Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Cultural Olympiad ...

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
255th Olympiad 

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 ..... 
 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 ....

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


cleemckenzie said...

I love to imagine what the ancient Olympics must have been like with all the ceremony and rites. Great to read your overview of Olympic history.

Diane said...

Interesting post as always. I did not realise that there was so much going on in the London 2012 Festival. Diane

MorningAJ said...

In spite of all the hype about the games being for "everyone" I still don't feel that any of this has really touched me.

Sure, I was happy that we did well in the medals, but beyond a vague sense of pride about the Yorkshire contingent (my childhood home) I've not felt included.

There have been sadly few events around here except the torch relay and I can't feel any improvement in the local area.

There are no new faces at my gym; no kids playing games in the street; no sense that anything particularly special happened at all.

Apparently several local museums are running the "dress the world" exhibition (according to your link) but I knew nothing about it until I read your post.

Even the opening ceremony (which I enjoyed) was very southern-centric.

There might be a buzz in the south east corner of the country but there's a whole lot of us out here that seem to have been missed almost totally.

Old Kitty said...

I so enjoyed the glut of Shakespeare in all its forms - especially the ones they showed on telly! Take care

Unknown said...

I didn't know that there was so much other events at the ancient Olympics. I'm glad that London decided to go back to the roots. Fascinating post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Lee - certainly Ancient Greece with the start of the Games would have been fascinating to be a part of ..

@ Diane - I hope you feel better soon ... and it's overwhelming how much there is going on .. this just brushed the surface ...

@ Anne - I agree with you in many ways - yet I suspect we've just been 'swamped' with things going on ... and if we haven't been actively out there we would never know about it .. I've picked up snippets from the radio, tv and via a newspaper or two ... but if I hadn't been writing this blog - it would have all passed me by.

Though advertising hoardings are promoting any number of performances etc ...

The challenge I think has been the fact that the Olympics is awarded to a city ... and not the country - at least the powers that be have 'spread the love' and organisations, charities and societies have incorporated much via the Cultural Olympiad.

Let's hope those that do know have managed to enjoy some of the exhibits, performances that are on ..

@ Old Kitty - that's the one I want to write about anon ... I saw a few on the tv - just hope they'll repeat them ...

I missed the repeat of the Opening Ceremony in the middle of the hottest day of the year - Saturday afternoon ... I was not at home!

@ Clarissa - I was fascinated to read a little more about the Ancient Olympics and how we are carrying on its ideals in this day and age.

London 2012 and I hope the country are enjoying all this activity .. long may it last.

Thanks everyone - glad you enjoyed the post .. cheers Hilary

Nick Wilford said...

Well, ignorant me didn't know anything about the Cultural Olympiad, so thanks. I thought Olympiad just referred to the games themselves, rather than the time in between! I actually wouldn't mind a competitive cultural element - imagine winning the Gold Medal for Literature!

Unknown said...

London certainly knows how to enjoy itself and I've been warmed by the stories of how everyone was walking around with smiles on their faces. I feel a bit stupid right now because a week or so ago I wrote a post on Facebook asking why there wasn't a gold medal for literature. Now I know....

Annalisa Crawford said...

I've seen mentions of this - I know there's an island floating around and visiting ports - but I certainly didn't realise how big it was.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thank you for this incredibly informative post, Hilary. As usual I learned some fascinating stuff. Very inspiring that there were achievements for non-athletics too.

Susan Scheid said...

Well, of course, I went straight to the new music events, which looked fascinating, but really the whole Cultural Olympiad seems such a wonderful idea.

Southpaw said...

Very cool. The whole origin of the Olympics and all the aspects are fascinating.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Interesting concept: a literary Olympiad.

Here in the States, we have The Special Olympics.

A Lady's Life said...

London sure has been on a roll these days. It's nice to get some good news for a change seeing people do spectacular things. :)

ana said...

Fascinating!!!As always.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Nick - I fell into that category re the Olympiad and realised its meaning. I'd applaud you all the way to the gold medal .. wonderful thought!

@ Susan - ah .. at least I've enlightened you .. and with Nick - we're all thinking it would be a great idea. Not sure exactly what the Nobel Prize winning categories are ...

Nobel Prizes: Physics, Chemistry, Physiology or Medicine, Literature and Peace. Economic Sciences is a separate prize .. which came about in 1968 ... and is now integral with the Nobel movement.

@ Annalisa - I think we've seen more in the UK .. and I am going to write on the floating island and perhaps one or two other quirky artworks ...

@ Joylene - well it's opened my knowledge bank that's for sure ..I've expanded the little grey cells.

@ Susan - I wondered if the Vale of Glamorgan event was tied in .. but hadn't realised everything that was happening - I saw Vale of Glamorgan mentioned ... delighted you flew over the pond to attend some of the Cultural Olympiad - it has spread its tentacles!

@ Holly - delighted you enjoyed the information here ...

@ Susan - the Cultural Olympiad has covered many artistic ideals .. and I hadn't heard of the Special Olympics - I checked out Wiki and must watch out to see if I hear anything mentioned in these coming days. Thanks for alerting me about the Special Olympics ...

@ A Lady's Life - I agree .. it's been a pleasure being around ..

@ Ana - glad you enjoyed it

Thanks everyone - some interesting points added here .. always fun to have .. cheers Hilary

Juliet said...

How rich and inspiring this is!

Elise Fallson said...

Wow, what a great post. I didn't realize there were so many other events in the Ancient Olympic Games. It's a shame the cultural and artistic events ended in 1948 but I'm glad to see the UK bringing them back in the spirit of The Olympic Games. Makes me wish I could go visit and participate somehow... (:

Mark Koopmans said...

Aloha Hilary,

Thanks for such an interesting post, (I meant to stop by just to say thanks for the shout out on Alec's, er, I mean Alex's blog:) but, wow, you put a lot of hard work into this and it shows :)

Cheers, Mark :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Juliet - so much going on .. wish I'd been a little more with it - still inspired me for the future.

@ Elise - I hope Britain has set a trend for future Olympic Games - or the Olympiad year .. cultural and sporty - can bring everyone together ..

I'd love to have done more and participated - but at least I'm aware I guess ..

@ Mark - thanks for coming over from Alex' blog and following.

Delighted you enjoyed the post and I hope the blog with whatever forthcoming ideas I get to write up - the brain is full!

Cheers to you all .. thanks for the visit - Hilary

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

It'd be great if this could have continued to the present day. Perhaps I could have taken part by penning a poem about Usain Bolt's victories!
Duncan In Kuantan

Unknown said...

What a fascinating post - as always, Hilary. Truly, so much would pass me by if I didn't read your blog.

I hope Britain has set a new trend!

Ciara said...

I'm so jealous. When will it come to the US? I'd love to attend one of these. I'd never heard of it. Thanks for sharing.

Jo said...

I also was unaware of the cultural Olympiad, I am delighted to hear of it although it appears it isn't as well advertised as it should be from what one of your commenters said but as its the first time for many years, not everything will be perfect.

Talli Roland said...

It's been such a fantastic time to be in London. Mr TR and I went to the South Bank during the height of the Olympics and there was so much happening! Amazing.

Glynis Peters said...

Hilary, thank you for keeping me up to date with my old home. It is great to so much positivity coming from the Olympics, and to see the country alive with wonderful happenings.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Duncan - well you could always pen a poem on Usain's victories - I'm sure he'd love it ... and it would make a good blogpost!

@ Shirley - many thanks .. it's unbelievable what's going on - I just had to write it up ... and I agree I hope we've set a new trend - I now will be very interested to see what Rio does.

@ Ciara - the next time the Olympics comes to the States! There are so many events everywhere .. I'm jealous I'm not in London!

@ Jo - I think it probably has been Jo - but everyone is 'honed in' on the major event ... but anyone creative I'm sure knew about their category of events - theatre, art etc etc

@ Talli - I saw you'd been down to the South Bank .. lucky you - but delighted you've been joining in with the Olympic spirit. It is amazing isn't it ...

@ Glynis - delighted to bring you a glimpse of home life ... we certainly are alive with so much going on ...

Cheers everyone - lovely having you all here ... Hilary

klahanie said...

Hi Hilary,
I'm ever so sorry I've not been around much lately. Have been very busy with some worthy projects that keep me away from a computer.
I've had a good read through your as per usual, informative and entertaining post.
This is a wondrous time to be in Britain and your article exudes this.
And may the 'feel good factor' within this land, continue on past all the celebrations.
All the best to you, Hilary.

nutschell said...

How cool! Now that's an event I would've loved to attend :) Thanks for listing all those events, they all sound like a lot of fun!

Gattina said...

You certainly had a lot of work to put all these informaions together ! Very interesting ! Have you ever been to Greece and the old stadium where it began ? I was so disappointed, just a few stones and a lot of talking ! Not well preserved at all !

Carol Kilgore said...

I didn't know this history or about all the extra that went along with the athletic events. Fascinating! I hope you get to experience some of it.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

@ Gary .. I realised you were in Cardigan and have had some projects on too - and I haven't been across to see you - as my comments don't 'get taken' .. I'll be over today as I'm going to the library for my embedded bloggers!!

As you say I do hope the feel good factor lasts .. and I hope your dreams comes true ..

@ Nutschell - absolutely fun .. even you Nutschell would be stretched to see or attend all of these! But boy you'd get the best out of them ..

@ Gattina - that's what I do .. I keep myself occupied in the process! I went to the Parthenon when I was very young .. and also saw the Lindos one .. that is magnificient - I understand better now and would appreciate it more.

@ Carol - I'm sort of viscerally experiencing it .. from afar. I'll be doing a few things in these next few weeks ...

It's been great to be around Britain at this time ..

Thank you to you all .. cheers Hilary

Anonymous said...

Hi, Hilary! Another informative post.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Susanne .. there certainly has been and is lots going on around the UK .. good to see you ...

Cheers Hilary

Golden Eagle said...

It sounds like there will be some really interesting art at the Festival!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi GE .. the next post tells you about two very 'diverse' ones .. I'm sure many have been having such a lot of fun with all the events taking place ..

Cheers Hilary