Ardent Arts in the Community activist, Bona Shin, arrived in England from South Korea in 1994. Having studied acting in Korea, she gained a degree in Drama at Hull University and an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy at Goldsmiths University in East London. Bona is on a mission. “Why do you have to go to the theatre to see great artists?” she asks. “Art and artists are all around us. I want to bring art to people where they are living, to create a space and opportunity where artists and audience can come together. Art,” she says, “is necessary for our psychological health. Art is beautiful; you should have a chance to experience that beauty. Art communicates; we need to be able to express our emotions. Art is cathartic.”
Running alongside Bona's passion for disseminating art to a wider public is her commitment to helping the Korean community feel at home in London. Through her non-profit organisation, Theatre4All, she aims to 'use the arts as a means of transcending existing barriers, whether they be ethnicity, gender or class.' Theatre4All hosts a Korean information centre, has run a community Arts Festival in New Malden which incorporated visual art, music, spoken word and Korean cultural events, broadcasts a Korean radio station once a week and is currently producing two documentary films on British Korean Veterans.
Somewhat surprisingly, the ever-original Bona also owns two hair salons in London. Her first, Hairline New Malden, opened 17 years ago. When Hairline Southfields opened just before Christmas, I was drawn in by Bona's friendly promotion and intrigued by her story. In fact, her vision of art and its place in society was not dissimilar to my own. For a very long time I have shunned the notion of elite audiences sitting rigidly and unaturally quietly in militarily straight rows of seats, listening to a predictable programme of the well-known classics. Music, I think, was made to be felt: physically, emotionally and spiritually. Music can stimulate us intellectually, surpise and intrigue us, lull and soothe us. And it is meant to be shared.
So I was prompted to suggest to Bona that Ismena might be able to perform a concert in her salon. She agreed immediately, saying she was thrilled to host a concert at Hairline. And what better time to do it, we both realised, than during the fortnight of Wandsworth Fringe Festival which 'aims to bring together performances and productions in an array of nooks and crannies throughout Wandsworth - some indoor, some outdoor, and some truly unexpected.'
And so was born 'Hairspray, Champagne and the Classics' which will be performed at 4:00 on Sunday the 14th of May in Hairline Southfields, 128 Brookwood Rd, SW18 5DB. Soprano Lene Sahlholdt and cellist Mayda Narvey will fill Hairline with songs of many genres, times and places, from Bach to Aurora, for friends old and new, and share a glass of bubbly with them afterwards. And hopefully we will not only fulfill Bona's mission of bringing art to where people are living but maybe even create a little happiness in their day!