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April 26 2012

Hunt launches London 2012 Festival

From a bouncy-castle Stonehenge to Jay-Z, the Olympic festival will feature 12,000 events at 900 venues across the UK

It will include a bouncy-castle Stonehenge, a retrospective of British women's comedy, extreme sports choreography, a world record improv attempt and, organisers of the London 2012 Festival sincerely hope, the loudest national ringing of bells that has ever been heard anywhere. There will also be a cast of stars and artists that run from Damon Albarn to Jay-Z through names that will probably never again appear on the same bill including Tracey Emin, Stephen Fry, George Benjamin, Mike Leigh and Rihanna.

The £52m London 2012 Festival, which launched on Thursday, is the culmination of the cultural olympiad and is meant as a showstopper – a blinding array of arts events across the UK between 21 June and 9 September, staged in the spirit of "once in a lifetime".

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, launched the festival and its 140-page brochure at the Tower of London, and while he did not have the demeanour of a minister under siege, he spoke only about the programme and did not hang around to take questions.

"This festival is a celebration of the remarkable culture that we have in our country," said Hunt. "And in this very special year when we will be in the global spotlight as never before in our lifetimes, this festival encapsulates all that we are proud of. The range is extraordinary. There will, absolutely, be something for everyone."

Ruth Mackenzie, who was brought in two years ago to get a somewhat listing ship back on course, said it would be the largest cultural celebration of our lifetime. "I am confident that we are going to see some quite remarkable work and work that we're never going to forget.

"The challenge for our festival is to match up to the achievements of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with a once in a lifetime chance to share something with amazing artists from around the world."

The festival will involve more than 25,000 artists, with 12,000 events at 900 venues, including 130 world premieres and 86 UK premieres.

Many of the festival events were known already, but new details were announced in the pop, fashion and comedy programmes. In the last there will be a retrospective of women in British comedy, from Joyce Grenfell to Victoria Wood; a season looking at the role that the Hackney Empire has played in radical comedy since Charlie Chaplin took to the stage there more than 100 years ago; topical comedy shows at the Criterion Theatre hosted by Stephen Fry; Tim Minchin at the Eden Project in Cornwall; and Neil Mullarkey leading a world record improv attempt in Barnsley.

There will also be a barge full of comedians – called the Tales of the Riverbank Comedy Barge – travelling from London to Edinburgh with impromptu gigs and masterclasses along the way.

In fashion, the festival has paired designers and visual artists to work together for one-off commissions at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It will include Giles Deacon with Jeremy Deller, Jonathan Saunders with Jess Flood-Paddock and Stephen Jones with Cerith Wyn Evans. Mackenzie said: "It is one of our most thrilling experiments in getting artists to beyond their personal bests, as they say in the world of games."

The pop highlights will be the Radio 1 Hackney weekend, where 100,000 people are expected for a lineup that includes Jack White, Florence + The Machine, Jessie J and will.i.am. A new free festival in Newport, Busk on the Usk, will include Scritti Politti, meaning that its lead singer, Green Gartside, will perform in his own city for the first time.

There will be lots of pop-up events, said Mackenzie, not least one in the true sense of the word with artist Jeremy Deller touring the nation with a bouncy castle in the shape of and the size of Stonehenge.

Some events have had question marks over them, including the artist Martin Creed's plan to get as many people as possible to ring a bell at 8am on 27 July. There was initial scepticism from church bellringers but Mackenzie said everyone was now signed up, including the Royal Navy, which would ring ships' bells. "This is one of my favourite examples of participation and inclusion," said Mackenzie. If anyone does not have a bell they can download one for their phone.


guardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


July 01 2011

Manchester international festival is go

The Guardian is at the Manchester international festival, kicked off by Björk last night. Did you see her? Are you going? Please send us your pictures, tweets and comments

Last night, the third Manchester international festival started in spectacular style with a performance by Björk. It was the live debut of her new project Biophilia, which as well as an album – out in September – also incorporates a series of apps and an education project. Special instruments had been made for the show, including a musical Tesla coil, a cross between a gamelan and a celeste and four giant pendulums with strings attached which were plucked as they swung. There was even a voiceover by David Attenborough. Dave Simpson reviews the show here.

Today sees two other exciting works get their live debuts. At 4pm, red-hot interactive theatre company Punchdrunk launch The Crash of the Elysium, a collaboration with the BBC's Doctor Who team, which my colleague Mark Brown will be sampling and writing about later – with child in tow, since adults aren't allowed in without one. Lyn Gardner wrote about the show a couple of weeks ago.

Then the Palace theatre will see the opening of Damon Albarn's second opera Doctor Dee, about the Elizabethan mystic and alleged alchemist. Albarn himself will be performing; it's directed by Rufus Norris. John Harris interviewed him about the piece last week, and we'll be reviewing it tonight.

Elsewhere, there's a special performance by violinist Alina Ibragimova with visuals by the Quay Brothers, while Sinead O'Connor plays at the festival's hub, the Pavillion theatre in Albert Square. Next week sees the premier of – among other things – Victoria Wood's new play with music, That Day We Sang, which she talks about in Film&Music today.

Of course, we want you to get involved in our coverage too. If you'd like to tweet your thoughts for us (they'll appear on our Mif home page), tweet @guardianculture using the tag #mif11. Our Mif Flickr group is live - please post your pictures here. Also, please leave a comment below if you've seen anything at Mif you liked (or hated), or if you're looking forward to anything.

In the meantime, plenty of people have been tweeting about last night. @jonnohopkins writes "Another reason Bjork was amazing. Strictly no photography! Bliss" and he's right, it was enhanced by the lack of people holding up their phones to record it. He also mentions that Johnny Depp was apparently there. Team Guardian didn't see him, but we did bump into Antony Hegarty at the gig, and Willem Dafoe at the Mif opening party later on. Both are currently working on The Life and Death of Marina Abromović, an opera starring and about the performance art legend, which opens here a week tomorrow.

More tweets: "Bjork is wearing what can only be described as a Carlos Valderama fright wig..." says @dawski, referring to the singer's giant ginger afro.

Meanwhile, Damon Albarn has dented @emmagoswell's northern pride. "Nice plug for #MIF but Albarn just refered to Manchester as a town. On national Tv. Twice! Southern fool." She'll be bringing Oasis into it next.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


May 24 2011

Barbican unveils Olympics arts festival

Programme includes theatre productions starring Juliette Binoche and Cate Blanchett, and major Bauhaus exhibition

The Barbican arts centre in London will celebrate next year's Olympics with an "unparalleled" lineup of international stars, including the actors Juliette Binoche and Cate Blanchett; stage directors Yukio Ninagawa and Peter Sellars; and the first UK performance of Einstein on the Beach, the opera that four decades ago made the reputations of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson.

The centre will host the biggest exhibition in the UK for 40 years on the Bauhaus design school, which flourished in the 1920s and early 30s.

"In 2012, London welcomes the world for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Barbican will be at the forefront of that international moment with an extraordinary range of cultural experiences for all," said Barbican director Sir Nicholas Kenyon.

He predicted that London will "punch above its weight" in the arts festival, and promised "something for everyone", both within the concrete bunker of its Barbican home and in many events across the capital.

"This is not an imported rent-a-festival that is happening all through the world. It is a real collection of things that we believe in that represent the Barbican values."

Kenyon can afford his starry spending spree because the Barbican – whose core funding comes from the City of London – will receive a special grant of £700,000 from the London Olympics organisers to join the nationwide arts festival planned to coincide with the Games.

The Barbican also pulled off a funding coup recognising its eclectic programming – which is both popular and critically acclaimed – when it won a substantial increase in Arts Council funding at a time when hundreds of other organisations were being slashed.

Programme director Louise Jeffreys said the Barbican represented the Bauhaus principles in breaking down divisions between art forms. "We continue to push forward the pioneering spirit. In 2012 stars of stage and screen will rub shoulders with first-timers, international artists will meet local people, and the traditional will meet the new."

The Bauhaus exhibition, Art as Life, will track the design school from its founding in 1919 by Walter Gropius, to its last director, the architect Mies van der Rohe, and its forced closure in 1933 by the Nazis, who detested its radical modernist ethos. The exhibition will include painting, sculpture, film, photography, textiles, ceramics and architecture.

French film star Binoche, who made an acclaimed debut on the London stage at the National Theatre in a dance piece with the choreographer Akram Khan, will return in a more conventional acting role, in Mademoiselle Julie, a new version – in French – of August Strindberg's play about seething class and sexual tensions, with costumes by couture house Lanvin.

The Australian actor Cate Blanchett, star of the 1998 film Elizabeth – and better known to a younger audience as Galadriel in The Lord of the Rings – returns to the London stage after 13 years in a new version by the British playwright Martin Crimp of the German play Gross und Klein, in the role of a lonely wife implausibly deserted by her husband. The show will be a co-production between the Barbican and the Sydney theatre company Blanchett runs with her husband.

Co-productions are a feature of the programme: the Barbican is getting together with Sadler's Wells for the first time to bring in one of the most acclaimed dance companies in the world, the Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch in a month-long season across the two venues.

Classical stars include the New York Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw orchestra from Amsterdam, and the Kronos quartet, which will also play a concert at the Hackney Empire in east London.

Ninagawa, renowned for his take on Shakespeare, will direct a new version of Cymbeline in Japanese, and the theatre season will also include a major new production by Simon McBurney for the Complicite company.

The author and academic Toni Morrison is working with Rokia Traore, a singer and song writer from Mali, on Desdemona, a performance incorporating traditional African instruments inspired by an invisible character in Shakespeare's play, his heroine's African nurse Barbary.

Other music highlights will include the return of Sir Simon Rattle as conductor with the London Symphony Orchestra. African and western musicians will also unite in Africa Express, the collective founded by Damon Albarn, which will visit UK towns and cities on its most ambitious tour to date, with the Barbican as executive producer.


guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


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