Paul Burwell liked to be described as a thaumaturge – a worker of wonders and a performer of miracles; a magician – and his life was dedicated to changing circumstances and conditions through art, with a particular focus on sound, fire and water. As an emerging sound artist, Burwell started his career in a partnership with David Toop, pushing the boundaries of what music and sound could be. As a founder member of the London Musicians Collective, Burwell was part of a group of free improvising musicians and artists whose work and influence continues as a truly counter-cultural force .
Through the 1980s Burwell worked with the artists Richard Wilson and Anne Bean in the seminal collective Bow Gamelan, performing around the world, creating huge site-specific sculptural instruments from junk, with more fire and water to spice it all up – mad, playful, elemental and magical.
Burwell was a man of extremes, joyous, warm and always experimental, but also loved danger – and he could be self-destructive too. In 1999 he moved to Hull and bought the abandoned Kingston Rowing Club boathouse which he transformed into an experimental artspace – a place where things could happen. At the back of a park, on the bank of a river, facing a forgotten part of industrial Hull, Burwell continued to make magic, drawing people to him and letting them know they had permission.
One night in February 2007, drunk, he fell over and couldn’t stand up. He was discovered the following morning with hypothermia and died shortly after.
Nova Studios’ documentary film Adventures in the House of Memories will tell the story of Paul Burwell’s life through the words of the people who knew him best, and explain why our society needs artists like Paul, who are prepared to go beyond the edge and into the maelstrom.
Nova Studios is a Hull-based film and video production company. Their previous documentary Mind On The Run, commissioned for Hull 2017, tells the story of the remarkable forgotten composer Basil Kirchin. Nova produce a wide variety of arts-focussed and commercial documentary films.