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August 14 2010

An Englishman in New York

Jason Bell's extraordinary portraits of English expats in New York and their thoughts on the city they now call home

June 17 2010

Stephen Daldry and Danny Boyle: masters of Olympic ceremonies | Vanessa Thorpe

The directors of Billy Elliot and Slumdog Millionaire will be 'thinking laterally' to make the opening of the 2012 London games look as good as possible

Two new highly impressive signings this morning for the team designing the artistic side of the London Olympics: film directors Stephen Daldry and Danny Boyle.

But will they be setting up an X-Factor style talent contest for the opening event, as Mayor Boris Johnson slyly, and perhaps mischievously, suggested at a meeting last week while he was listening to a school band play? When asked about the mayor's comments, Johnson's office told me candidly that they couldn't be expected to explain everything that the mayor said and that he himself would probably not remember.

But things are looking up anyway. Daldry and Boyle are two award-winning talents, the first best-known for Billy Elliot and the second for Slumdog Millionaire and Trainspotting, and they are now helping to decide how to make 2012 look as good as it can.

From the outside – and most of us are still on the outside – the creative aspect of the Cultural Olympiad seems to be getting more and more populated, and more and more complicated. But there is some sense of order slowly emerging.

At first, when Britain won the bid five years ago, there was a period of ambitious over-reach, with a plan for an integrated, thematic national celebration of our multicultural history. However, nothing much had been decided by the time Tony Hall, who also runs the opera house in Covent Garden, was appointed to run the Cultural Olympiad last year. He then started to search around for an artistic director, eventually securing former New Labour arts advisor Ruth Mackenzie. From the outset, Hall was also at pains to point out that he had nothing to do with the opening and closing ceremonies at the games, which are still under the aegis of the Olympic organising committee, known as Locog.

A few months ago the illustrious originator of this blog, Charlotte Higgins, memorably asked Hall if this strange separation of powers meant that he woke up sweating in the middle of the night, worrying that a really appalling opening ceremony might ruin all the hard work and any successes he had managed to pull off under the broader banner of the Cultural Olympiad. He smirked and said little.

Now it looks as if Hall can relax. Boyle and Daldry are unlikely to disgrace us. Boyle, who is specifically in charge of the opening ceremony, has sensibly emphasised the fact that Britain will have to go down an idiosyncratic artistic route if it wishes to impress the world. It cannot, he admits, hope to compete with China on scale and spectacle. He says he will be "thinking laterally". I wonder if that rules out a mainstream, populist event such as a national X-Factor competition? © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

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