Lorenzo Cherin is a member of, and a writer at, the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum. He has many contributions, articles, on the website of the Forum, part of the Ustinov Network, which is continuing the legacy of Sir Peter Ustinov, led with conviction by his son, artist, designer, Igor Ustinov.
A link to articles –
By Lorenzo Cherin
2020 has made an impact on the world like no year in recent or specific recollection. Covid 19 has changed much, but yet little, too. Thinking and practice seems to have got back to its old stale ways, and unambitious thinking, not new exciting ones and forward thinking. 2021 is the Centenary of the birth of Peter Ustinov. The life and work, legacy and wisdom, of this man of many parts, best known as a humourist, actor, but who was as much a humanitarian ambassador, should be celebrated in his home country of origin, as well as abroad. He was, ironically, born in Swiss Cottage, a suburb of London, and later lived in Switzerland, near the UN and Red Cross in Geneva. He worked with both and for a better world, as so many are now.
In specific and supportive ways, adding to the work of the Ustinov Network, making a significant contribution to knowledge of its founder, as well as creating inspired new work, this is the purpose of this proposal and project. I too was born in London, worked there for many years, and it was there, myself then working in the London theatre, that I and my partner, met Sir Peter Ustinov. For some years I have lived, and am based, in Nottingham, England, where Sir Peter was for some time, involved as an Associate Director at the Nottingham Playhouse Theatre. Devising and organising this project and the possibilities for it, mean a lot to me, and could have real and wider meaning. It can do a lot to make a difference. This is an early introduction to the initiative.
” Sir Peter Ustinov ‘s Centenary” and plans here for it, can be the instigation for this project, USTINOV’S UNIVERSE. The proposal is to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Peter Ustinov, from the country of his birth, shared with the wider world. The plan is for an ongoing initiative to continue, to share and reflect on, the work of Sir Peter Ustinov, while creating new independent, complimentary projects, based mainly online.
There is a greater need than ever for the arts and humanity to combine. The contributions must be acknowledged, both of past greats and those today who rather, struggle and strive to make a difference, from an artistic base, but with a wider aim. It is debts of gratitude and not dreams of grandeur, that are at the heart of such ideas here. The work of the different elements of the Ustinov Network and recent valuable efforts by Igor Ustinov concentrating on design and build for the developing world, as well as the Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum which is a part of that, and which I take part in, makes an important contribution. As did the founder, Peter Ustinov himself.
In 1979, to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Albert Einstein, at a time when the science of weaponry concerned the world, and with the Cold War a threat, Peter Ustinov presented a programme, a documentary. It was called “Einstein’s Universe.” It is regarded, even now. Many years later, in 1997, he presented another programme, a series called, ” Planet Ustinov.” In it, to commemorate the centenary, this time of an event, he followed in the footsteps of a journey Mark Twain travelled a century before, along the Equator.
Here and now as a celebration of the centenary of the birth of Sir Peter Ustinov, devised from his country of origin, but at a moment of universal concern, for our planet, from already threatening climate change, to the currently threatening Corona Virus, I present a programme, of activity. It is therefore called USTINOV ‘S UNIVERSE…
Part 1: “In Continents “- Know When To Stop?
” I am a writer first and foremost. Writing is tough. What is difficult is to know when to stop. It is a form of incontinence!”
This can feature the writing of Peter Ustinov, and new writing shared worldwide, in keeping with shared values. There may be no desire “to stop,” there might be a non stop stream of consciousness or an organised didactic approach. Non fiction and fiction too, written for publication or production, writing in different forms, can be included. It can begin with sharing on a website, on a wide cross section of subjects, with a significance for our wider culture. Humour shall be emphasised, and satire, encouraging interest in Peter Ustinov and his legacy through writing.
Part 2: “Isolated Voices “- Heard In The Crowd .
” It’s the isolated voice, which can’t even be heard in the crowd, which is really the most vital of all.”
This can showcase the talents of Peter Ustinov, as a performer, actor, broadcaster, as well as provide innovative ways for performers today to communicate, isolated often previously, but now literally, by a crisis in the performing arts, as caused by a pandemic. With theatres, concert halls, film sets, meeting rooms, conference centres, now closed, this is arising out of that. With social distance between people, and social distancing the new norm, voices isolated and isolating, can, yet be heard. But to “be heard,” is not to be part of a herd. Individual expression can flourish in this initiative and shall, in performing, its task.
Part 3 “It’s Central” – The Middle Of Things
” I have always had a keen sense of balance. Balance was the all important thing. It’s almost something metaphysical… the position in the centre is always the most difficult to defend. I don’t see why the central position should be reticent, just because it’s central…the truth is often in the middle of things…”
In this we shall unify. Here the stance of Sir Peter Ustinov, his approach and efforts are more than relevant. He encouraged individuality and enhanced humanity. He detested extremism and believed in reason and reflection. As a crisis plays to the strengths of togetherness, so it also brings out the weaknesses of chaos. Here we shall encourage new and original thinking.
Part 4: Imperfect Happiness – Very Happy Never Content!
” I am at my happiest with imperfect happiness. Perfection has no personality. I am probably very happy because I am never content.”
This part draws on the earlier parts one to three and gets to the nub of the purpose of this initiative. At a time when it seems there is precious little to be happy about worldwide, the inspiring work of one who did so much to bring happiness is all the more relevant. As the world struggles with a pandemic the life and efforts of a UNICEF Ambassador who had much contact with organisations such as UNESCO and the WHO, can give us encouragement now and in future as we struggle to build a better response and rebuild for a better society. This section shall be about helping and hope. We need a positive aspect to social media to be emphasised, and as a result, possibilities thus, improving the wellbeing, health, of individuals and society. It is a chance to create and promote new projects that do this. It is about connecting people.
USTINOV’S UNIVERSE has the scope to make a difference, in writing, performing, thinking, connecting, for the cultural world, and actual world, itself.
” Laughter it has always seemed to me, is the most civilised sound in the universe.”