Wednesday, 22 June 2011
Cultural Olympiad - Too hard to understand?
According to The Telegraph way back in January 2010 the term "cultural Olympiad" had been abandoned as "people find it too difficult to understand as it's too nebulous" (according to the head of the Royal Opera House) so you can imagine my surprise when to fanfare yesterday details of the Cultural Olympiad were published although for ticket purposes it has been rebranded The London 2012 Festival in "an effort to boost ticket sales" - yet again showing that as far as the organisers are concerned there is no life north of Watford. Not content with that the whole concept has already brought down the ire of Professor Christopher Frayling, former Arts Council Chair, who has commented that there are too many things going on, too many people in charge and that it needs "one ringmaster" - his analogy to it being a circus could hardly be more apt. However no doubt the kind of people the powers that be don't want to attend an event such as an opera or retrospective of a playwright won't be able (in their eyes) to understand it anyway so it's a win/win situation on that one. The hoi polloi can make do with the concert that Damon Albarn is signed up for....I feel queasy already to be honest....as well as visual artist Olafur Eliasson best known for "large scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience", so he's obviously going to erect a large wind turbine somewhere and use it as a sundial. There's going to be a Shakespeare Festival, a youth festival (I wince when I hear that phrase seeing a mental image of blokes in open toed sandals and women urging you to empower your inner child) and specially commissioned music from all over the UK. Yeah, that would be Coventry and Warwickshire so far. As far as I can see it's a bit of an excuse for up their own arts centres to have a "programme for our sector to engage" - by which I presume they mean, "oooh we need a money raising event to pay for the twaddle we'll be putting on later so let's coat tail onto the Olympics and make people think they're taking part". Given that the festival is being spread over 4 years - even longer than it must seem to people in a downpour in a tent at any other festival - am I being cynical? Well if you consider that the Beijing version involved such crowd pleasers as a Domino contest, a Great Wall painting exhibition (I presume this was paintings of the Great Wall and not just nipping down to B&Q for some magnolia and tackling the living room) and a running festival (I kid you not)....what delights await the people of Teeside for example? A man in Lycra pretending to be a dolphin to highlight oceanic climate change? To be frank that would probably be hard for me to understand as well ..... Given that the main sponsors are BT and BP I hazard a guess that most of the ideas will be about connecting and the environment as BP use it to raise their tattered public profile in the wake of the Louisiana spill....So expect lots of community based opportunities to engage and feel part of the Olympic spirit whilst leaving a lasting impact <yawn>. What really makes me laugh is the fact that libraries are singled out for this "lasting impact" - that's if we have any still remaining open in the barren wasteland of "normal land" as opposed to "Olympic land"..I'd feel more of the Olympic spirit if I was watching another country waste millions of public money on a sporting event that will last two weeks, probably run way over budget and which we will be force fed at every opportunity between now and July next year especially as you can already buy the official merchandise....give.me.strength.... As for claiming the general public can't understand such tomfoolery that is patronising in the least. I mean how difficult it is to understand that that piece of performance art you've just stumbled across is, in fact, a load of old kak. I wonder if there will be any performance art dissenting any of the money being spent (estimated to be in the region of £100 million over the four year period with £80 million coming from public funds) - now that would be funny. Oh and we're going to have posters designed by Tracey Emin amongst others. Now much as I like Tracey and do actually "get" her stuff there's not exactly a large pool to draw from and at least we can be grateful it wasn't Mr Hirst. At least Tracey can draw. However I do fear what we'll have on the poster....chucking out time in Shoreditch perhaps with a kebab wielding drunk; "Come to London, have a kebab" - hardly a winner is it? According to Festival organisers 14 million people have already taken part in festival events, you'll probably find that dance troupe in the foyer of Asda were part of it so, yes, you have taken part by rushing past them quickly....it will be interesting to see how this pans out in terms of public interest, quality and of course a trade in leotards and paper mache making..... puppet workshop anyone?