Archive for the ‘bird’ Tag

Coincidences No.s 367 & 368

Sydney Levinson – Creative Accountant

No. 367 

4.V.22

I get a message via Facebook from an old colleague/friend, an artist/photographer, I met through Channel 4:

“Morning Adam, how are you? May I call – some sad news I’m afraid – Though you may know already – through Sarah T”

I don’t know already, no idea what it might be. We speak later. It turns out my old friend Sydney Levinson is dead. I haven’t seen him since before Lockdown. I last saw him when he invited me to tea in Mayfair at a place he really liked, lots of red velvet as I recall. 

This is the last time we were in contact:

a typical Sydney message

3.V.22

I am out with my older son, having a chat. He tells me that we need to be more verb than noun. He is quoting Stephen Fry. (Fry was paraphrasing Oscar Wilde whom he memorably portrayed in the 1997 film ‘Wilde’.)

“Oscar Wilde said that if you know what you want to be, then you inevitably become it – that is your punishment, but if you never know, then you can be anything. There is a truth to that. We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I am going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”

My son uses as an example a person he has met only twice – a person who DJed at my 50th birthday party and who the two of us bumped into at ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park, a person with whom he has exchanged but a few words – Sydney Levinson. “Like your friend,” he says, “the one who is an accountant and a DJ.” This of all people is the person he choses to illustrate transcending being a noun, being defined by a role. 

This, it turns out, is the day Sydney went to the big DJ booth in the sky. My gut feeling is it is spoken the moment Sydney took off.

Sydney Levinson was an extraordinary individual. He worked as an accountant but specialised in applying his know-how to arts businesses and artists who needed help with money. He was on the board of many prominent arts organisations, sharing vitally needed financial know-how. He also loved to DJ on weekends in West London and any time any place the opportunity arose. We first met as business mentors on an ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) scheme providing mentors for creative businesses, during Ekow Eshun’s regime at Herbert Read’s quirky institution. 

Here’s where I first wrote about Sydney in this blog in 2007. And here’s an account of Sydney’s typically open and generous connecting of people. And here’s the last coincidence Sydney featured in.

Sydney, I know you are hanging out with Joey, Johnny, DeeDee, Tommy and all the other forever young punks.

 

Sydney’s teatime companions

No. 368 

5.VI.22

I am reading Ali Smith’s latest novel ‘Companion Piece’. It seems to revolve around two words that come to one of the two protagonists in an auditory hallucination: “curfew” and “curlew”. I read a passage where a curlew, that strangest of birds, appears in a hallucinatory or imaginative or psychotic or magical scene, on her bed beside her dog, brought in apparently by a housebreaking waif.

27.V.22

I go to see a long-delayed (by Covid) gig (Ali Smith’s novel is about the Covid period in Britain). The gig is David Gray, performing his brilliant ‘White Ladder’ LP on its 40th anniversary. The gig is two years late. Before the show begins, at the Millennium Dome in North Greenwich (aka the O2) – I have been following him since the early days of his career with gigs at small places like Dingwalls in Camden Town and The Forum 2 in the Holloway Road, this time he is playing to the best part of 20,000 – a video plays on the big screens above the stage. It is David Gray talking about saving the curlew on behalf of a charity called Curlew Action – he talks about the bird’s “most haunting and unforgettable song” and concludes: “It would mean the world to me if you could help one singer try to help another.”

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