What is the influence your father has had on your work?

My father introduced me to jazz and to improvisation. He also nurtured my love of poetry, humor, and bringing politics into art. I started going to my father’s shows at the age of 4 and was raised in the theatre world. I also witnessed his artistic interventions in the everyday world of parks and subways and as part of protests. He was committed to art as a medium to inspire change and to find utopian moments in the midst of the injustices of our modern world.

What do you think your father would think of The Spinning Wheel?

I think he would have dug it.. His intention was for people to leave his shows laughing, thinking, uplifted, and connected to what makes us human. So far we have been getting feedback from audiences that they are having similar reactions to The Spinning Wheel.

Are you excited about performing at the Albany? And why?

I am very excited! I have a lot of respect for the Albany and its engagement  with community and its diverse and rich program. It is also the first place Yako and I ever performed in London so it is special for us.

What do you hope London, and even Deptford, audiences will get from this production?

I hope that they will enjoy a personal story and enjoy learning about my father’s work and journey. I also hope that it will connect with their own experience of family  and of the need to stay engaged with making the world a better place to be. Plus there is some great music from Yako 440 and stand out visual work from Richard Ramchurn of AlbinoMosquito. Hope to see you there!

Baba Israel, Contact Manchester

Baba Israel hits the stage this Saturday 22 November, 7.30pm in The Spinning Wheel as part of EFG London Jazz Festival. For more information and to book, click here.

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What Next for Arts and Culture in South East London?

whatnext_mainWe believe that arts and culture are the thread that binds humanity together, what shapes us as people, and what makes life that much more enjoyable. Imagine a life without arts and culture. There would be no television shows, no music, no theatre and nothing to fill art galleries and museums. The world would certainly be bland and uninspired. So, we ask: Does creative stuff matter in South East London? We want to hear from you – anyone working or living in South East London – if arts and culture are important to the area.

What Next? Lewisham and What Next? Southwark are hosting a free Open Space meeting on Wednesday 12 November, 6.30pm at our sister venue Canada Water Culture Space. We’re inviting anyone who lives or works in South East London to join in the conversation about the role of culture.

What Next? is a national movement that has sprouted up all over the country, asking arts and cultural organisations to come together and strengthen the role of culture in our society, working with individual volunteers who are passionate about the role culture plays in our everyday lives and want to ensure its prominence in society for future generations.

The conversation will be a facilitated Open Space event. The essence of Open Space is to bring people together around a shared question and to discover priorities which can be taken forward into action. As to the outcome, that will be up to you!

We’ll begin with the basic question: How can we (individually and together) ensure decision-makers know that creative stuff matters in South East London?

All participants then create an agenda by calling breakout sessions on topics they feel are important to this theme. In Open Space, everyone is encouraged to suggest a subject for discussion and to contribute in whatever way they feel comfortable.

So, does creative stuff matter in South East London? If you think it does, join us for What Next South East London: Does creative stuff matter in South East London? to explore how we can ensure decision-makers know that creativity matters to local people.

For more information and to book your place, please click here.

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