S1E8 – Martin Thomas – Dreaming of Zutopia

8th May 2017


Greetings everyone,

Thanks for checking in once more with the Lumieres podcast. I deeply appreciate your attention, such a rare and priceless commodity as it is these days.

On today’s episode my guest is Martin Thomas – aka Mahdi Mu – artist and chief co-conspirator in all things Zu. From it’s foundation as an artists collective it evolved to a performance space and community hub. Having sadly closed their doors for the last time in 2016, Martin and the Zu team spent some time consolidating and are back this year with their new baby, the Zutopia Festival!

In this conversation, Martin joins the dots from his own creative beginnings as a woodworker and space designer through to putting on parties, finding his feet in the festival world, co-founding Zu Studios to the current challenges of organising and staging the first Zu festival.

We also dipped into some deeper realms on the subjects of ancestry, traditions and culture and the wave of Zuvuya we are all surfing at this time. I do hope you enjoy it and I thank Martin once more for his time and generosity in sharing his life and his stories.

catch you next time folks,



You can reach me via Facebook or Instagram, or send a message through the form on this website. If you enjoyed this episode, learned something or feel suitably inspired, then please consider sharing it with your friends and amongst your social networks. I’d be most grateful!


  • Finding purpose through personal grief
  • On running beach parties on Newhaven beach
  • Surfers of the Zuvuya
  • On the challenges of organising a Festival
  • The origins of Zu Studios
  • The importance of sharing and collaboration
  • Martin’s creative background
  • Curating and attention to detail
  • Eight years of creativity
  • Community and the long-term vision for Zu
  • The waves of potential in 2017
  • Surmounting challenges through generosity
  • On the politics of the Phoenix Estate and community engagement
  • Global challenges and the importance of acting locally
  • Roots and ancestry in the British Isles
  • Tradition vs Evolution in culture
  • Modern day oppression and our reactions to it
  • On curating the festival programme
  • Embracing technology at Zutopia
  • The wonder of all our unique gifts
  • What’s going on at Zutopia Festival


Zu Studios was a multi-disciplinary studio, performance and workshop space in the heart of Lewes which ran from 2008 to 2016 and served as Martin Thomas’ principal creative outlet, where he designed and crafted every room with loving and lavish detail. Martin is a master craftsman who has turned ordinary rooms into heavenly spaces with bespoke furniture that speaks of the sacred nature with which it was made. On display throughout Zu were many stunning pieces of his woodwork featuring his signature Fibonacci curves.

Zu is short for Zuvuya, a Mayan word that describes the inter-dimensional wave of change we are all surfing at this time. It is the pipeline to magic and the memory circuit linking life and creative expression.

After the closure of the physical Zu Studios space, Martin and the rest of the team began working to develop the first Zutopia Festival, a gathering centred around the Zu maxim of ‘Inspiration, Education, Celebration’. It will be held over the weekend of July 7-9th 2017 near Hartfield, East Sussex and promises to be a refreshingly vibrant small festival with it’s heart truly in the right place.




Emiliana Torrini
Six Organs of Admittance
Drag City Records

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