Cultural Playing Field

Voluntary arts involvement in the London 2012 ceremonies by Robin Simpson
October 21, 2010, 2:28 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , ,

On Wednesday morning I was at the St Bride Foundation in London for our seminar on voluntary arts involvement in the London 2012 ceremonies. The seminar gave 20 representatives of national voluntary arts umbrella bodies the opportunity to talk directly to Martin Green, Head of Ceremonies at the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Martin gave a fascinating and inspiring presentation about the opportunities for voluntary arts groups to take part in the various ceremonies. The Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies are the most watched television shows in the world. But these are only one part of a range of events being organised by the LOCOG ceremonies team. There will be 771 victory ceremonies for the presentation of medals and 120 welcome ceremonies over 7 days to welcome the athletes to the Olympic village. Perhaps most significantly for voluntary arts groups the torch relay will see the Olympic torch carried across the UK. Martin said that 95% of the UK population will be within one hour’s journey on public transport to see the torch. 8,000 people will get the opportunity to run with the torch and these people will be selected through a nomination process. From 18 May 2011 you will be able to nominate someone who you feel has achieved their ‘personal best’ (not just in a sporting sense): it would be fantastic to see some representatives of voluntary arts groups among the torch bearers. The torch relay will also be the key tool to celebrate regionality and the individual nations of the UK within the London 2012 programme. All local authorities on the torch relay route will be responsible for developing celebrations to coincide with the torch passing through. Of these, the 70 locations where the torch relay will stay overnight will be creating a full evening show (on a travelling stage) which will provide a high profile opportunity to showcase local cultural activity. These 70 locations have yet to be decided: Martin urged voluntary arts groups to contact their local authorities at the beginning of 2011 to register their interest in being part of these local celebrations. For the four opening and closing ceremonies (for the Olympic and Paralympic Games) Martin was adamant that these shows are not going to be ‘designed by committee’. LOCOG will entrust each of the opening and closing ceremonies to a single artistic director. Danny Boyle has been appointed to direct the Olympic Games opening ceremony and is due to produce a draft concept by March 2011. LOCOG is about to announce the artistic directors for other 3 main ceremonies. Until the artistic concept for each show has been decided there is little point in voluntary arts groups lobbying to be involved but Martin said that the majority of the casts were likely to be skilled volunteers and assured us that when LOCOG knows what sort of performers are required he will come back to Voluntary Arts and the relevant national umbrella bodies to publicise the opportunities to their members. Martin Green spoke passionately about the need for these ceremonies to showcase the ‘best British artists’ but emphasised that he definitely did not use ‘excellence’ or ‘best’ to mean professional.

Robin Simpson.


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