Artist Rachel Whiteread's poster for the Olympics: LOndOn 2O12
On the 27th January 2012, Danny Boyle, the Artistic Director of the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, celebrated the six month count down to the Olympic Games by revealing that the occasion has been inspired by the monologue, Isles of Wonder
, delivered by Caliban in William Shakespeare’s The Tempest
. "Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,"
it begins and there are certainly reasons to anticipate the vocals of this culture fest. Vociferous reasons. Since 2008, the Cultural Olympiad has been anticipating Britain’s Olympics with displays of art and culture throughout regional and city spaces, explaining why the UK has been quite so raucous over the last four years. And from June 21 June to September 9 2012, the UK will experience a roar of wondrous art and culture as the Cultural Olympiad draws to a close in the culminating three months of the London 2012 Festival.
On Thursday 26th April 2012, the UK’s Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, launched the London 2012 Festival using an axiom toted by the Mayoral Advisor on Culture Munira Mirza: "Culture is to Britain what the sun is to Spain." So perhaps it is fitting that if there was to be one country to host a four year Cultural Olympiad that would total at least £97 million – that’s almost $155 million – throughout a recession, it would be the UK. As a result, there is the predictable cacophony of cynicism to sift through. These voices believe that in times rife with austerity measures and public sector cuts that cultural celebrations ought to be reined in. Or at least, that payment shouldn’t have emerged from the taxpayers’ pockets. However, with a projected estimate of the Olympics themselves at £12 billion – that’s over $19.3 billion – injecting a bit of culture into an otherwise completely sporting event widens the audience and provides entertainment for those tourists expecting to be kept occupied.
But where did it all begin? And of all traditions, why do we continue to fork out for this expensive one? Well, the Cultural Olympiad can trace its roots back alongside the Olympics to the Ancient Greeks. Ruth MacKenzie, the Festival Director of the London 2012 Festival mentioned in the message of the festival program that "in Ancient Greece, all nations agreed to stop fighting to listen to the artists and watch the athletes." In fact, artists had been awarded prizes and honoured alongside the athletes up until the London Olympic Games of 1948. On October 17 2011, the United Nations continued this tradition, calling for a truce to be held during the 2012 Olympic Games. The UN website reports that all 193 UN Member States were asked "to cooperate with the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict."
So in the wake of such pacification, a Spectacular such as the Cultural Olympiad needs to pull in the voices, pull in the numbers, listen and in turn be heard. Just feast your eyes on these statistics. So far during the Cultural Olympiad, 16 million people have either attended or participated in a performance, 169,000 have attended 8,300 workshops and 3.7 million people have participated in an Open Weekend event, (events that celebrate the countdown to the 2012 Olympic Games). In addition to this, 2,500 cultural projects have been awarded the London 2012 Inspire mark. Ultimately, throughout the three-month cultural extravaganza, the London 2012 Festival will host 25,000 artists from 205 countries. With such global appeal and participation comes, as MacKenzie notes in her Festival message, pressure; "The stakes are high - the eyes of the world will be on us this summer. But if we get the Festival right, people will remember 2012 not just for amazing moments of sport, but for unforgettable art as well." So with so much on offer, what are the not-to-miss moments of London 2012 Festival?
On June 21, highly acclaimed conductor Gustavo Dudamel and the Venezuelan Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra will perform a midsummer night concert to 8000 people at Stirling Castle in the small Scottish community of Raploch. Accompanying them will be 450 of Raploch’s own schoolchildren, who have each learnt a musical instrument throughout the Cultural Olympiad under the Big Noise Project
. Fabulous works of art are regionally abound as well. New York artists YesYesNo will be creating a major light installation along the 73-mile long frontier between Scotland and England, Hadrian’s Wall. Global users will be able to send technological messages to beam bright, colourful communication along the wall via tethered, internally lit balloons. ’The Unlimited Programme’
will feature works of art and performance by artists who are disabled or deaf along the Southbank Centre. Work produced by such artists is rarely celebrated quite as thoroughly and this program offers audiences the chance to discover something interestingly alternative.
Caliban concluded his monologue with this heart-breaking declaration of love: "that when I waked, / I cried to dream again."
It epitomises the potential presented by the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival. This opportunity is too brief to miss, too fleeting to imprudently dismiss. Both events have, are and will be about global cultural voices at a time when the world is in a less than fortunate place. Voices from all over the world are being offered a chance to speak and they deserve to be listened to, so enjoy the Festival, and make the most of it before it’s over.Isles of Wonder
Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments,
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices,
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.The Tempest
Act 3, Scene 2