LAKES COUNTS DOWN TO LONDON 2012 FESTIVAL
LAKES COUNTS DOWN TO LONDON 2012 FESTIVAL
Posted: June 18, 2012
All eyes will be on the Lake District this Thursday as the starting pistol is fired in in the North of England for the official launch of the long-awaited London 2012 Festival.
The festival, opens on Thursday June 21, signalling the biggest ever national celebration of its kind – a 12 week calendar of 12,000 events taking place UK-wide – with the aim of spreading Olympics and Paralympic Games beyond the capital and into the regions.
Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, has the privilege of hosting one of only four opening events for the festival taking place outside the capital and the only one in the North.
It coincides with the arrival of the Olympic torch to the heart of the Lake District on the same day and an evening of celebrations.
The other three London 2012 Festival opening events taking place are in Birmingham, Scotland and Northern Ireland – making the Lake District event a rare opportunity for people living in Cumbria, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Yorkshire.
Attendance is expected to be huge as the opening event by Lakes Alive is free, a world premiere and features 12 up-and-coming UK artists who’ll take to the stage at 10pm after the arrival of the torch. Against the backdrop of England’s longest lake on The Glebe, they will perform an hour long piece called “On The Night Shift,” led by one of Europe’s most acclaimed outdoor arts companies. The Toulouse-based fire, percussion and performance masters “Les Commandos Percu” headline the show and to give you a flavour of the astonishing spectacle to come, you can see a rehearsal here http://youtub.be/3efgxShYZ8a
It puts the North tangibly in the national London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games spotlight and is being hailed as a “breakthrough” moment in the life of young local arts company, Kendal Arts International, which has been wowing audiences over the past four years with its Lakes Alive events throughout the Lake District and towns like Barrow, Cockermouth, Whitehaven, Penrith and Carlisle, Appleby, Millom, Cleator Moor, following this year.
The Lakes Alive team was specially commissioned to stage the opening spectacular with partners Manchester International Arts (MIA) by London 2012 Festival organisers.
Back stage, the June 21st event has been 18 months in the making for the six-year-old Kendal Arts International headed by Director Julie Tait. Its organising the huge Les Commandos Percu spectacular from their modest riverside offices in Kendal.
Between now and the opening night, the three members of staff, are working round-the-clock on the sophisticated pyrotechnics, choreography, drummers, sound systems and drama needed to stage a world premiere in the middle of the Lake District, with dress rehearsals due next week.
Barely a day goes by which doesn’t involve a flurry of emails and cross-channel Skype conversation with Les Commandos Percu, who will be bringing a team of 12 specialists over from France for the event.
Julie, a classically-trained musician with 20 years experience in the arts, remembers the last time Les Commandos Percu (translated simply as Commander of Percussion) – played Cumbria in 2010. Spectators remarked it was like “something you would see outside Sydney Opera House.”
But taking “arts to the masses” as well as appealing to the culturally savvy has always been Julie’s aim. It has taken some work. Six years ago, Cumbria was a county still trading on historic cultural icons like Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter. It did not have an established modern street arts scene, apart from one or two isolated examples and the odd “Covent Garden-style juggler,” occupying a street corner in a marketplace.
She believes the coup of a London 2012 Festival opening event in the North and in particular Cumbria, is a “glass ceiling” moment. The moment when street arts and the North steps on to the cultural podium and achieves national recognition.
Traditionally, streets arts has had to fight hard to be heard against the big city theatre and opera giant, but with it’s four year programme of events now entering its final year, it seems it’s a fight that has been won with Northern champions like Kendal Arts International gaining new audiences around the country.
Julie explained: “For us to be launching the London 2012 Festival as the only opening event in the North and one of only four across the UK means street arts has truly come of age. It now has a presence and a significance that did not exist 10 years ago. It’s massive.”
The June 21st event is part of the final year of the “2012 Cultural Olympiad,” the arts programme accompanying the games which has been running since 2008. The initiative and the festival are overseen by Ruth MacKenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad.
Julie remembers: “Ruth wanted an opening event well out of London and while we were up against a lot of competition, she knew we had the expertise to put on a headline festival event and an established presence and following.”
As a further indicator of the significance of the event, Ms McKenzie, is heading to the Lake District to see rehearsals. Speaking about Lakes Alive being chosen to stage an opening event, Ms McKenzie ranked it as an indication of “the mark of esteem” Lakes Alive is held “nationally and internationally,” and a “clear demonstration of its profile and status.”
Ms McKenzie commented: “Lakes Alive is one of the most brilliant inventions of the Cultural Olympiad. We want to have an event that will kick off the London 2012 Festival in the Lake District in partnership with Lakes Alive and I have the greatest confidence that Lakes Alive can bring those amazing artists, global and local, to create something that actually we’ll be proud of.”
With more butterflies than most will be 12 up-and-coming artists who will take up the role of seven dancers and five drummers having been specially chosen from 90 who auditioned from all the North-West, North East, Yorkshire, London and the South West.
They will take part in the spectacular on the night and the show’s subsequent tour. They are Dora Cruz, from Salford; Jess Murray, from Bury; Holly Prest, from Manchester; Mitch Oldham, from Todmorden, Lancashire; Howard Jacobs, from Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire; Cormac Byrne, from Holmfirth, West Yorks; Jenni Wren, Helen Wilson, Laura Simpson and Al MacSween all from Leeds; Adele Thompson, from London and Kathryn Cooley, from Bude, Cornwall.
The event is being tipped to make a headline weekend for tourism in the Lake District in Cumbria too. Lakes Alive shows like the Kendal-based international arts spectacular, Mintfest, have been found to bring £1.3 million of spending into the local economy. It is estimated that for every £1 spent on organizing and hosting Lakes Alive events, around £2.22 is spent in the local economy.
In 2010 alone, Lakes Alive street arts events in Cumbria generated an estimated £3 million of extra spending with about 75,000 people attending them around the county.
After the 21st June event in the Lake District, the show will conclude the London 2012 Festival in Preston, Lancashire, as part of the Preston Guild 2012, before embarking on a national and international tour in October.
On the Night Shift is co-commissioned by Lakes Alive, the London 2012 Festival, Preston Guild, Arts Council England, We Play Expo and the Lake District National Park Authority.
The celebration coincides with the long-awaited arrival of the Olympic Torch for as it makes its journey southwards to Bowness-on-Windermere for stop 38 on its UK-wide relay.
It will be greeted by anticipated crowds of over 10,000 people in Bowness along with 30 foreign journalists and TV crews. Furthermore, festival directors from Barcelona and Amsterdam will be in the audience with the hope they will take the Lakes Alive name back to their committees for future European appearances.
The event is commissioned by Lakes Alive, the Lake District National Park, We Play Expo and the London 2012 Festival.
Lakes Alive is one of three annual programmes commissioned for WE PLAY, the Northwest cultural legacy programme for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. WE PLAY has been funded by Legacy Trust UK, creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK.”
The project is led by the Arts Council England Northwest on behalf of a new regional partnership. Lakes Alive is sponsored by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and has also received funding from Arts Council England and the Northern Rock Foundation.
For more information about the performance go to www.lakesalive.org