Artichoke wants to pay tribute to Alan Jacobi, LVO, who died on 13th April 2020. AJ, through his company, Unusual, was responsible for the technical delivery of some of Artichoke’s most challenging projects.
In the early days of planning for The Sultan’s Elephant by Royal de Luxe, we were told that there was only one person in Britain who could both persuade the authorities to grant permission and undertake the immense logistical demands of this unprecedented four-day event which saw central London free from traffic and handed back to its pedestrian population. Seven years of negotiation resulted in an extraordinary moment in London’s life when a giant elephant, a little girl and a Sultan and his entourage took the city by storm. It is hard to describe the many obstacles that were thrown our way, and it was AJ with his characteristic mixture of self-confidence, charm and astonishing invention who overcame them all.
Artichoke formed an unorthodox partnership with Unusual as we took on more and more difficult projects. Paul St George’s The Telectroscope which required uninterrupted and uncontended internet communication between London and Brooklyn for twenty-seven days; Antony Gormley’s One & Other, which saw 2,400 people mount and dismount safely from Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth over a period of 100 days and nights; La Machine – a giant spider climbing buildings in Liverpool for the City’s period as European Capital of Culture 2008; London’s Burning where Unusual masterminded the production requirements around Station House Opera’s Dominoes. Again, 4km of the City of London’s roads were closed as a single run of breeze blocks charted the progress of the Great Fire of London through pubs and churches, over buildings and through houses to the triple destinations of the Barbican; Paternoster Square and St Mary Axe.
The biggest challenge that Artichoke has ever faced was bringing its Lumiere festival to London in 2016 and again in 2018. AJ and his team undertook the planning, permissions, crowd and safety management and the technical delivery of over fifty artworks in different locations across central London. From hanging Janet Echelman’s 1:8 net sculpture across Oxford Circus to installing projectors to illuminate the west front of Westminster Abbey, AJ was across the detail of what the artists needed and what the authorities would permit. His charismatic conviction that every problem had a solution and that we just needed to work together to find it, persuaded the enormous network of agencies, building owners and artists to move this complicated project forward. In the end, each festival saw audiences of over 1 million people taking to the streets and enjoying their city in the most Unusual way.
As a company, Artichoke is acutely conscious of the enormous debt we owe this legend of the entertainment industry. Our success is his success. Without AJ, the British public would have had no access to some of the most memorable cultural events of the last 15 years. His legacy will live on as we try to echo his relentless certainty that anything an artist can dream up can be made to happen.