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BBC launches 2012 culture contribution

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Roger Mosey | 10:30 UK time, Thursday, 24 November 2011

One of the pleasures in the BBC 2012 project team is seeing things that started as vague or even initially-unloved ideas turning into reality and surprising us with their ambition and quality.

So projects that were floated a couple of years back are now being delivered; and every week there are new programmes for us to watch and listen to.

They'll be hitting the airwaves in 2012 itself, but we can confidently predict that there's a lot to love - even though not everything may be your cup of tea.

Today we've announced the BBC's plans to reflect the London 2012 Festival - the biggest cultural event in our lifetimes. And we have three big themes:

1. Music. The BBC Proms will be part of the London 2012 Festival, including a performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony on the night of the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics. The Radio 1 Hackney Weekend will be the largest free concert in our history; and Music Nation will get the UK playing and listening to music from Cornwall to the Shetland Islands.

2. Shakespeare. To mark the Olympics there'll be a World Shakespeare Festival, and our contribution will feature star-studded films of some of the history plays - with actors from Ben Whishaw to Julie Walters - through to Simon Schama on BBC Two and Neil MacGregor on Radio 4 examining the world in which Shakespeare lived. Students will compete in delivering Shakespearean soliloquies, with a televised final.

3. London. The host city and a global city: we'll be exploring London's history, its incredible diversity - and its music, including a film by Julien Temple and some songs selected by Jools Holland.

You can see how it fits together in a compilation we've put together:

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What we've also revealed today is the band that will be composing the BBC Olympic theme - and I'm delighted to say it will be Elbow. This builds on our recent tradition of using great British contemporary artists to deliver our music, as we did with Damon Albarn in 2008; and we reckon Elbow have a unique combination of credibility - hence their Mercury Prize - with a style that can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

The recording hasn't been done yet so there's nothing we can share today - and we do want to make sure the theme isn't completely worn out even before we get to the Games themselves. So you'll hear the first bars from it on air around the time of the Torch Relay; but the full work is likely to be saved for around the time of the Opening Ceremony.

I know there's sometimes scepticism - even on this blog - about quite how sport and culture and the special events of next year fit together. But it seems to me that seeing and hearing the content that's being lined up, it will all make sense.

It's a sign of our commitment to new music that we've gone for a commission for the BBC 2012 theme rather than reaching into the record library and it's part of the pledge that there'll be something for everyone that means you can spend time with Daniel Barenboim on Opening Ceremony night if you don't fancy the athletes' parade.

Great sport and artistic creativity actually fit well together, as we aim to prove in the months ahead.


  • Comment number 1.

    An excellent choice for Elbow to be picked for the 2012 coverage, will be interesting to see how the opening titles to the Olympic coverage will fit with the music but nothing has beaten the Sydney titles so hopefully they would be beaten 12 years on!
    Sounds like the BBC us at the forefront of making sure the Olympics are in the mind for 2012 and it feels like it will be more then the 2/3 weeks of Sporting Events.

  • Comment number 2.

    Elbow? I’ll expect something pretty pedestrian like the rest of their stuff. Come on BBC it’s the Olympics, not Antiques Roadshow (which incidentally would probably be a better theme) - Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, I hope so.

  • Comment number 3.

    Interesting choice, seeing as Elbow's "One Day Like This" was very much part of the soundscape of the Beijing 2008 Games (in fact, ultimately, it is the more memorable piece to accompany music from the Games - much like Heather Small's "Proud" was actually first used by the BBC in Sydney 2000 for its Games coverage, 5 years before London 2012 used it).

    No doubt Elbow will be a "safe pair of hands" - after the mascots, logo and posters, that's probably a good thing.

    In the sake of transparency - were Elbow approached by the BBC or did you scout around a few artists?

  • Comment number 4.

    fantastic choice BBC !!!!!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks for an interesting and informative Blog and Video Clip.
    How typical of the UK that comment #2, in response to so much inspirational work and effort by thousands of people to create something, had to be negative. What a miserable life some people must have!

  • Comment number 6.

    I for one, like the choice of Elbow for the Olympics. They are completely non-offensive and do not feel the need to "sex up" their songs or videos.

    Some great musicians who are well respected in the industry, and few can claim that they are anything but "squeaky clean" in terms of image.

    I look forward to this, but the only negative I can find is that Elbow are not the most inspirational and therefore it is not going to be the most uplifting of anthems.

  • Comment number 7.

    Perhaps the bigger and more satisfying news today is that the BBC will have World Athletics back for 2015 and 2017 particularly with the latter being in London. As for the tune well I can still hum the tunes for the 1964 and 1968 coverage, and I remember the tremendous use of Chariots of Fire in 1984. Odd that I can't remember any of the others-although I thought the Sydney titles were first class. Getting the music right definitely matters.

  • Comment number 8.


    Elbow have made some of the most uplifting music, it's a pity it doesn't all get heard by most people. Fugitive Motel, One Day Like This and The Bones Of You are my personal favourites. Oh, and Mirrorball - uplifting in a completely beautiful way.

    I think they've chosen the best possible band for the BBC theme, Elbow are a rare breed in being able to blend contemporary music with classical undertones. Their session at AbbeyRoad with Chantage and the BBC Philharmonic sticks out in my mind and is well worth a watch if you can find it.

  • Comment number 9.

    A bit surprised that a London artist wasn't chosen, given the (excellent) choice of the Stone Roses' This Is The One for the Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games. I suppose you have to get your defence in first before the inevitable outcry that the Olympics are too London-centric.

    That said, Elbow are an incredible band - totally deserving of their belated success -and I await the theme music with interest.

  • Comment number 10.

    I agree Graham - I assumed a London band would be the preference and hope this isn't some attempt to make the games "British" rather than "London".

    To be honest though I couldn't care less about the cultural element - it's the Olympics coming to town which is the main attraction. not the ever present Proms and Shakespeare.

    And great news about the athletics - though now the red button is unwisely being chopped to one stream I hope the Diamond League gets a regular slot on BBC2/3 next season. I wish the IOC and BBC would hurry up and get the Olympics beyond London sorted too.

  • Comment number 11.

    Why not something typically British? The Blazin' Squad maybe? ;)

  • Comment number 12.

    Thanks, as ever, for the comments. Where Elbow come from geographically wasn't a factor: it was simply we all like their style - and when our team spoke to them they really understood what we were seeking to commission.

    And yes - very pleased about the World Athletics. Great news for the BBC and also for the European Broadcasting Union who put together the bid for its members.

  • Comment number 13.

    It occurs to me that there is a group, who are still playing, from the EastEnd of London who are quite high on the list of the best selling recording artists in history. They were at the forefront of a musical style which undoubtedly started in Britain
    but generated huge record sales throughout the world for many years.

    What's more the band are famous West Ham fans and the singer apparently wasn't far off making the Olympic fencing team at one time.

    However, the BBC utterly refused to play any of their music even when they were about the most successful group in the country. Ha!

  • Comment number 14.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.


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