More than 1,000 revellers packed out Camden Town’s Roundhouse arts complex on Thursday night for the gala opening of TLV in LDN, a four-day cultural festival bringing the best of Tel Aviv to the British capital.
Three years in the planning, the celebration of food, music, arts and fashion was the suggestion of then London mayor Boris Johnson to the former Israeli ambassador, Daniel Taub. As Marc Worth, chairman of the 2017 event, recalled, “The ambassador leapt at the opportunity”.
Ambassadors and politicians move on but the central concept remained, the possibility of bringing the Tel Aviv culture and spirit to London, the city with which — despite the weather — there is much in common.
And on hand to record and admire the connections between the two cities were Britain’s Liam Fox, Secretary of State for International Trade, Israel’s Gilad Erdan, currently the Israeli minister for public security, information and strategic affairs, and mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai.
The festival opening, hosted by Israel Channel Two’s Sharon Kidon, featured a gloriously tongue-in-cheek film of Israelis, miming to Matisyahu’s song, Sunshine. Every sort of Israeli citizen joined in this enterprise, from singing nuns to dancing builders, a welcome shot of “down-homeness” after an introductory appearance by the pianist, composer and conductor Gil Shohat.
Avishai Cohen’s jazz trio formed the backdrop for a parade of fashion models dressed in the latest creations by the now revived label, Maskit, the brand founded by the widow of Moshe Dayan, Ruth Dayan. Mrs Dayan is now over 90 and was unable to travel to London for the show; the label is now run by designers Sharon and Nir Tal, and is enjoying new success, with Maskit planning a trunk show in London in the next few months.
Top Israeli chef Shaul Ben Aderet, who runs three restaurants in Tel Aviv, offered a menu for the gala opening and is due to run hot ticket cooking workshops over the weekend.
Dr Fox, announcing himself as “a very public and proud friend of Israel”, said that relations between the two countries had never been closer, and noted that after the Brexit referendum vote in June 2016, Israeli companies had “flocked” to the UK, “creating jobs and prosperity.” Tel Aviv, he said, was a “city that punches far above its weight”, both economically and culturally.
Mr Erdan, among whose briefs is the combating of the boycott, chose to attack those who would delegitimise Israel on the cultural front. He expressed gratitude to the UK leadership which had made it plain that it rejected the boycott.
Among the Israeli artists due to take part in the festival were the band Infected Mushroom and the top international DJ, Guy Gerber. Also on the programme were singer Dana International, a Tel Aviv beach party and a “pianathon” featuring four different Israeli pianists playing classical, jazz, and pop music. The whole programme has been curated by Ori Gersht.