About Kazuko

Kazuko Hohki is a London based artist, singer, musician, animator, director, performer, storyteller and theatre maker (phew!).

Short(ish) CV…..

Originally from Japan, Kazuko moved to London from Tokyo in 1978 and joined London Musicians Collective which was the centre for experimental improvising musicians and performers in 80s. There she founded Japanese American Toy Theatre Of London and also the alternative pop performance group Frank Chickens which released 5 albums, toured worldwide, had a TV series on Channel 4, was awarded for Foster Comedy God Award, and still continues to perform with more than 20 members mainly consisting of Japanese women at present days. With regular workshops, they create and devise their own multi disciplinary materials. 

Since the late 1990s, Kazuko has been making theatre work. Fusing idiosyncratic storytelling with film, animation, interventions and original music, She has created several full-length performance works such as ‘Toothless’, ‘My Husband Is A Spaceman  and ’Evidence For The Existence Of Borrowers  which toured the UK and internationally and won Herald Angel and Total Theatre Award. She has also made a children’s show ‘The Great Escape – A Borrower’s Tale ‘ which has been presented across London including multiple seasons at BAC, Imagine Festival at Southbank Centre and toured to Australia’s Perth International Art Festival.

In recent years,  Kazuko has been focusing on cross-cultural outreach and engagement, creating a site specific shows with local communities. She has worked with a local secondary schools to create a site specific shows) produced by Jacksons Lane, devising through long term regular workshops with students. During the recent lock down, she worked with St Margaret House and Care Centre of Tower Hamlet to develop the work with unpaid home carers in East London.

Since 2016, Frank Chickens has been organising an annual festival “Ura Matsuri “ to celebrate the hybrid culture of immigrants in the UK who mixes thie heritage with the UK culture. This festival headlined the digital version of Japan Matsuri (annual Japanese festival in London presented by Japan Embassy) in 2020 during the lock down. They staged the 5th Ura Matsuri at St Margaret’s House in November 2022. 

She has completed a performance/exhibition production Tsunagu-Connect based on the oral history collection of Japanese women living in UK, collaborating with New Earth Theatre in 2022. She is currently working on  Mendoza Mania, the community art project about Jewish immigrant history in East London, produced by St Margaret’s House. 

 

(much) Longer CV….

Frank Chickens / Ura Matsuri 

Originally from Japan, Kazuko moved to London from Tokyo in 1978.  She founded London based Japanese cult-alternative pop performance group Frank Chickens with Kazumi Taguchi in 1982, who had an independent chart hit We Are Ninja.  Frank Chickens has released 5 albums, toured worldwide and now has expanded to have more than 20 members. They continue to perform in London venues and clubs, including ICA, Royal Festival Hall, Barbican Centre, Royal Opera House, Wanstead Tap and Bad Fruit,  and also some festivals such as Latitude and Women in Focus. They have performed at the annual festival of Japanese culture, Japan Matsuri, in Trafalgar Square several times but started to organise their own annual festival of the alternative immigrant culture in UK called Ura Matsuri since 2016. In 2010 Frank Chickens were awarded the Edinburgh Comedy God Award.

TV/Film/Radio

Kazuko has hosted Kazuko’s Karaoke Klub for Channel 4 in 1989, and presented the documentary film The Good Wife Of Tokyo about contemporary Japanese women, collaborating with the film maker Kim Longinotto in 1993. Kazuko is the founder member (with Andrew Brenner and David Toop) of Japanese American Toy Theatre of London whose James Bonk in Mat Black Finger was commissioned and screened by Channel 4 in 1988. She has written a radio drama S for BBC Radio 3 in 2004. 

Music (outside Frank Chickens)….

Kazuko has released 2 solo albums from French label NATO; Kazuko Hohki Chante Brigitte Bardot (1986) and Love In Rainy Days (1991), collaborating with Steve Beresford.  She is also a founder member of Kahondo Style who has released two albums from NATO label. 

Theatre…. 

Following over 2 decades of success in music, film and TV, Kazuko has been making theatre since the late 1990s.  Fusing idiosyncratic storytelling with multimedia, film, animation, interventions and original music, Kazuko has created several full-length performance works commissioned by UK venues including Battersea Arts Centre, MAC, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bluecoat Arts Centre, Chelsea Theatre, Jacksons Lane and Farnham Maltings.

Theatre and performance work includes a trilogy of solo theatre performances: Toothless, The Shining Princess and My Husband is a Spaceman, which toured the UK and internationally to USA, Germany, Israel, Slovenia, Switzerland, Singapore, Netherlands, Canada and Malta to wide acclaim.  Other shows include the Herald Angel and Total Theatre Award winning site responsive production Evidence for the Existence of Borrowers, outdoor promenade production Oh Doh and Kazuko Hohki’s Wuthering Heights created for village hall touring. In 2011 Kazuko created her first performance work for children – the promenade interactive production The Great Escape – A Borrowers Tale, which has been presented across London including multiple seasons at BAC, Imagine Festival at Southbank Centre (2014, 2015) and Perth International Art Festival in Australia (2016).

Other productions created include Last Night I Dreamed I Was An Eskimo, a co-production with Nordland Visual Theatre which toured across Northern Norway, You Only Live Twice (But Die Once) for BAC’s One-on-One Festival, Tottenham Travesties (for Birmingham Repertory Theatre) and Incontinental, a production for presentation in theatre, hospital and science settings, developed in collaboration with a Professor of Gastroenterology from University College Hospital London, and supported by the Wellcome Trust. Kazuko has also created Bee Dreaming, her own story telling space for Good Neighbour at Battersea Arts Centre. She has also presented Grave Expectation in the graveyard supported by Without Walls R&D project .

She has just completed a performance/exhibition production Tsunagu-Connect based on the oral history collection of Japanese women living in UK, collaborating with New Earth Theatre.

Participatory projects

In recent years,  Kazuko has worked with a local and secondary schools to create a site specific promenade show One Night Only (2015), Writ in Water (2017) and  Heritage Horror (2018) produced by Jacksons Lane.  In 2018, she created a show Tottenham Crossing with local primary school children as part of Tottenham Now project produced by Susan Ibreck. In 2018, she worked with the director, Katie Posner to create three shows about British suffragettes, Worlds By Women, collaborating with local secondary school students and also created a show with Yellow Academy (Yellow Earth Theatre’s bursary program for young South East Asian actors).   In 2019 she collaborated with the director Jade Lewis to create the touring show for under 5 with students of Central School Of Speech And Drama. 

During the lock down in 2020, she worked with St Margaret House and Care Centre of Tower Hamlet to develop the work with unpaid home carers in East London. She is currently working on  Mendoza Mania, the community art project about Jewish immigrant history in East London, produced by St Margaret’s House. 

Performance work with other artists

Kazuko regularly collaborates with other artists and companies including Duckie, Clod Ensemble and Yellow Earth Theatre and has previously collaborated with Miss High Leg Kick, Jonathan Stone, Ridiculusmus, Hannah Ringham, Rajni Shah and Guillermo Gomez-Pena on new works.

Books/writing

She has published four books in Japan about her life in London, London No Yukashita, London Kai Kai, Igirisujin Wa Tsuraiyo, and Deep London and her work appears in the poetry anthology ‘Velocity’ in UK. 

She was commissioned to write 5 Kamishibai stories for educational materials for schools by The Japan Society in 2022, themed around 4 celebrations in Japan – New Year‘s Day, Setsubun, Girls‘ Festival and Boys‘ Festival, https://www.japansociety.org.uk/kamishibai-hp

 Aesthetic

Kazuko Hohki makes inter disciplinary performance work, inspired by and drawing on a range of artistic forms.  At the heart of all of her work are a series of semi-autobiographical themes centred on her life as a Japanese Woman and Artist living in England, her relationship to an imagined England and her position as an outsider, alien, artist, and woman.  Kazuko often adopts alter egos in her performance work, but these characters are always ‘Kazuko’ personas. Kazuko uses a mix of mediums including original music, song, video and animation in her performance work as she is interested in the process of creating hybrids  – both to progress new forms of telling stories but also in an effort to overcome categorisation in the intercultural sense. She regularly collaborates with a series of key creative collaborators including Andy Cox, Clive Bell and Nao Nagai. Widely is recognised as the artist who coined the term ‘Scratch’ (introduced by BAC and widely adopted across the UK and international theatre sectors to refer to a process of sharing and evolving work in dialogue with audiences), Kazuko’s productions are developed over extended creative processes with work in progress performances shared with audiences at key stages in the creative development process.