London 2012 Festival: Pop and pyrotechnics mark launch

 

Lakes Alive Windermere Olympic festival spectacular

Pop stars, fireworks and orchestral premieres have marked the launch of the London 2012 Festival.

Events kicked off in Derry, Northern Ireland, where Imelda May and Pixie Lott played the Peace One Day concert.

A spectacular display of pyrotechnics lit up the stormy skies above Windermere; and there were further events in Scotland and Wales.

The London 2012 Festival is a 12-week, nationwide programme of arts events running alongside the Olympics.

Organiser Ruth Mackenzie has billed the programme, which involves more than 25,000 artists, as "a once-in-a-lifetime cultural event".

In Scotland, the Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela performed in front of Stirling Castle.

The world-renowned musicians were joined by 450 children from the nearby estate of Raploch, formerly one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

The youngsters, some of whom were as young as six, received a standing ovation following their performance.

Children from the Raploch estate Big Noise orchestra play in Stirling Children from the Raploch estate Big Noise orchestra played in Stirling

They have been learning orchestral instruments and playing music together in the Big Noise Orchestra since 2008, as part of a project led by charity Sistema Scotland.

Sistema's chairman, Richard Holloway, said: "This wee housing estate in Stirling has joined the ranks of the Royal Albert Hall, Usher Hall and Royal Festival Hall. Who could ever have predicted that?"

"This is beautiful," said conductor Gustav Dudamel. "How music has changed this community, with the commitment of the children, the passion that they have, the discipline.

"We are so proud to be here, so happy and so honoured. It's really something big."

The concert in Northern Ireland was part of a wider campaign for World Peace Day on 21 September.

Hosted by actor Jude Law, it was held at a former military barracks which has been transformed into a shared arts space.

Speaking before the show, Law said: "If you go back to the origins of the Olympics, it was always about truce as well and that's why it seems so apt that Peace One Day, as an organisation, is working alongside the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

"For the two to combine, and for there to be a heart, and a good reason for people to celebrate is only a good thing. I'm all for that."

Pixie Lott, Newton Faulkner and an eight-month pregnant Imelda May were among the acts taking to the stage.

Meanwhile, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performed the UK premiere of Jonathan Harvey's choral work Weltethos, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

In Carmarthen, Wales, artist Jeremy Deller's inflatable Stonehenge sculpture was unveiled. It will travel around the UK for the next 12 weeks.

Fireworks shot through the skies in Windermere Fireworks shot through the skies in Windermere

Most of the outdoor events were hampered by rain and wind but audiences braved the elements, equipped with umbrellas and raincoats.

However, in Birmingham a free outdoor show involving a 50ft replica of a ship had to be called off because of the poor weather.

An extravagant display of fire, percussion and pyrotechnics at Windermere suffered some delays due to heavy rain but proved spectacular despite the stormy skies.

The Cumbrian night was illuminated by French street art company Les Commandos Percu whose show, Lakes Alive: On the Night Shift, coincided with the arrival of the Olympic Torch in the region.

"Historically, the Olympics was as much about the arts and poetry as it was about sport, so this is about bringing a flavour of that back," Jan Shorrock from arts company Lakes Alive told the BBC.

'Value for money'

The London 2012 Festival involves artists from all 204 Olympic nations, and will spread to every corner of the UK.

Jeremy Deller's life-size Stonehenge bouncy castle is being unveiled in Wales before touring the UK

But the current economic climate means the 2012 festival's £55m price tag has attracted plenty of criticism. Ruth Mackenzie maintains it is "pretty good value for money".

"I assure you, for a 12-week festival over the entire United Kingdom, compared to the budget for just three weeks in Edinburgh or the two weeks in Manchester, frankly it's a pretty small investment," she said.

More than 130 events take place in the festival's opening weekend alone, including the Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, headlined by Jay-Z and Rihanna.

Around 100,000 people are expected at the free London gig, which takes place over Saturday and Sunday.

Other highlights include comedian and musician Tim Minchin performing at The Eden Project in Cornwall and an exhibition of Olympic and Paralympic posters at London's Tate Britain in London.

Scottish artist Martin Creed will mark the opening day of the Games on 27 July by encouraging people to ring a bell for three minutes from 8:12 am.

He said: "The sound of bells to herald a big event is what bells were made for which is why I thought it would be good for the Games."

'Uniting the country'

Yorkshire poet Ian McMillan and composer Tim Sutton have written Cycle Song, a brand new opera celebrating Scunthorpe's rich cycling history.

London 2012 - One extraordinary year

London 2012 One extraordinary year graphic

Next month's show will feature a community cast of 1,700 performing alongside professional opera singers and aerial artists.

McMillan admits he is gripped by Olympic fever and even has tickets for the basketball and hockey, but he says it is hard for people around the UK not to write the event off as a "London thing".

"We know it is a London thing but I think the whole country's involved in the cultural bit of it and that should be the excitement," said McMillan.

"But isn't it a shame that they call it the London 2012 Festival?" he added.

"Surely it would be better to call it the 2012 Festival? We don't need the word London, we know where it is!"

 

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 51.

    Quote: " ........a brand new opera celebrating Scunthorpe's rich cycling history" - thank goodness for that, a reason to switch Big Brother & Bargin Hunt off at last.

    Great Britain has finally gone mad!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 50.

    @48Skywatchman
    I too have young kids. After years of contemplation I have concluded that we will at some point in the future become enslaved in a "finance-locked system" owned by the the Central European Banks. They are just too good to be beat. And it will seem a bit like sponsored communism, where everyone has to work or starve.All the clues are out there to the interested observer!

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 49.

    All you moaners will change your tune when team GB win the gold for the egg and spoon race, the wheelbarrow race and the the three-legged race, for all of which they are highly tipped.
    Hoorrah!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 48.

    47.voice of reason
    "there are far more worthy people to whom kids should look up to (such as farmers, fishermen, scientists and engineers)"

    I would whole heartedly agree but as a parent I am extremely worried that my children will have any opportunity for a decent job placement in the future. It would have been better for the children of today to invest the £9 Billion in their future.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 47.

    Anyone remember being asked if UK taxpayers should finance Olymics?
    When athletes can do a little bit more than just run very fast or jump very high then it may make more sense.But as it is, we are a cash starved country show-boating to the rest of the world.And besides, there are far more worthy people to whome kids should look up to (such as farmers, fishermen, scientists and engineers)

  • Comment number 46.

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

  • Comment number 45.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 44.

    42.2squirrels
    "Anybody who says they don't know anything about this festival have not been watching television for the last week"
    ===
    By now I and my family have a mental block when the words 'Olympic' are now mentioned on the news. Whilst wishing all the competitors well in their athletic endeavours we have had enough of it and financially more important things to worry about.

  • Comment number 43.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 42.

    Anybody who says they don't know anything about this festival have not been watching television for the last week. There are activities going on all over the country and if people if they want to find out about them. Try libraries, local papers and the local internet sites.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 41.

    I certainly didn't know anything about this festival and like many comments it is rather daft calling it the London Olympic Festival when it is being held all over the UK.

    The amount of posts (or lack of) and the comments do hit the nail on the head. Why was the HYS 'Jimmy Carr: I've made terrible error over tax' closed so quickly? There were 1675 posts and rising but it was closed midday?

  • Comment number 40.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 39.

    The Olympics would be so much more interesting if it offered sporting events between certain establishment figures, celebrities and notorious criminals and large wild animals.

    I mean, what is the attraction in watching a collection of people running round in circles, jumping as far as possible and throwing spears at eachother?

    In ancient Greece it had true meaning, but in London today?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 38.

    The lack of comments on this subject speaks volumes about the total lack of interest in this "news" item.

    I wish I could turn the clock back about 18 months ago to when the BBC allowed us to have debates about real news and way, way less of our comments were censored. Was it a coincidence the change happened at the same time as Cameron moved into Number 10 ?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 37.

    No wonder we keep getting turned over in this country when we're easily pleased with a bouncy castle and couple of lollipops!
    Follow that with a couple of weeks running and jumping around then sting us with a £9 billion bill.
    We must be out of our minds.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 36.

    Can I apply for funding to create a giant sized bouncy Rebekah Brookes?
    We could all use as a sporting event it to throw assorted missiles, such as rotten fruit, and perhaps it could be integrated into the Olympic events?
    Then a "celebrity" could be paid a million (in cash of course) to throw a javelin at it so it could fly off skyward under the force of the escaping air....

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 35.

    I cannot believe that someone has managed to obtain funding to produce a portable, life-sized "bouncy" stonehenge !

    Are there no "men in white coats" around anymore to take these crackpots to a comfortable place to rest?

    We must be the laughing stock of the rest of the world.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 34.

    London? £55 million?

    Hope that London is paying for it then, because it's no bloody use to me or my family.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 33.

    what is festival,where it is,who is Henry the Horse will he dance a waltz & will Rebekah LoL be there too?,They can't make you go.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 32.

    Breaking News....

    Spain requires another 50billion bailout....

    I wonder who will lend it to them?...Maybe there is no crisis afterall but it is all just one big panto that all the "important people" are in on and making a fortune....

 

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