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The Abstrakt world of Anna Goodman - 20 years of celebration

[Photo Credit: Anna Goodman at Bar Industria, London 1992]

Arts PR Anna Goodman grew up in London and runs Abstrakt Publicity, working with performing arts, from her home in Pimlico. Abstrakt Publicity has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, it’s also the only job that Anna ever stuck. Here, Anna shares a view into her world.
In the spring of ‘99 after four years of promoting vinyl to DJs, I found myself unemployed. I’d enthusiastically snapped up what seemed like a dream job whilst living in New York, returning from the Lower East Side to a chilly trading estate on the Kensal Road, Ladbroke Grove. The standard boy’s club environment of the music business was to say the least, disillusioning. I’d come of age during the punk era and club boom, heavily influenced by musicians and club characters including women who sought no approval. The male, heterosexual world of standard record companies was both disorientating and ironic as I worked with dance music originating more often than not, from a Black or Latin Gay source.
DJs had been significant throughout my life, providing the soundtrack and hosting my nocturnal playgrounds both here and in the US. Gay clubs (No acronyms way back when), had the edge and the best nights out saw dancefloors hustling and bustling with a gay, lesbian and trans crowd, a smattering of straight punters plus those open to offers: B-Boys, rastas, and the impossibly glamourous danced alongside underage runaways and celebrities who mucked in: rubbing shoulders and a great deal more with all and sundry.
I worked at Heaven from 1986-1993 once or sometimes twice a week, taking care of the guest list or VIP door. This was a much coveted post, earning one the absolute right to saunter into other clubs with a bunch of friends, completely free of charge. In the early 90s I also worked at Ministry of Sound, Bar Industria on Hanover Square, Brixton’s Vox then in New York: Nell’s, the Sound Factory Bar and the Tunnel. I even briefly shared door duties with the late, great voguing maestro Willi Ninja, whose charisma, warmth and wisdom charmed us all.
I never thought any of this was useful, or embryonic in terms of a career. Indeed, I’d fallen into a day job with a fashion PR company and aged 31, was teaching myself to use a rudimentary computer in New York. Just before that, having aided and abetted several fundraisers in London, I was eventually hired to publicise a ‘Fun Run’ in Hyde Park on New Year’s Eve, 1992 for La Verna House – a charity providing sheltered housing for men, women and children living with AIDS.

[Photo Credit: Anna Goodman at Hyper Hyper, High Street Kensington circa 1980s]

I can’t imagine how I managed without office skills but I do remember with affection, an outsized desk diary and a trusty rolodex…..
Rewinding (just for the hell of it) back to my year in the US, New York Fashion Week 1994 most certainly had its moments. I’ve never written about the following, and it’s something of a detour, but here goes:
A young man by the name of Lee McQueen was coming to NYC for the first time, courtesy of my boss and Marin Hopper who worked at Elle magazine. It’s worth mentioning that she was Dennis Hopper’s daughter which confirmed my hunch that ANYTHING was possible in New York . Lee/Alexander was to showcase pieces from an early collection and I was made good use of as a token Brit. I organised a casting so Lee could choose 3 models plus a hair and makeup team. He brought a friend from London, a model named Gina I think, though he called her Gin. Lee was infuriated by several makeup artists declining to offer their services as they didn’t seem to know what to make of his collection. I contacted my clubbing friend Colin Gold who was and still is, a session hairdresser working with some of the world’s most renowned photographers and models. Colin was in town for NY Fashion Week alongside makeup artist Lee Pycroft who I’d met whilst working on Shamen video Hyperreal as a stylist. It was nice to have them there – Colin can also thankfully bear witness to this.
The presentation was as far as I can remember, a success. I wore a paint-splattered McQueen tailcoat while watching our chosen models do their thing, it all seems totally surreal now. Willi Ninja came along at my invitation and vogued (After much persuasion), at the end of the night… While in New York I also organised a party for VIBE magazine and Sandra Bernhardt came along, so the PR thing was kind of gestating, alongside my confidence, not that I really knew or appreciated this at the time.
Fashion was never really my thing and I certainly never intended to write or name-drop about New York, just Abstrakt celebrating 20 years this month and Abstrakt is about theatre, live art and dance. It’s just that I didn’t know exactly how to access these worlds back then, I never realised that it was enough to have a love of them and find a place, in the background to help artists along the way. I’m also thinking about those of us who lack formal education, who didn’t prosper in our 20s and somehow blamed ourselves for years to follow. I never trusted career ambition in any case – it’s the most I could ever hope for simply to work in an area which inspires me daily and stay happy.
Moving on….

[Photo Credit: New York party circa 1994]

In 1998 I met Maja Prausnitz, editor of Gargoyle magazine, an Anglo American poetry anthology. Both in the US and UK, poets were joining forces as spoken word artists frequently shared stages with Hip Hop MCs and slam poets, regularly performing at venues like the Jazz Café, Spitz and Express Excess in Camden. Thanks to Maja I started publicising a forthcoming Gargoyle featuring writers such as Labi Siffre, John Cooper Clarke, Joolz and Roger Robinson amongst many others – it actually seems quite magical in retrospect. Around the same time, a small Hip Hop label called Bronx Science got in touch from the US about their 12” releases and Abstrakt Publicity was in business as of July 1 1999. I celebrated with a night out at the South Bank Centre to see Nina Simone at Nick Cave’s Meltdown. Erick Morillo came onboard straight away with his house label Subliminal which continued under my watch until 2007. Significantly though in 2000, Jonzi D, who I’d met at Hip Hop and spoken word jams asked if I’d publicise the seminal Aeroplane Man. He’d become aware of my steady stream of underground Hip Hop promotions which by this time included Washington’s Unspoken Heard and the New York label Ozone: home of Saul Williams and Mike Ladd. The Aeroplane Man was to be performed at the South Bank Centre and tour the UK. Jumping ahead, live art came along a few years later courtesy of Luke Dixon, artistic director of the International Workshop Festival who hired me to promote Annie Sprinkle and Beth Stephens’s Love Art Lab at Chelsea Theatre.

'An old 12” to represent my Hip Hop years...'

[Photo Credit: Anna Goodman with Jonzi D at Breakin’ Convention, Sadler’s Wells]

As Hip Hop thankfully doesn’t stop, Jonzi has continued to work with me mainly via Breakin’ Convention at Sadler’s Wells, now 16 years strong. While younger artists bring with them each year, a new awareness of what is possible within Hip Hop performance there are people like me, who saw it all grow.

As well, live art and LGBTQ+ performance has continued to be a mainstay remaining politically charged, urgent and like Hip Hop, of growing influence in mainstream culture both on and offstage - I currently work with LGBTQ+ venue the Marlborough Theatre, both in Brighton and beyond.

'New Queers On The Road documentary by Rosie Powell, Marlborough Theatre touring project'

There’s so much more I could write but what I’ve been thinking about most, as Abstrakt reaches 20 is simply appreciation - That I’m still able to do this, that I actually got to publicise Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World at Shakespeare’s Globe and the realisation that with commitment, focus and a love of both arts and artists, there will always be a place and a need, so I may as well just carry on.

abstraktpublicity.co.uk | @AnnaGoodman1

[Photo Credit: Anna Goodman with Andrew Logan, at his Alternative Miss World at Shakespeare’s Globe]

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