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‘Me and my pizza pal Pavarotti’

Charity co-founder, who has helped save guitar shop, recalls memorable day with opera star

27 August, 2020 — By Tom Foot

David Wilson

DAVID Wilson has faced many challenges in his life: he fought back from depression, suffered a stroke, and spoke out against alleged corruption at the international charity he helped set up.

But this week, he recalled one in particular: a pizza-eating contest with opera star Luciano Pavarotti.

“I met Pavarotti many times over the years and used to visit him at his summer home in Pesaro on the Adriatic coast,” said Mr Wilson, who lives in Tufnell Park.

“It wasn’t at all posh, it was an old farmhouse – and it was there that we had the competition. He had a pizza oven in the garden and his family kept piling them in one after another, and asking to see who could eat the most. In the end, he gave up – I won.”

Tenor Pavarotti was a patron of the War Child charity co-founded by Mr Wilson to help children in the former Yugoslavia. Its first offices were above Burger King in Camden High Street. In 1997, they set up the Pavarotti Music Centre in a bombed out school, holding events during the bombardments in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Mr Wilson persuaded several famous musicians to perform there, including Brian Eno and David Bowie, and the centre continues to nurture young talent today. Mr Wilson, who has written a memoir titled Left Field, remembered Pavarotti as “a lovely man” who “sang me arias”.

Pavarotti [Photo: John Mathew Smith]

He recalled the pizza contest while talking about “curious parallels” between the Pavarotti Music Centre and the Camden Guitars shop in Camden Town.

Mr Wilson said: “We had an idea to link Camden Guitars with the centre, bring musicians to and from and vice versa. It has all rather gone into abeyance like most things have this year. But at the centre, they all know about Camden Guitars. There are curious and wonderful parallels – it is a living music centre.”

Mr Wilson, who has spent most of his life in Camden, has been shielding following heart and brain surgery. He has been part of a campaign to support Camden Guitars in the wake of the Covid-19 lockdown as it struggled to meet rent demands. Following a petition which collected more than 500 signatures, and a story in the New Journal last month, a deal has now been reached that will secure its immediate future.

Celebrations at Camden Guitars

Owner Deicola Neves said: “I think for David, Camden Guitars makes him feel closer to the Pavarotti Centre – and I do believe in spiritual things. It is a community place.

” On the negotiations with landlord GMS Estates, he said: “I am a survivor, I could sell ice creams, be a driver – I could do many things. In the end, they were very flexible. But my heart is in the business and I think he saw that.”

GMS, which has held the property in Chalk Farm Road for almost 100 years, said: “GMS, as landlords, are pleased that an agreement has been reached with Camden Guitars, who are happy with the terms of the business support package we have provided.” They added: “We hope that this will help them recover from the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic.”


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