24 Jun 2008
Shambolic enough to be useful 
Praxis (the Wilson interpretation): Do something because you have the urge to do it, invent the reasons later.

So it was that several hundred people gathered in a tent outside Manchester's Urbis on Saturday 21 June 2008 to talk at and to each other for twenty four hours in the name of Anthony H Wilson, the result of an urge of a number of his friends to provide an active, ongoing memorial.

The idea itself was first mooted by Peter Saville at a small gathering of Wilson's former collegues in the Autumn of 2007, and quickly gained momentum with the backing of Manchester City Council through its 'Marketing Manchester' initiative.

His inspiration came from attending the art critic Hans Ulrich Obrist's 24 Hour Interview Marathon, held at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2006. The Saville interpretation: chuck some been-there-and-done-its in a big room for 24 hours with the wanna-be-there-and-do-its and see whether a happening could happen.

The Stephenson Bell designed techno-teepee that housed The Wilson Experience stood tall, despite being drenched by Saturday's continuous downpour and buffeted by Sunday's gales (it must be weather-cursed - its original incarnation as centrepiece of last year's Manchester International Festival was similarly accompanied by a whole week of Manchester rain).

Inside the participants were kept warm by the heat of the lights and cameras, occasional hot air from the speakers, and debate that became so heated, at times, that some attendees felt the need to douse each other down!

The happening appeared unlikely during the (Satur)day with some slots retreading ground already trodden in previous events, often reverting to the 'intimate conversation/five minute Q&A' format.

But following the evening's light entertainment - whereby Ratio did Rialto, Hewick did Hooky, Dasilva did as Dasilva does - something did happen: an event that gave reason to the initial urge, and hinted at the way forward.

An open-mic session between 5 and 7 am with a largely cobbled-together stage full of various Manchester hard workers - including, at times, Oli Wilson, Martin Moscrop, John Pennington, Mark Kennedy and MC'd by Johnny Jay - developed into a full-on, no-holes-barred, two-way conversation full of honest, genuine advice from equally honest, genuine people.

Elsewhere, from participant to organiser it was clear that the ultimate success of the event lay in the conversations that continued outside of the forum itself, with many of the 'Experienced' (it said so on their passes) making themselves fully available to the 'Talented' (it said so on their passes): in person, tangible and approachable.

The twenty four hours were completed with a plea by Peter Saville to the attending Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese for further support of the event, followed by a rousing rendition of the poem St. Anthony by Mike Garry.

Full review to follow.

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