Performers seem increasingly keen to put on shows in private houses. So Leo Benedictus organises his own five-night festival - in his flat

The Guardian 


It started with a picture in the paper: two performers dancing - properly dancing - on someone's bed. That was their show, apparently, and they could do it on anyone's bed, they said. It reminded me of a production of The Tempest at the Edinburgh festival a few years ago that was performed in people's living rooms. Edinburgh is the world's largest arts festival, but if enough artists are performing in private houses, could I inaugurate the world's smallest? With a few phone calls and a little digging, it turns out I could. Introducing, for five nights only: the My Living Room Arts Festival.

Day 1, opera

Day 2, puppet theatre

Day 3, jazz

The living room is still in its opera configuration, so I have to switch everything around and get the piano back in. The futon fits neatly in the bath, I notice. Estimated mouths to feed (performers and audience): 18.

The first thing to strike me when the musicians arrive is that I don't think they understood the sort of venue they're playing in tonight. They played Shepherd's Bush last week and have Ronnie Scott's coming up, but, like true jazzmen, they take my living room in their stride. Unlike true jazzmen, they are here on time.

It was going to be a quintet - Ray Guntrip (piano), Joe Caddy (drums), Dick Pearce (trumpet), Val Maniks (double bass), and their leader, John Worthington (sax) - but they asked along Kofi Karikari (percussion) for good measure. I'm told he plays for Jamiroquai. John has been pure cool all along. I had to call him this morning just to reassure myself that they were coming.

Everyone is lined up: performers on one side, audience on the other. A promoter called Clement is here, too. Kofi has given each of us something to shake. There is a small scuffle over the sleigh bells. "That's the percussion discussion," observes Kofi jazzily. The band begins.

Within five minutes, I'm struggling with a horrible reality: these guys are plainly too good for my living room. Fluent and expressive, thoughtful and funky: this is the best live jazz I've ever heard. Everyone should save up and hire these guys. The room is grooving openly now. Mesmerised by another of Dick's trumpet solos, I forget to stop filling my glass and pour beer all over the floor.

Some more of Kofi's friends arrive. Mike and Tracey are from Atlanta; they won a sort of songwriters' Pop Idol in Prague. Their friend Ola is a singer who turns out to live 200 yards away. I get them some chairs. Dick has been enjoying the nibbles, but shifts them out of reach. "I'm going to move the crisps away because they might catch the drips from my trumpet," he hollers at me over a drum solo.

Things turn into a bit of a party. Mike's friend Tony has turned up; he's a pianist and producer, I think. Someone called Valentine is here, too. Joe, Kofi and their mates are having a soul and funk jam session - an appropriate term in this room. My friend starts singing with them. Everybody's dancing. We have eight minutes - I made a deal with the neighbours - and 93% of dinner left. I feel, drunkenly, that I will never have a better time at work.