Marc Worth, UK businessman and director of upcoming culture festival, TLV in LDN, laughs when he says he became an unpaid employee of the Israeli government through his involvement with the event.
Casually dressed and looking relaxed, he explains over coffee in a busy Herzliya café (he owns a house close by) that he wants the festival to raise awareness about what Israel has to offer in terms of its creative, cultural and commercial diversity.
“It’s not about politics, it’s about showing people just how great the country is, particularly Tel Aviv, which is my favorite city in the world. People don’t know enough of what goes on here, be it in business or culturally. I want to encourage the British public to get on a plane and see it for themselves,” says Worth.
As co-founder of fashion trend forecaster, World Global Style Network (WGSN) and now CEO of Stylus Media, Worth had never worked for anyone else before, “and then suddenly, I found myself working for the embassy,” he says.
The festival, the first of its kind, is primarily aimed at a non-Jewish audience — those who really don’t know much about Israel and who are probably aged between 18-30, Worth says. But it is also targeted at younger members of the Jewish community, within the 25-40 age bracket. He believes that they are a “missing generation,” who lack an affinity with Israel and he is very keen that the festival draws them in too.
The original idea for the festival, he explains, came from then-mayor of London Boris Johnson some time ago, and Worth joined the project several months later.
“Over two years ago, I was at the Israeli embassy to see if we could get funding to bring over some Israeli fashion designers to take part in London Fashion Week. They didn’t have any budget for it but the head of the cultural desk, Dan Golan, mentioned a UK-Israeli cultural project that they were working on,” says Worth.
One thing led to another and eventually, Worth was asked to run TLV in LDN. “In a moment of madness, I said, ‘Yeah, why not?’”
The four-day celebration opens September 8 and will take place at the Roundhouse, a cutting edge arts venue in Camden, a neighborhood in northwest London. The program showcases Tel Aviv’s creative diversity and features a mix of Israeli music, nightlife, dance, art, food and fashion.
Highlights include rhythmic dance troupe Mayumana, a digital art exhibition curated by Ori Gersht and live concert performances by Ester Rada, Marina Maximilian and Yemenite band, A-WA. Infected Mushroom, DJ Guy Gerber and Palestinian-Israeli singer-songwriter Mira Awad are also taking part.
Other events include an LGBT+ Tel Aviv Beach Party where Dana International will perform and Israeli fashion house, Maskit, will be presenting a show.
“We wanted to get [Maskit founder] Ruth Dayan over — I think she’s 99 — but it’s a bit too much for her,” says Worth.
There is also a two-day food and drink festival, curated by chef Shaul Ben Aderet. Although happy that this part of the event alone has already sold approximately 1,300 tickets, Worth is hoping that ticket numbers will double. He is ambitious for the festival’s success and, overall, wants it to reach around 10,000 people.
He has worked closely with arts event manager and producer, Tali Tzemach, who has experience in organizing and transporting Israeli artists for communal events in London.
“It’s been a really good partnership,” Worth says. “She has been responsible for sourcing most of the festival’s content. It’s a mammoth logistical operation — we’re bringing over about 140 people.”
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One of the main reasons he was asked, he says, was that they needed to fundraise, which is off limits for the embassy. Worth set up a not-for-profit company and then set out to raise the money. This has certainly been time consuming but he admits that another one of his main challenges has been dealing with Israeli government bureaucracy.
“It has been an interesting discipline,” he says, smiling.
The London-based Worth has been engaged with Israel for decades. He describes himself as passionate about the country and has often taken on a variety of roles, both professionally and within the Anglo-Jewish community.
He is a former chair of UK Israel Business and he is currently a member on the Board of Governors of Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. He has also been involved with British charity UJIA (United Jewish Israel Appeal).
In Worth’s experience, people have preconceptions about the country until they visit.
“When I was chair of UK Israel Business I used to bring groups out to Israel. They would come with absolutely no idea of what to expect – they thought they would be walking into a war zone but [returned] feeling that Israel is an amazing place,” he says.
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Despite the festival’s non-political stance, the organization LDN Against Apartheid is campaigning to cancel the event in solidarity with the BDS movement. Worth acknowledges the inevitability of anti-Israel activity and although he is aware of this current protest, he is unfazed by it.
“We are prepared,” he says, simply.
With just a matter of weeks to go before the festival opens, he is looking forward to it but will it be a one-off concept? He laughs at the suggestion that there is potential for the brand “TLV in…” to be adapted elsewhere before admitting that a sponsor has already suggested the idea.
“I was asked if I would be interested in doing a TLV in NY and/or Washington. But I’m not sure whether I’m going to do that,” Worth says.
For now, his energies are firmly focused on TLV in LDN.
“It is a great project and I’ve loved doing it. It’s also been an opportunity for me to come out to Israel more often,” says Worth. “I probably would do it again if I didn’t have to raise the money. So, if the Israeli government says, ‘Here’s a check for ‘X’ — would you do it again for us,’ I’d say yes.”