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Rolex Mentor and Protégé

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:08 am
by Charlie
You will not be surprised to learn that I've never owned a fake Rolex watch or yearned for a real one. So when a letter came inviting me to an event with the name Rolex at the top, I at first assumed it had come to the wrong address. But it was an invitation to have breakfast at Brown's Hotel in Mayfair to attend the unveiling of the latest six pairs of names in an ongoing project called Rolex Mentor and Protégé. Noting that Youssou N'Dour was among the mentors, I was intrigued and went along.

Arriving shortly before the presentation, I shook hands with Jacob Edgar of Cumbancha Records who introduced me to Aurelio Martinez, a singer from Honduras whose Gaifuna Soul album is yet another production by Ivan Duran of Stonetree Records.

In the small conference room, Rebecca Irvine from Rolex explained that the concept was to pair a well-established master with a newcomer in each of six areas of the arts - writing, fine art, film-making, music, choreography and theatre. The senior figure had to agree to spend at least six weeks in a year with the apprentice, whose travel and accommodation expenses would be covered as well as receiving a grant of $25,000. We were not told what the senior figure was paid. Rebecca reeled off a number of high profile mentors since the initiative was launched in 2003 (including film director Stephen Fears) and then handed over for the introduction of this year's collaborators.

Youssou was unable to be there, having to attend a conference in Japan raising funds to deal with poverty in Africa, but had been filmed in Dakar where his interview was juxtaposed with a clip of Aurelio singing and playing guitar. Youssou explained that he had become fascinated with what had happened to African music on the other side of the Atlantic, and after one encounter with the Honduran musician he knew that he was going to learn as much from the interchange as Aurelio might.

Martin Scorcese was the other mentor unable to be there, being in the middle of making a film in Boston, but his protégé, the Argentinian writer-director Selina Murga, spoke modestly but well about how it was to watch a master of his craft up close.

All the other four mentors were there, each very impressive despite speaking for such a short time; Nigerian author Wole Soyinke was very funny, and so was the Hungarian/Dutch choreographer Jiří Kylián; the German artist Rebecca Horn was warm about her Japanese protégé, and the American theatre director Kate Valk was in some ways the most inspiring of all. I had never heard of her experimental Worcester Group, based on Manhattan, New York.

To qualify, the protégés had to have already proved themselves in their field, so this project was about helping people to go up to another level, rather than offering beginners help to get started. In addition to Aurelio were two Argentinians, one American, one Japanese and an Australian.

Talking with the other media folk afterwards, we were all agreed that this was one of the most worthwhile initiatives we had ever run across. Among its many virtues was a sense of modesty about the way Rolex were running it, possibly explained by the fact that it is a family company. Not beholden to the stock market, it can keep its philanthropy quiet.

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:10 am
by Nigel w
But did they give you a free watch in the press pack, Charlie?

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 10:15 am
by Charlie
nigel w wrote:But did they give you a free watch in the press pack, Charlie?

I brought nothing away with me. Perhaps you'd like to go and check what was under the chair, Nigel - second row, far right.

PostPosted: Fri May 30, 2008 6:39 pm
by Gordon Moore
Well, I'm happy to mentor anyone in writing a maths book! Can't understand what happened to my invite - sigh.


PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 8:17 am
by Peter Culshaw
as Charlie pointed out, Youssou and Aurelio's collaboration will be part of the third of the Garifuna Trilogy (as we wiill no doubt grandly come to call it) with Ivan duran producing

I also went - and also think the mentoring notion is a pretty good use of arts funding

didn't get a watch either, shucks

and it was the Wooster Group from NY - revered experimentalists

ps did you get a decent Turkish album sorted for the OMM list, CVharlie?

PostPosted: Sat May 31, 2008 6:47 pm
by Ian A.
Couldn't go to this as it's our production week - it was that or Baobab last night (which turned out to be a great choice as they were on their best form ever). Also having been forewarned that Youssou wouldn't be there, plus the thought of trying to get my brain in order at that time of the day was all too much! Mind you, I did enquire ahead of time whether there would be a goody bag ;-)

Did they show Michael Proudfoot's films about the subjects? He's the producer who made Channel 5's recent My Music series, which he implied to me they were only able to do - as a labour of love - on the minimal budget C5 gave them as his company makes its bread an butter from things like these Rolex commissions. So there's another secondary spin-off from Rolex's largesse. I know he was out in Dakar filming earlier in the year.

PostPosted: Mon Jun 02, 2008 11:49 am
by Charlie