how it happened

William Pryor, Andrew Rawlinson & Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon happening circa 1964

When William Pryor was asked to talk at the University of Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas, a penny dropped: maybe he could bring together his friends from the sixties to somehow or other re-invent one of the happenings they put on back then. Escape Artists embraced and supported the idea. And lo it came to pass! On the evening of Tuesday, October 28th, 2008 it happened all at once.

All at Once: the Happening is art for art’s sake: creativity placed uncompromisingly in its participants’ faces – there can be no audience at a happening, just people who find themselves in a situation, an experience of art. We will go beyond recycling (as befits the times) by breathing an ardently relevant radicalism into the drama, poems, music, improvisations, light shows, writings, wit and exegesis we will be employing to forge a truly situationist situation.

Describing in advance what will happen at a happening is like describing a free jazz improvisation before it emerges spontaneously from its players – we know what instruments will be played and who will be playing, but cannot predict the sound or route of the extemporisation. Just as with free jazz, the happening is unstructured; simultaneity, dissonance, interference, harmony, spontaneity and John Cage’s notions of applying chance to performance will dominate.

The whole will be lit or obscured by a light show from Peter Wynne Willson. Poems will be written on digital screens and deleted before they can be read. DJ hip-hop sound manipulation will loop other poems into yesterday. The audience will be performed until they realise they cannot just stand and watch. Always there will be more happening than can be understood – just like life. Voices singing with electronic trumpet, wandering accordion and church organ. Back-projected screens showing films by Anthony Stern and Nigel Lesmoir-Gordon. Occasional lapses into uniform sanity before disruption sets in again. A one-off resurrection.


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