{ Guest blog } : Organising Paradise

Don&Lilia

Written by Donald Hutera, Paradise on Earth

My bread and butter ‘job’ is as a veteran free-lance arts journalist for, among many others publications and websites, The Times of London. But I’ve also been organising things – gathering of people, really –  all of my creative adult life: Sunday morning film screenings, thanks to free passes from Time Out, at which friends of mine who were strangers to each other could meet; a haunted tour of Iona Abbey during the nine weeks in 1984 when I was volunteer guide (and stage manager of the faith) at the most famous building on this wee, gem-like Scottish isle; a couple of alternative wedding parties – one indoors in London, another in Minneapolis in a friend’s backyard –  a decade or so later for me and my Scottish bride;  a performative ‘house-chilling’ (as opposed to a house-warning) in the same era when I was responsible for selling my first childhood home; and, for the past fifteen years, annual and allegedly legendary end-of-Fringe garden parties every August in Edinburgh. Oh, and in 2009 I was part of Choreodrome at The Place, London researching ‘Finger Dances,’ a project examining the hand as an expressive instrument and a functional tool and which, to one degree or another, involved about 50 people of whom the majority were drawn from the field of professional dance.

Until now, however, I’ve never organised, devised, directed or what-have-you a bonafide piece of street theatre. Or, to describe the InTRANSIT Festival commission ‘Paradise on Earth: Give and Take’ (Sunday June 28 at 3pm on Sutton Estate, Chelsea SW3) with a tad more accuracy, a (sunken) garden performance party.

Live and learn, always.  I’m certainly learning a great deal from pulling this event together with my ‘partner in creative crime,’ the visual artist and thinker Lilia Pegado.

In spring 2014 Lilia and I co-founded the grassroots entity Chelsea Arts Collective aka CAC. What ensued, spaced over a two-month period, was five nights of wildly diverse, unpredictable  and, I trust, engaging short performances from nearly three dozen companies or individuals, and all of it staged in a local church hall (along with a rather madly ambitious two-day art exhibition). There is evidence of these past events, as well as ‘Paradise on Earth,’ on Chelsea Arts Collective’s Facebook page.

‘Officially’ I cut my curatorial teeth in a big way in autumn 2013 entirely due to an invitation to do so from George Sallis, head honcho of Giant Olive Theatre. His venue is located in Kentish Town, upstairs at the Lion and Unicorn pub. It’s there that GOlive Dance and Performance Festival has happened four times to date. Since GOlive’s launch  – with 98 artists from 57 companies performing in 24 separate and highly eclectic mixed bills spread across 21 consecutive days – there have been three other increasingly laboratorial editions. I’ve also been given opportunities to take the work of the artists I’ve programmed (and, in some case, helped to develop either directorially or dramaturgically) in GOlive out on the road, including July gigs in in Oxford and Winchester.

Many of the uniquely gifted ‘makers’ whose work has been showcased at GOlive have agreed to participate in ‘Paradise on Earth.’ The roster, as far as I now know it, includes members of the dance companies Corali and Counterpoint; a raft of wonderful independent dance-based artists such as Rebecca Evans and David Ogle (of Pell Ensemble), Susan Kempster, Mara Vivas with Konstantina Skalionta and Florencia Maritna, Mara Vivas, Hanna Wroblewski, Mil Vukovic, tango dancer Jane Solomon, My Johansson, Gloria Sanvicente Amor (also a film-maker), Nicholas Minns, Alice Labant and Gordon Raeburn, and Rhiannon Faith and Maddy Morgan; the South Asian dance and cabaret artiste Kali Chandrasegaram; the storyteller Pali Nall;  ‘visual philosopher’ Riccardo Attanasio and Andrew Downes, the musician and actress (and associate artist of Little Bulb Theatre) Miriam Gould; vocalist and choral leader Maria Soriano; and, flying in from Italy, the scene-stealing, operatically-trained singer and make-up loving model Gianni Rocchetta. It’s a gratifyingly good line-up of talent bubbling with possibilities for collaboration and surprise.

Paradise on Earth takes place tomorrow Sunday 28th June at 3pm at the Sunken Garden, Sutton Estate, Cale Street SW3. 90 minute performance. FREE and no booking required. 

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