Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Paradise Lost? - 8pm Friday 18 and Saturday 19 October

Archway Tower will be the backdrop for the aerial theatre company Scarabeus when they perform their new work ‘Paradise Lost?’ this week.

Aerial artists will be attached to the tower by wires and scale the heights of the 195-foot tall, 16-storey building. The performance will feature a soundtrack and video projections and draws on the history of the iconic site and the people who live in Archway.

Daniela Essart, Scarabeus artistic director, said: “As an artist, I’m inspired on a daily basis by Archway and its people and history. The Archway Tower and its surrounding area has a particularly fascinating story to tell.

Mexican Orchid House in the Victoria and Paradise Nurseries
© The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Between 1854 -1897 Benjamin Samuel Williams cultivated rare and exotic orchids at the Victoria and Paradise Nurseries where the Archway Tower now stands. Later there was The Electric Cinema and Chivers Jam Warehouse.  I remember when I first moved to London in the 80's (taking advantage of the Enterprise Allowance Scheme) I sat in line in appalling conditions when  Archway Tower was home to the DHSS.  In 1985 Jeremy Corbyn MP said "Archway tower is a huge building.  The best that one can say about it is that the view from the staff canteen on the top floor is probably the best in London".

Dave Sinclair Archway Tower DHSS c1985

Archway Tower was also  the inspiration for New Model Army and their track of the same name "Archway Towers" in 1989.  Justin Sullivan, describes it as "nightmarish closing track". At no 28 in the top 100 London Songs Timeout wrote: An alternative landmark for the dispossessed Junction Road’s famous gravestone-shaped office block – former home to the Department of Social Security – inspired this cheery ditty by the Yorkshire grebos which seems to compare drawing the dole with collecting meds at an unsupervised institution for the criminally deranged. ‘It’s open season on the weak and feeble,’ they growl. ‘There’s bulletproof glass in case there’s trouble’.

Paradise Lost? is an extraordinary site-specific aerial theatre work that draws on the history of this place and the people of Archway to tell an intimate story of love, loss and hope against this epic backdrop. The performance of Paradise Lost? has been commissioned by the arts-led regeneration project A Million Minutes, and funded by Islington Council.

Scarabeus will perform Paradise Lost? from 8pm-8.30pm on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 October and residents are invited to gather on the pavement to watch.

Update after the event:

I am still mesmerised  by the show and the universal delight in the whole spectacle.  Scarabeus made such an impact and I really feel that Archway is a richer place for it!

Islington Tribune:Letters: Towering piece of art

Published: 25 October, 2013

• A WEEK after the performance of Paradise Lost on Archway Tower, its breathtaking beauty is still bubbling up in my thoughts and warming my heart.

Over many years of disliking the tower I have become quite good at “tuning it out”.

I never imagined that a work of art would change everything. Now I look up at it with memories and emotions so potent I can’t imagine them going away.

I think we all fell in love a bit that evening on Archway’s pavements – art love – and Paradise Lost truly changed our landscape forever.  

Art really does have the power to transform and bind a neighbourhood. 

Here’s hoping that Islington's brave decision to award regeneration funds to this project will get the praise it deserves and herald more of the same. 



Some of the comments tweeted are below!

What an amazing show! Delighted to be an resident and feel privileged to have seen this!

Never thought I'd describe Archway Tower as beautiful & elegant! Amazing performance by tonight

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