Eighteen months ago, I invited a bunch of friends to my flat in Gothenburg to hear me play some new songs. They weren’t quite finished — some were missing middle eights, some were definitely in the wrong key for my voice, all were untitled — but I needed the pressure of an upcoming performance to get the songs to a slightly more finished state.
Twenty or so brave souls ventured over for the night, beers in hand. And I proceeded to play the songs I’d written over the last month, explaining how they’d come about. Despite the multitude of mistakes — lyrical, vocal and otherwise — people seemed to enjoy peering behind the creative curtain, seeing a slight twist on the usual performance.
A year later I was back in London, living in a flat with my new wife, and telling her how I’d love to do something similar there. We thought our place was a little small but maybe we could arrange something similar at our church (which is a beautiful space) and invite lots more artists to show their work. So we rounded up a few friends and started planning.
Together, we made a list of artists, comedians, musicians, photographers, poets and writers who we thought might be interested in showing their half-baked creations. We invited people from within the church and outside the church, younger people and older people, seasoned performers and first-time, quaking-in-their-boots-at-the-prospect-of-it performers.
The result: Unfinished Business.
Our first edition, last Friday, featured:
- Lily talking about the creation of her new comedy web series, where a mid-thirties woman and her gay best friend buy (part of) a flat together…and discover it’s haunted by a Nazi ghost.
- Sheena showing art that she’s created over many years, including sketches that she does each week on her church service sheet during the ~20-minute talk.
- Jack sharing untitled, unfinished short stories that had everyone in stitches. Including one that, as he explained to a rapt audience, was a metaphor for people struggling with grief.
- Me performing some more never-before-heard songs, including one that I wrote for Annabel at our wedding but didn’t perform because I didn’t think it could ever be good enough.
Some people’s work was more finished, some less so. But, as Sheena said that night, our work’s never really finished — sometimes, we just have to stop.
My dream with the night is to inspire other people — especially those who don’t consider themselves ‘creative’ — to create, and to share their creations with others. Because we’re all creative and it’s nourishing and inspiring to see what others are making. (That’s why we’re donating 50% of our proceeds to Wac Arts, which helps young people get into the arts. The other 50% goes to the church to help with running costs.)
So when Jean (an incredible woman in her mid-seventies) approached me afterwards and said that she wanted to share something from her memoir that she’s currently writing, and Adrian (also in his seventies) said that he was inspired to recommence work on an idea for a play that he had 45 years ago (!), it felt like we set out exactly what we wanted to achieve.
Now, we’re planning Unfinished Business line-ups for the rest of 2018, and looking for London-based artists from diverse backgrounds and disciplines to share their work. Send me an email if you want to be a part of it: firstname.lastname@example.org.
See you at the next one?