London 2012 Festival unveils final line-up

Meera Syal, Julie Walters and The Noisettes attend the London 2012 Festival Programme Launch at Tower of London on April 26 Meera Syal, Julie Walters and The Noisettes helped launch the London 2012 Festival at the Tower of London

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The final line-up for the London 2012 Festival has been announced, with Stephen Fry and comedian Tim Minchin the latest names to join the Olympic arts celebrations.

Other new events include a landmark dance event in Glasgow and a comedy barge trip from London to Edinburgh.

The 12-week arts festival is the climax of the four-year Cultural Olympiad with 12,000 events taking place.

The UK-wide festival pulls together major spectacles and smaller events.

At Thursday's launch event at the Tower of London, festival director Ruth Mackenzie said the festival would "showcase the best in international culture when the eyes of the world are on us this summer".

Free tickets

Embattled culture secretary Jeremy Hunt was also at the launch, and said Britain's arts institutions would be in "the global spotlight as really never before".

He emphasised the range of events on offer, "from Beethoven to Jay-Z; from Shakespeare to Mike Leigh; from Stephen Fry to Wallace and Gromit".

Mr Hunt also made a reference to his current predicament, with claims he broke ministerial rules in his dealings with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Looking out at the assembled reporters, whose numbers had been boosted by his presence, he remarked: "I'm delighted there is so much media interest in the London 2012 Festival."

However, the minister left the launch before a planned question and answer session.

Nationwide events
Performance by Les Commandos Percu in 2010 French company Les Commandos Percu will perform a music and firework extravaganza - just one of the 12,000 events in the London 2012 Festival

The festival begins on Midsummer's Day, 21 June, and runs through to 9 September - the end of the Paralympic Games.

Organisers are keen to point out that 10 million free tickets are available across the UK.

The latest arrivals on the programme include Playing the Games, a two-week "comedic commentary" on the Games at London's Criterion Theatre, curated by Stephen Fry.

"It's going to be pretty wild," Mackenzie told the BBC. "Stephen has been a huge fan of this Olympics from the bid onwards."

She added: "We always said we'd leave comedy for the end, because comedians aren't so good at telling you two years in advance where they want to be, and they're still not that good which is why we've got pop-up events yet to be announced via the website."

Quirky offerings

Streb: Extreme Action - One Extraordinary Day Choreographer Elizabeth Streb and her dancers will swoop and catapult around some of London's landmarks

Australian comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote the songs in hit West End show Matilda the Musical, will perform a gig at Cornwall's Eden Project.

Python star Terry Jones and Anne Dudley have created a new children's opera The Owl and the Pussycat that will travel through London's canals.

Meanwhile, Tales of the Riverbank will see a group of comedians travel by canal boat from London to Edinburgh with pop-up performances along the route during July.

Actress Julie Walters, who appears in the BBC's Shakespeare season and the National Theatre's The Last of the Haussmans, said she was "utterly thrilled" to be part of the festival.

But she added with a laugh: "I didn't realise I was until a only a couple of weeks ago!"

Asked if she worried about the costs of the festival, she said: "You can't just cut everything back. The arts are really important. People need their entertainment, they need to be able to look at themselves on all sorts of levels and that's what art does."

The opening day of the festival on 21 June will see Lake Windermere lit up by pyrotechnics, an open-air concert in the shadow of Scotland's Stirling Castle, a Peace One Day Concert hosted by actor Jude Law in Derry/Londonderry and the UK premiere of a choral work in Birmingham.

At the end of the festival, Scottish choreographer Michael Clark has been commissioned to create a large-scale, participatory dance event at Glasgow music venue Barrowlands to mark the handover to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Among the quirkier festival offerings are the world premiere of Stockhausen opera with a string quartet playing live from four helicopters.

There will also be an artwork inspired by the final scene of Michael Caine movie The Italian Job. Richard Wilson's Hang On A Minute Lads, I've Got A Great Idea... will see a full-sized replica coach balanced on the De La Warr pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic
Cloud tower

But not all of the announced works have gone to plan.

Scandinavian Olafur Eliasson's proposed art project Take a Deep Breath was turned down for a £1m grant after the Olympic Lottery Distributor said the piece no longer met its criteria.

The installation would have invited people to inhale and exhale on behalf of "a person, a movement or a cause" and record it on a website in a personal "breath bubble".

Eliasson still appears on the London 2012 Festival programme, with an as-yet-untitled "major new commission" at Tate Modern.

Meanwhile, a question mark hangs over artist Anthony McCall's planned vertical tower of cloud which is set to rise over Merseyside "as far as the eye can see".

The £500,000 publicly-funded artwork - simply called Column - has faced delays due to aircraft safety concerns.

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch: World Cities 2012 The festival will feature dance company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

But Ruth Mackenzie said she was "absolutely confident" that the column of mist would get off the ground after liaison between the Civil Aviation Authority and the local authorities.

Mackenzie also said that a potential boycott by campanologists of a nationwide bell-ringing event to launch the first day of the Olympics had been averted.

Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed wants the whole nation to ring whatever bell they have to hand for three minutes at 0800 on 27 July as part of his Work No. 1197 All the Bells.

In November, the Central Council of Church Bell Ringers described the plans as "misconceived" and suggested they might not take part.

But Mackenzie said bellringers were now "all signed up", along with the Royal Navy which would be ringing ships' bells on the day.

The Cultural Olympiad began in 2008, but faced early criticisms that it lacked focus and public recognition.

In 2009-10, Royal Opera House executive Tony Hall and Ruth Mackenzie came on board tasked with turning the Cultural Olympiad around.

Mackenzie said she had been encouraged by a BBC London poll last year that around half of Londoners had heard of the festival. "I think we've already turned the corner on awareness," she said.

The festival, she said, would leave a legacy of art works, and had offered young unemployed people the chance to have their first job in the arts.

"We are hoping that cultural tourism will rise as a result of us showing the world what a brilliant place the UK is to visit," she added.

With additional reporting by Chi Chi Izundu


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  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    All I hear is blah, blah, blah, Olympics, blah, blah, blah.... If only so much effort was put into promoting other sports, sports where the British are world leaders in... But no..! cant wait till it is all over. Dancers, singers and some French fire work company is hardly culture..! And as I wont be watching any of this rubbish on TV can I get a TV license rebate?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    It is really disheartening to see all the negative comments. When you travel abroad to cities like New York and Vancouver, you witness a positive, proud vibe about the diverse arts and culture which those cities have to offer.

    We really don't do ourselves any favours in this country with our negative outlook and self criticism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    Another non story by the bbc on blair and coe's vanity fortnight.

    Why is the bbc having to push and sell this event on behalf of the government?

    Are scared it's a total flop?

    C McK

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I've a theory you've got to be a bit dense to enjoy the Olympics.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Let's get something straight. Whilst there are certainly a few well known and well paid celebrity artists of all persuasions involved in the Cultural Olympiad, there are far, far more ordinary hard-working performers (dancers, musicians, actors) who are certainly not 'rich' or 'taking fortunes' for their chance to be a part of the celebrations.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    I'm getting confused....I thought the Olympics was a sporting event, why can't people just fill up the pubs like they do at Football matches?

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    What a great idea ! Let's take even more taxpayer money and give it to these rich entertainers who have never worked a day in their lives !
    Welcome to Cameron's Britain !
    I would rather this money be used to keep families from losing their homes !

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    I really hope it will be a success we could all do with a cheer up , im sick of hearing about our mps and their tiffs and rows ,lets for once just get behind our athletes and back them up , it could be a great thing and if it isnt we can round on the silly mps who threw money at it and could not keep to a budget , but lts the athletes who have worked hard and i hope we get plenty of medals .

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    As an American I don't want to rain on anybody's parade. I just want to say how glad I am that we don't have a "cultural secretary" or for that matter, a Ministry for Silly Walks. Also, will Elizabeth Streb and her dancers really sky-dive without parachutes onto London's landmarks? Now, that's worth the price of admission!

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    More drivel leaching off tax payers. So much money made by so few, from so many, for so little.

    UK arts culture, the rip off. Garbage they take fortunes for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    Love all this hype from London. As an ex Sotherner now living near Darlington, I have yet to find someone who can tell me when the Olympics is on, let alone hear about or attend a 12 week arts culture!! Sorry guys and gals - the message never got north of Watford!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    What with this and the Diamond Jubilee bun fight,

    Its the Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle

    Ever been had?

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    These Olympics are an expensive nightmare. Just heard from Seb and his mates that NO COMPENSATION will be paid for loss of business and/or extra expenses incurred because of his jamboree. Is that legal?

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    I can't remember
    Which Horse Won the Grand National.
    Which Team won the Boat Race.
    Nor do I know
    Who Mike Leigh is.
    Who the Noisettes are.
    Ron Weasleys Real name.
    I'm hoping my lack of intelligence and memory will help me forget about the Olympics days after it's finished.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    Has Cynicism become our Olympic sport of choice because we seem to be excelling at it on here - and although I am not really sport or art orientated I for one am looking forward to seeing what sort of a show we can put on - it would be nice to celebrate something for a change!
    And I won't bother to read what you all write in response to his comment - I don't need your negativity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    I live in one of the Olympic boroughs. I was looking forward to hosting friends and family across the summer and witnessing some of the best sporting and cultural events on offer.

    One ticket for a single event (for my family of 6) later I'm not so keen. I look forward to not getting any of the cultural event tickets either.

    I will be doing refreshments for the traffic jams outside my house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    What Olympics?

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    I will be staying as far away from this costly nightmare as heavenly possible!

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    The International Olympic Committee demands hoopla, hype, and mythology to promote venue. Companies buy advertising, fans fill stadiums, and television corporations sell time for commercials to pump-up revenues. The IOC insists on each participant abuse narcotic substances like LSD, PCP, methamphetamine, and counterfeit steroids to enhance performance. The side show feature has begun ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    "two-week "comedic commentary" on the Games at London's Criterion Theatre, curated by Stephen Fry."

    Is there anything, anything at all, going on in the media that does NOT include this man? Give us a break from him!

    "33.GIR0 Could we have just one article that sheds insight into why so few people care about the Olympics? "

    Because most of us are not obsessed by sport - media please note.


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