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Cambridge plaque for John and Yoko's first concert


By Mike Scialom


Plaque at foyer of Lady Mitchell Hall commemorates first concert by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on March 2, 1969. Yoko Ono's curator Gabriella Daris is with John Dunbar, the art gallery owner who introduced John to Yoko in 1967. Picture: Keith Heppell
Plaque at foyer of Lady Mitchell Hall commemorates first concert by John Lennon and Yoko Ono on March 2, 1969. Yoko Ono's curator Gabriella Daris is with John Dunbar, the art gallery owner who introduced John to Yoko in 1967. Picture: Keith Heppell

A moment in musical history was marked with the unveiling of a plaque at Lady Mitchell Hall on Saturday.

On that day 50 years earlier, John Lennon gave his first post-Beatles public performance, supporting Yoko Ono for the first of many collaborations which are woven into our musical and cultural legacy.

“It was on this day and in this place on March 2, 1969 that Yoko Ono and John Lennon gave their first concert together,” said master of Downing College, Alan Bookbinder, in his introduction. The concert was recorded as ‘Cambridge 1969’ and appeared that summer on Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions, the second of John and Yoko’s three albums featuring experimental music.

“Yoko will be coming back to Cambridge this year to showcase her work in Cambridge for the first time and for this we’d like to thank Gabriella Daris.”

Gabriella is a London-based art historian and independent curator who has served as assistant and advisor to numerous Yoko Ono exhibitions, installations and performances since 2013. She has overseen the creation of the plaque which has been gifted to the University of Cambridge, and has orchestrated a major Cambridge exposition, Yoko Ono: Looking For... an extensive programme of events at various sites which has already started with public posters around the city. It moves to the Heong Gallery from June to October; the Alison Richard Building from September to November and Anglia Ruskin University from October to November, alongside other one-off events including film screenings, performances, panel discussions, a symposium and a walking tour.

She said: “I’m very happy today because a dream of mine has come true and as Yoko Ono has said: ‘A dream you dream alone is only a dream, but a dream you dream together is reality’. I’d like to thank those who believed in my dream and helped me realise it. My extended thanks go to Gustav Metzger, Jon Hendricks [Yoko's personal curator] and, of course, Yoko Ono, who sends her love.”

Yoko Ono: Looking For... curator Gabriella Daris with John Dunbar, who introduced John to Yoko in 1967, at the 'Watch' poster on Parker's Piece, the first exhibit in the all-year Yoko Ono exposition. Picture: Mike Scialom
Yoko Ono: Looking For... curator Gabriella Daris with John Dunbar, who introduced John to Yoko in 1967, at the 'Watch' poster on Parker's Piece, the first exhibit in the all-year Yoko Ono exposition. Picture: Mike Scialom

Gustav Metzger was an experimental German artist whose auto-destructive art was probably the inspiration for a Banksy painting being shredded immediately post-sale at a Sotheby’s auction last year.

John Dunbar, who ran the Indica art gallery in London where John first met Yoko in 1967, described the occasion to the audience in the entrance to Lady Mitchell Hall.

“Yoko turned up on my doorstep in 1966 and asked me if I’d do a show,” he said. “I knew a bit about her from Gustav. She’d done some events in London, for example Cut Piece [where Yoko sat alone on stage and invited the audience to cut her clothing off].

“So we got this exhibition together, there was lots of stuff and by the time it was nearly ready I’d spoken to John Lennon about the show as I thought he’d be interested because it was extraordinary. But John couldn’t make it, so I told Yoko.

“I persuaded her to have a separate viewing and when John came along he was very intrigued... and things moved on from there.”

Yoko Ono at the original 'Cut Piece'. The 2019 performance piece, with a new model, will take place at ARU at Ruskin Gallery in October. Picture: Minoru Niizuma Copyright: Yoko Ono
Yoko Ono at the original 'Cut Piece'. The 2019 performance piece, with a new model, will take place at ARU at Ruskin Gallery in October. Picture: Minoru Niizuma Copyright: Yoko Ono

There will be a performance of Cut Piece at the Ruskin Gallery on October 3 at 6pm.



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