Artist David Hockney and BBC Radio 4 host Jim Naughtie have been rescued from a lift in an Amsterdam hotel – with a bit of help from the editor of the Daily Mail.
The pair were among nine people trapped in the elevator in the Conservatorium Hotel, apparently after it was overcrowded with journalists carrying heavy equipment who were following Hockney outside so he could have a smoke.
After more than half an hour, the Amsterdam fire brigade managed to release the group.
Daily Mail editor Geordie Greig is said to have played a crucial role, passing water and a foldable stool through a small gap he managed to make between the doors of the stuck lift.
After gaining their freedom, Hockney was asked to pose for photos with the firemen.
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme afterwards, Naughtie told the artist: “You were very calm.”
Hockney replied: “Yeah, well, we were in there half an hour weren’t we?”
Asked whether it had happened before, Hockney said: “No, never.”
The artist is currently in the Dutch capital to open a new exhibition at Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum which highlights the influences of the tormented Dutch master on the later landscape works of Hockney, one of the world’s greatest living artists.
The exhibition Hockney-Van Gogh: The Joy Of Nature opens on Friday and runs through 26 May.
Speaking on the Today programme on Thursday morning, Jim Naughtie gave a vivid account of the drama...
“It was all a bit unexpected, I suppose when you get stuck in a lift it always is. We were coming down in Hockney’s hotel next to the Van Gogh museum so we could find a quiet spot for an interview.
“He wanted to have a smoke outside, he usually does. A little crowd packed into the lift, a correspondent from the New York Times, a Dutch artist with a TV cameraman in tow and a few others, nine of his.
“It jerked to a halt. Stuck.
“We pressed the alarm – nothing. We shuffled around wondering of the lift would be tricked into moving – it just wobbled.
“Someone suggested pushing on the ceiling because ‘that’s what happened in the movies when people climbed out by scrambling out the metal wire’ – no.
“Eventually there were shouts from outside where of all people, the editor of the Daily Mail, Geordie Greig, a very old friend of Hockeny’s, was waiting for us in the lobby and had realised where we were.
“Geordie went into super boy scout mode and shouted to reassure us that the general manager of the hotel had been summoned and his chief engineer was on the way and so was the Amsterdam fire department.
“We’d forced the door open about three inches so we could see light and someone started to pass bottles of water through the gap. Then Geordie got someone to find a folding stool to slip through so that Hockney, 81 after all, could sit down.
“I thought the community singing was going to start soon.
″‘Get a crowbar’, said Hockney. There was a pithy adjective attached. We’d been there for getting on half an hour when we heard feet on the top of the lift, the sound of clanking tools, light from torches and the glimpse of a fireman’s uniform.
“The New York Times correspondent said she’d spent her whole life in that city, a place built on elevators and this had never happened to her before.
“That wasn’t much help.
“We exchanged stories. I thought of Tony Hancock’s sketch from half a century ago about what happened when a bunch of strangers got marooned together in a lift – this seemed more like a Pinter play.
“I’m afraid I was worried most about after this, if we’d still get our interview.
“But the cranking and the heaving were helping and with a creak and a bang, the door was wrenched back.
“Light poured in and we climbed out to cheers from the crowd that had gathered in the lobby.
“Afterwards the firemen crowded round, they wanted a picture with Hockney. It was Amsterdam after all, a very civilised city.”