When Zamunda came to Stratford

Picture the scene. You’ve just realised that you are going to set up your company and make it into an organization that tells stories through the power of events. You give it an awesome name, called We Are Parable, which instantly gets people talking and asking questions, which is, when you start a new venture, exactly what you want.

Company Objective? Check. Name? Check. Mission Statement? Check.

Now what?

You’ve then got to think of your first event.

Clearly, I’m talking about the dilemma that me and Teanne found ourselves in at the start of the year. What was going to be our first event? We kept on asking each other over and over again. We knew it had to be innovative, original, and give people a really good insight into what We Are Parable are all about.

As we create events that are centered on our passions, we were thinking how we could bring a game changing event to the world of fashion, art, music or…film.

“How about a floating cinema?” Teanne suggested.

At that time, I said, “Let’s screen Coming To America. I’m sure it’s been out for 25 years now.”

“Yes!” She said.

We wanted to verify that it was in fact a quarter of century passing since the classic tale of a Zamundan prince finding his bride in New York City first hit cinemas – we rushed to find the DVD, turned it over, and there it was:

© 1988.

Our minds were made up. We were doing this.

We then spent the rest of the night jabbering like monkeys about what we could do to make it a truly unique experience for cinema goers. And that’s when we thought about having rosebearers adorning our guests in the finest African flowers, African drum rhythms meeting our guests as well as an African market stall selling the best arts and crafts Zamunda had to offer.

Why did we want to do this?

Look, we’re eighties babies. The pair of us. Our first recollection of this film was watching it late night on BBC 1 with all the good bits (swearing and cussing) taken out. But even then, we would still go around reciting “Sexual Chocolate!” and singing “Just let your soul glo” at the top of our voices. And although we’re not kids anymore, that film has a massive place in our hearts, to this very day. It’s one of those movies you watch and you know you’re going to have a good time. Well, we wanted to replicate that feeling and let it spill out into an experience that shows the love we have for the film. By doing something different and giving our audience an authentic narrative experience, we were hoping to reconnect their experiences of the film with our own.

We spoke with PictureHouse in Stratford, East London, and immediately they bought into our night. “Coming To America is 25” was happening!

ctais25-e-flyer

Fast forward three months, and as I write this, it’s been a few days since our sold out Coming To America is 25 event actually happened.

The day itself was a huge melting pot of excitement, nerves and energy that combined well, ensuring that our visitors  were overwhelmed when they walked up to the cinema.

As you arrived to Picturehouse, you were greeted by tribal drums beating away as the hazy sun rolled down, giving the feeling that you really weren’t in East London about to “Just watch a film”. Mix that with our beautiful, authentic rosebearers who made you feel like royalty by welcoming you into the venue with a light dusting of petals, and you were pretty much being transferred to Zamunda before you even walked up to the auditorium.

Our Rosebearers in full attire, as well as a little apprentice
Our Rosebearers in full attire, as well as a little apprentice

In the foyer, we had a total of 16 (yep, SIXTEEN) stall holders who sold a selection of gift cards, magazines, accessories, clothing and  books with an afro centric perspective which served only to stir up your senses and create an experience never before witnessed in a cinema.

The Coming To America Market Stall - we had a total of 16 stall holders...
The Coming To America Market Stall – we had a total of 16 stall holders…

The opportunity was there to create a small art exhibition which would highlight work from afro-caribbean artists whose work was influenced from the African dispora, encouraging art lovers to engage with these pieces.

Some great pieces from Skone Designs
Some great pieces from Skone Designs
Vibrant artwork from Twin Soul Creations
Vibrant artwork from Twin Soul Creations
More great pieces of art from Cezanne
More great pieces of art from Cezanne

We had the most fun developing themed cocktails around Coming To America and came up with some pretty unique names as you can see below:

I'm especially proud of the third name…!
I’m especially proud of the third name…!

As I said above, this event was completely sold out. In fact, the minute I put the sign up saying there were no more tickets I had at least 10 people come up to me saying they were gutted not to able to join in the experience.

Probably the best two words you could hope to hear when you have an event...
Probably the best two words you could hope to hear when you have an event…

With about five minutes to go before “showtime”, we took the picture you see below. After a few seconds of taking, it, me and Teanne looked at each other with our mouths wide open. We did this.

An engaged audience awaiting to watch a classic...
An engaged audience waiting to watch a classic…

But the experience was far from over. We had two exceptional performances, the first  from a fantastic group called AQ Arts who created a routine especially for us called “Bearer of the Rose”, the story of Akeem’s quest to find his own way and find a bride.

The magnificent AQ Arts after a brilliant dance performance
The magnificent AQ Arts after a brilliant dance performance

Also, we were privileged to have The Venus Bushfires perform. A one woman singer and instrumentalist, she wowed the audience with her haunting lyrics and layered, textured sounds.

The Venus Bushfires - you need to hear the sounds this instrument makes...
The Venus Bushfires – you need to hear the sounds this instrument makes…

Just to think – we only charged a little over 6 pounds for a ticket – that’s a lot of experience for your buck.

What did people think? They thought it was great. I heard someone say “To be fair, I’m loving this.” And despite the fact me and Teanne were running around like headless chickens, it’s this comment that really sticks with me.

Now, that's a satisfied audience!
Now, that’s a satisfied audience!

We can develop all of the innovative experiential solutions in the world, but if our audience are not responding and reacting, then it’s not right. So many people asked us when our next event is going to be , and again that makes me proud.

Team Parable after a rewarding day telling stories and delivering unforgettable experiences!
Team Parable after a rewarding day telling stories and delivering unforgettable experiences!

This is the first time that I can honestly say that working has not felt like “work”. I feel like this is where Teanne and me need to be, and as long as we follow our passions, we’ll have a lot more stories that are just waiting to be told.

Til next time, Later…

Anthony and Teanne

For more pictures of our night, make sure you follow us on twitter (@weareparable) or search “We Are Parable” on Facebook.

We’d like to thank a few people, as without their help, Coming To America wouldn’t have happened:

Estella @ Stratford Picture House

Lyanta Callender, Graphic Designer Guru

AQ Arts

The Venus Bushfires

Our wonderful Rosebearers, Rosemary Chileshe, Nadine Mendes, Cecile Helen Luboko

Our Drummers, Tafadzwa and Cameron

Sombo Darkowah, stylist to our rosebearers

Angela Dennis our official photographer

Kickin’ it with the Kinks our videographers

Our Artists (Skone Designs, Onyinye Draws, Cezanne and Twin Soul Creations) who lent their  work to display at Stratford Picture House (Which, if you’re in London, you can still see until the middle of July)

Our Stallholders:

  1. Cairo Cards
  2. House of Loulee
  3. Larissa Amarachi
  4. Skone Designs
  5. Twin Soul Creations
  6. African Musical Instruments
  7. Diva Choice
  8. Raising Black Achievement
  9. Cezanne
  10. Tote Collections
  11. Kitoko Designs
  12. Nafasi by Nature
  13. ISIS Magazine
  14. Nubia Magazine
  15. BeYouT African-Inspired Designs
  16. Lovebox Collective

The Voice, Newham Recorder, East London Advertiser newspaper for spreading the word

All of our followers and likers on Twitter and Facebook, word of mouth played a big part in the success of this event, so thank you so much…keep your eyes and ears peeled for more information.

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