So, last week, I met up with admirably creative promoter and entrepreneur Adam Taffler. His company Adamotions has, in the past, been involved in creating Comedy in Cemeteries, Red Bastard masterclasses and Shhh Dating (speed dating without speaking).
“I went on an Enlightenment Intensive,” he told me.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You sit opposite someone for three days and they say Tell me who you are? and you speak for five minutes, then they ring a bell and you switch over.”
“How does that last three days?” I asked.
“You do eight sessions of 5 minutes, then you have a little break, then another eight 5-minute sessions and then maybe have a little walk. You don’t talk outside of this thing. Some people pop and have an enlightenment experience, where they experience themselves and the world as unity. But, even if you don’t get that, you travel somewhere quite interesting because you are asking this question: What is the truest thing I can say about myself right now?
“By the end, after three days, even if you don’t have an enlightenment experience, things feel really weird. I walked into the kitchen and felt like I was coming down off acid. The bench was wobbling. It was a good thing they weren’t serving pizza.”
“Where was this happening?” I asked.
“At a Retreat Centre in Devon.”
“Strange things happen in Devon,” I observed.
“It’s great out there,” said Adam.
“Are you going to start promoting these things yourself?” I asked.
“I don’t think so. But I am doing some dinosaur bone-making workshops next week.”
“Because?” I asked.
“Because I met a guy in Amsterdam.”
“Why does Amsterdam not surprise me as a location?” I asked.
“I went there to look at property with him,” Adam continued. “I was looking for somewhere to open a hot tub venture, because I did a hot tub venture in London last year. It was fantastic. Just a pop-up. It needs a home.”
“What was the point of the hot tub venture?” I asked.
“To give people an experience of… Well… actually, I started it as a restaurant and called it The Supper Tub. The idea was you sit in a hot tub and get delicious food. But the thing is people don’t really want to eat in a hot tub.
“What they want want to do is drink. So I set up this deck in Hackney Wick, by the canal. You sit there, music playing, swans and ducks swimming by and the waiter is bringing you cocktails. It was really lovely. I did it for six months. But it needed more of a home. So I went over to Amsterdam. It’s a really happening city. The whole north of Amsterdam is opening up like Hackney opened up ten years ago.”
“I wouldn’t,” I said, “think Amsterdam could open up any more. When I lived there briefly in the mid-1990s, everything was going on. There was hardcore sex, gun-running, hard drugs, drug-smuggling, diamond smuggling, everything you can imagine but it was basically a dull city. It was bankers and businessmen living in suburbia. And I was living off Haarlemmerstraat, near the middle of town.”
“That’s the thing,” said Adam. “You legalise everything and people just relax with it.”
“But you couldn’t find a hot tub location there?” I asked.
“No. So I asked the guy I was with: What else do you do? And he said: I make dinosaur bones.”
“Is there much demand,” I asked, “for artificial dinosaur bones?”
“More than you would think,” replied Adam. “He builds them for museums and stuff.”
“Are you telling me museums have fake dinosaur bones in them?”
“Some of them. But really he does workshops where kids can come along and build a whole velociraptor skeleton. That was the thing I was most inspired by.”
“What,” I asked, “do you do with a velociraptor skeleton once you’ve built it?”
“You can leave it there. Or the kids can take their bones home. Kids like to make stuff like that. Together, it looks pretty cool.”
“I imagine so,” I said.
“Yeah,” said Adam. “We are going to do some dino-skulls with adults. I’m just going to try it out. We’re going to have music with it.”
“You surely,” I asked, “have to take acid for this to work at its best?”
“Probably,” laughed Adam. “And then become one with the dinosaur. Have the Unity Experience and start stalking the bars of North London.”
“What have you really got me here to plug?” I asked.
“Clowning in Nature with Dr Brown.”
“Where is it this year?”
“We’re going to Wales and doing nine days with him just outside Cardiff. He always wants to do longer and deeper. Ooh-err. That’s your type of sentence, isn’t it? We’ve got some pretty cool guest teachers lined up as well, but I can’t mention them yet. We’re doing a puppetry one as well with Iestyn Evans. He’s done stuff for CBeebies and Star Wars.
“Yeah. Within Arts, you get an established orthodoxy about how you do things and the inspiration which took people to arrive at that orthodoxy is really good. That’s a really interesting place. But the place of orthodoxy can be quite staid.
“So the idea of Clowning in Nature and Puppetry in Nature is that we wanna take people into that space and discover something new. We want to see where the inspiration is coming from. We are not just teaching people This is how you do A, B, and C – We are opening up to new inspiration.”
“How long is Puppetry in Nature?” I asked.
“It’s a 7-day thing.”
“Does Puppetry in Nature not face a problem of wetness?” I asked. “Isn’t puppetry outside in the Welsh weather doomed to sogginess?”
“Puppetry in The Lake is the really wet bit,” Adam replied. “We do a lot of stuff inside; we just do a few things outside. We have amazing farmhouses and yurts and saunas and food.”
“We love a good yurt,” I said.
“Would you like to live in a yurt?” Adam asked me. “How big is your garden?”
“Definitely yurt-sized,” I told him.
“John,” Adam told me, “I am taking my hot tubs to some festivals this summer. You can come and we will put you up in a yurt. We will revere you as a god and you can have a whole hot tub to yourself. You can be yourself: just tell people some bad jokes every now and then.”
“When is this happening?” I asked.
“June. July. There is a great one called Wildfire. It’s an analogue festival – you have to give your phone in at the door.”
“I can’t do that,” I said. “I would need therapy. But yurts are always good news.”
“When I sold my first business,” said Adam, “a health food business called Of The Earth – I took a break and I joined the Nomadic Academy for Fools with Jonathan Kay and, after a year of that, I decided what I wanted to do was, with a couple of friends, buy a barge in the middle of the Thames, moored opposite the Houses of Parliament – a big lighter barge about 60 feet long, maybe 16 feet wide.
“We wanted to convert it into a home and venue and maybe, to be honest, a super-cool shag-pad. We did plans and the peak of it was probably in November 2010 or 2011 – we called it The November Project.
“I managed to get a yurt and loaded it on a dinghy and stuck it on the barge. I had twelve people from around the country – thinkers and improvisers – and we did foolish improvisations to work out what the boat was going to look like and how we were going to fund it and it was one of the most brilliant and wild things I’ve done – just having a yurt in the water so close to Parliament was just wonderful.”
“Did they not,” I asked, “object to alternative-thinking people being that close to Parliament in a floating yurt?”
“I think they were fine with it,” Adam told me. “But there were some dynamic issues between people which meant it didn’t really work. There is one guy who is still trying to do it.”
“Have you performed yourself recently?” I asked.
“There was a character called Colonel Shirley Bickerstaff – a trans-gender geriatric colonel. I was really inspired by Nina Conti – the ventriloquism. I decided he would have a vagina in a box and would come out and sing this very beautiful song about falling in love with the vagina in the box. It was a love song. I did a few shows. It was pretty good. That’s it, really.”
And it was.