The 1st May 2014 saw an intriguing turn to enable residents of London to feel a greater connection to the much adorned tourist-trap, The London Eye, as those from A Curious Invitation (formally of the Last Tuesday Society) and Antique Beat, hosted an event that allowed it’s audience to really ponder on this city in which they now find themselves.
Within the thirty-two capsules or pods that are connected to the eye speakers went in one by one with twenty or so guests eager to learn more about their influential Londoner of choice, varying from the traditional Chaucer, Chaplin and Hitchcock to contemporaries such as Jazzie B (of Soul II Soul fame), Zadie Smith and Adam Faith. This was not until after a chaotic wait in the Hendrick’s sponsored marquee, where guests were entertained by overzealous horn sections, a commonality more for the North rather than London. However, their playlist of tracks did have more of a connection to the city and the audience did not appear stultified by it.
Once locating others that were also to step foot into the Ray Davies’ capsule with informative documentarian and impassioned music enthusiast, Julien Temple, the night in itself was a fantastic conversation starter, either drawing upon conversation and stories of The Kinks’ man himself, or with the general curiosity on the format of the night ahead. A Curious Invitation had made it exactly that, with enough but not too much information on their booking site to give too many clues to the night.
And this approach was obviously successful, as the organisers had to release a second wave of tickets for the event on the London Eye. Celebrating the capital and the extraordinary characters that have helped mould its significance, securing its place for us and our posterity, the event was intended for residents to reconnect with the city in one of its prime tourist traps.
Trying to keep the array of Londoners as broad and diverse as possible, there was the inevitable problem of an overzealous appeal to stray towards the old greats like Chaplin, Hitchcock and popular, such as Bowie. It was certainly disappointing to hear that it was a slow starter for tickets for Jazzie B and Zadie Smith talks.
Obviously I cannot speak for the rest of the events and talks but there was definitely a shortage of disappointment from my capsule, as twenty beguiled customers huddled around Julien Temple and his editor (holding his iPod dock), with Rainy Day in June underscoring the moment. The intimate space allowed folk to feel a real connection to Temple, renowned for his informative and insightful music documentaries on Glastonbury, London and well, the man, Ray Davies himself. This connection was cosy, as there was a mutual collaborative love from all (apart from maybe myself) for The Kinks’ musician, which actually ignited an emotive response from all, including me.
As we had entered the capsule we were handed a concoction that would set our taste-buds alight, a tipple that was dedicated to a borough in London, and I do believe that the other thirty-one capsules were offered another borough-dedicated delight. This obviously extracted the audience’s inhibitions up somewhat, enabling a more homely atmosphere in a vessel which sees you towering over the capital’s horizon discussing a key component of the city’s music scene.
Despite being a fantastically unique experience, we also engaged with aspects of Ray Davies’ history that Temple chose to share, such as his loyalty to North London, the revelations of a baby brother and the fact that he always lived above the smog, which makes sense when we consider many of The Kinks song titles. The only drawback was the lack of microphones, being stood under the air conditioning, which placed more demands on the speaker. However, for a debut event it is something for the organisers to improve upon, never getting it entirely right the first time.
Being a night that allowed folk to talk about factors which add to the magic of London, it engaged with the senses, enabling discussion, bonding, all aided with a marvellous view of the city, after a downpour; an experience to advocate to any London resident. And where more apt to be invited to a discussion on London’s “well-respected man” than towering above the majority of the capital.
For more information on the event and podcasts of the talks please check out http://www.32londoners.com