The figures are staggering. As the world's finest athletes compete in the Olympic Park, from June 21 to September 9 the London 2012 Festival will gather more than 25,000 artists from all of the 204 nations taking part in the Games. That's 12,000 events, held at 900 venues, marking the culmination of the much-feted Cultural Olympiad.
On the bill, pop stars Damon Albarn, Jay Z, Rhianna, The Noisettes, and Gilberto Gil will be joined by the likes of Tracey Emin, Jeremy Deller, and Ai Weiwei (always one for an Olympic celebration). Virtually any cultural project taking place in London and beyond next summer has been granted the "London 2012 Festival" tag.
"This festival is a celebration of the remarkable culture that we have in our country," said embattled culture secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday before rushing out of the press launch to avoid questions on his cozy relationship with News Corporation, revealed this week by the Leveson Enquiry. "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."
More than 100,000 people are expected at BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend featuring Jay Z, Florence + the Machine, David Guetta, and Tinie Tempah. For comedy fans, the "Tales of the Riverbank Comedy Barge" will travel to Edinburgh Festival, regularly stopping for gigs and shows. 500 bands are to take part in the Bandstand Marathon. The Big Dance 2012 will stage the largest Bollywood dance performance at Cardiff Mella, and on July 14, the entire population will be invited to step in, with the Big Street Dance Day.
On July 27 at 8am precisely, maverick artist Martin Creed plans to have as many people as possible ringing bells, bike-sized, church-sized, and everything in between. Even the Royal Navy will join in, ringing the ships' bells. Down in Bexhill-on-sea, Richard Wilson will recreate the toe-curling final scene of the film "Italian Job" — when a coach is stuck dangling on the edge of a cliff — on the roof of the De La Warr Pavilion. Jeremy Deller's inflatable bouncy castle, in the shape and sized of Stonehenge, will tour the entire country.
"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," said Ruth Mackenzie, the director for the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival.