Rock­ing the stones at Stone­henge

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - EVENTS EL­LIE JA­COBS

As the sun set be­hind the an­cient stones of Stone­henge and a per­fectly or­ches­trated sound­scape filled the ears of 50 hand-picked guests, Alon Shul­man looked at the scene and smiled to him­self. No one had ever staged a light and mu­sic event at Stone­henge before.

It wasn’t an easy task. The event, a fund-raiser for English Her­itage, was kept se­cret and — thanks to si­lent disco tech­nol­ogy — held in near si­lence. The guestlist com­prised ev­ery­one from Shul­man’s fam­ily, to celebri­ties and the cream of the club­bing world. It took a year to or­gan­ise, and Shul­man was on top of ev­ery de­tail, how­ever mun­dane.

We meet in a pop­u­lar North Lon­don café. He’s a DJ, so I reckon he’ll be wear­ing head-to-toe Nike and chains around his neck, cov­ered in tat­toos. But the man who in­tro­duces him­self is smartly dressed. Shul­man, who’s in his “early 40s” is charm­ingly po­lite and very well spo­ken, with pierc­ing blue eyes.

He’s that rare per­son, some­one who turned a teenage pas­sion for DJing into a lu­cra­tive ca­reer that he loves. “My life is a project. I’m al­ways work­ing be­cause I’m al­ways liv­ing,” he says.

He is CEO of the World Fa­mous Group, a mar­ket­ing, in­vest­ment, spon­sor­ship and event man­age­ment company which places em­pha­sis on cre­ativ­ity. And he does not al­low busi­ness to get in the way of his own cre­ativ­ity.

“I en­joy writ­ing books so I write, I’m a DJ — I like mu­sic, so I put on mu­sic events. I do ev­ery­thing I en­joy and try to do it well, in­clud­ing theatre and film. I’m very hands on. I don’t like to del­e­gate.”

Born into a Jewish fam­ily in Chelsea, Alon started DJing while at West­min­ster School, be­cause he “was a nerd who wanted to meet girls.”

He made friends with Paul Oak­en­fold and Carl Cox, both now world-fa­mous DJs and while study­ing his­tory at UCL, be­came a res­i­dent DJ at the Wag Club in War­dour Street, home to the cool kids of the 80s. Oak­en­fold head­lined the Stone­henge event, his playlist contained a lot of elec­tronic trance mu­sic, but also ev­ery­thing from the Blade Run­ner sound­track to Nes­sun Dorma.

Shul­man is a spe­cial ad­viser to English Her­itage. “They asked me if I could do some events with them, which is how Stone­henge came about. The ground there is sa­cred, it has a lot of sig­nif­i­cance. I love the site and I stud­ied his­tory I knew what I wanted to achieve and I knew I had to be re­spect­ful,” he says. “Peo­ple have been try­ing to do events there since the 1970s. The Rolling Stones failed, they couldn’t get it off the ground. There’s a prece­dence of peo­ple try­ing to do it and it be­ing can­celled at the last minute. No one’s pulled it off before.” The event took over a year to or­gan­ise, and he says, “it couldn’t have gone bet­ter. God Loves the Stranger. It was a fi­nan­cial, an emo­tional and a cre­ative suc­cess.

“We only had 45 min­utes to build a six hour show. There was a lot go­ing on, it took hours and hours to do. The plugs weren’t work­ing, we didn’t have the right sock­ets, and it was dark. I’m an ur­ban guy so we hadn’t fac­tored any of that in, we had some gen­er­a­tors but it was dif­fi­cult.

“I wanted it to be in­ti­mate; I wanted ev­ery­one to be able to go in­side the stone cir­cle and to be able to con­trol it in a nice way. We had to make sure that the DJ didn’t touch the stones, the peo­ple didn’t touch the stones, the stones didn’t touch the stones!”

He says that “some peo­ple were ac­tu­ally cry­ing. It was a real ‘we did it’ mo­ment” .

Born to an Is­raeli mother, Shul­man is flu­ent in He­brew and had his bar­mitz­vah at the West­ern Wall.

“I have al­ways be­ing con­scious of my Jewish back­ground, my roots, my her­itage, I’ve con­nected much more with Ju­daism as I’ve got older.”

“My drive partly comes from my Ju­daism, for sure” he adds.

He and his wife keep a kosher home and his chil­dren, aged seven and three-and-a-half, “are very aware of their roots”.

“I’m very proud of my an­ces­try, my Jewish­ness and it’s a big part of me even though I didn’t al­ways know it was a big part of me.”

He says it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that “you’re part of some­thing. Peo­ple strug­gled to get to where we are to­day. They didn’t do it so you’d stop prac­tic­ing Ju­daism.”

He met his wife, Sa­man­tha, a lawyer, in 2009. “We were en­gaged three weeks later. We had quite a big fat Jewish wed­ding — there were 700 peo­ple.” For­mer Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks of­fi­ci­ated.

The couple are very dif­fer­ent. Shul­man says that his wife “has never been to a club in her life.”

Maybe she’ll change her ways, if he car­ries out his lat­est plans for events at Pe­tra in Jor­dan, Masada in Is­rael and — closer to home — “hope­fully one next year at Ken­wood House.”

PHOTO: AN­TON NEL­SON

DJ Paul Oak­en­fold at Stone­henge

DJ Paul Oak­en­fold with Alon Shul­man (be­low right)

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