Have you heard of the Cultural Olympiad – I had, but had definitely not taken on board all the things that have been going on around the country ... I’ll attempt to give you a brief overview here.
|Telling Stories .... once upon a time ....|
Stories of the World
Where to start but ... Once Upon a Time in Olympia, the Ancient Olympic Games celebrated artistic achievement as well as sporting endeavour.
William Penny Brookes, the doctor, and the inspiration behind the Much Wenlock ‘Agricultural’ Games in the 1850s wanted everyone in the community to join in ... whatever the activity. (see my previous post)
Baron de Coubertin, who established the Olympic movement we know today, noted many of the ideas Penny Brooks was advocating included cultural aspects.
Baron de Coubertin was determined to overlay the modern Olympic movement on the form of those ancient ideals – sport and culture.
|Gulliver's Travels at the Edinburgh Festival|
Once the Games got going properly in 1912, and up until 1948, there were competitions for medals in architecture, music, literature, sculpture and painting ... the so-called “Pentathlon of the Muses”.
An Olympiad among ancient Greeks, and especially in ancient literature, was a period of four years, being the interval between the celebrations of each (Summer) Olympic Games ... in fact this became a national method of ‘time’ – as locally each city-state had different methodologies.
|Museum replica of a bronze discus|
inscribed as a votive offering to
Zeus, by Asklepeiades of Corinth,
winner of the pentathlon in the
The Games started off with foot races, but were as much a religious festival as an athletic event. Temples erected, sculptures created to adorn those temples, sacrifices made ... the Olympian Games were regarded as sacred: the greatest games in the world.
|A copy of Myron's|
Sculptors, poets and other artisans would come to the games to display their works in what became an artistic competition ... Myron sculpted “the Discus Thrower” (5th C BC).
Poets would be commissioned to write prose in honour of the Olympic victors – these poems known - as Epinicians - were passed on from generation to generation.
The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements.
|British Embassy in Beijing joining in with the ringing|
of the bells on the morning of the Opening Ceremony
Since 2008, the Cultural Olympiad has featured programmes and projects inspired by London 2012 (see here):
· More than 16 million people across the UK have taken part in or attended performances
· Over 169,000 people have attended more than 8,300 workshops
· More than 3.7 million people took part in nearly 3,700 Open Weekend activities
· Some 2,500 cultural projects have been awarded the London 2012 inspire mark
The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad is the London 2012 Festival, providing 10 million chances to see free world-class events throughout the UK.
Competition between artists may have ceased with the last London Games in 1948, but the commitment to celebrating culture and the arts survives.
|Noyes Fludde, Belfast: Benjamin Britten's much loved|
children's opera in Belfast zoo
The London 2012 Festival runs from the Summer Solstice until the end of the Paralympics, on Sunday 9th September – some beyond that date.
There are theatre, dance and music events, art exhibitions and installations, specially commissioned films, and unique outdoor spectaculars around the UK that promise to make this Olympiad very special – many of these events are free, and the link is below.
One particular event I will come back to – as it is something global I’ve been wanting to write about ...
I’m going to list out some of the things that have been / are going on ...
London 2012 Festival: (see here)
|Mittwoch aus Licht - see left|
· The festival is part of the Edinburgh Festival
· The world in London: A unique art exhibition that celebrates the diversity of London – featuring 204 photographic portraits of Londoners .... each originating from one of the nations competing at the Games ... a nation of everyone.
· National Portrait Gallery “Road to 2012” – photographic portraits that celebrate world-class British athletes, coaches and managers, and some of the behind the scenes workers ... volunteers, transport workers, engineers etc (19 July – 23 September)
· Mittwoch aus Licht .... watch the helicopter string quartet performance at the Live Sites in Birmingham and Coventry TOMORROW 22nd August?!
· Backstage Pass ... Get the Inside Scoop = there’s lots of information here – including slide shows, videos etc etc ...
o for example: A train full of African and Western musicians traversing the UK
|All aboard the Africa Express|
Inspire Programme: 2,700 projects inspired by the Games – are being used to inspire their local communities to make real and lasting change .... at Live Sites, via the Torch Relay and Flame Festivals (see here)
Artists Taking the Lead: where artists have been encouraged to use the UK as a blank canvas, with fascinating results ... e.g. Peace Camps (see link)
Discovering Places: locally – exposing the hidden past, yet celebrating its history, while recognising and preserving its natural environment (see link)
Film Nation: Shorts gives 14 – 25 year olds the chance to make films celebrating the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games ...
Competition parameters: the youngsters are invited to create short films, max 3 minutes, that celebrate the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Games: respect, courage, excellence, friendship, equality, determination and inspiration. (see here)
Legacy Trust UK: the umbrella organisational charity ... one of which is “Accentuate” - a programme inspired by the Paralympic Movement to provide deaf and disabled people access to new opportunities ... (see here)
|Tarot Drome - Marisa Carnesky: see the mystical characters|
of the Tarot Deck come to life in this promenade theatre
show at the Old Vic Tunnels
New Music 20x12: Twenty composers together with arts organisations have been brought together to create exciting new music, which will be performed across the length and breadth of the UK, including a weekend of celebration at London’s Southbank Centre ...
There’s an eclectic mix on offer – from contemporary classical, folk and opera to bell ringing, beatboxing, jazz and music for brass bands – each composer has been commissioned to create a 12 minute piece inspired by London 2012. (link here)
Stories of the World: these exhibitions get young people working with curators, filmmakers, artists, writers and musicians to explore and reinterpret museum collections, giving a new perspective on the stories that tell us about our place in the world.
The museums participating are around the UK ... and it looks like some of the exhibitions will go on into October and some to year end ... so the opportunity exists for a visit. (Link here)
Unlimited: is the UK’s largest programme celebrating arts, culture and sport by deaf and disabled people.
Unlimited has spread beyond the shores of our islands with commission strands reaching Brazil, China, Colombia, Croatia, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. (Link here)
The Cultural Olympiad has certainly embraced the united world the UK inhabits with its diverse population mix, allowing us to experience so many cultures and so much artistic expression.
|The Parthenon in Athens - one of the |
leading city-states of the ancient world
The awarding of the Olympic Games to London does appear to have been an inspired stroke of luck (genius) ... we speak English, we are democratic, we are so diverse, we have absorbed many cultures into our little island – yet we have great ideas ...
... and in this Jubilee year we have shown the world that there is so much merit in living together harmoniously, celebrating life as it can be lived – long may this legacy last.
I know this is long – yet I think it’s worth posting as we have a reference to remember all that has been happening ... and there’s more where this came from – be warned!
Most of the information and many of the photos have come from the London 2012 websites ....
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories