Laura Porter is a journalist by day, writing for the About.com London Travel site but recently her life has been taken over by last-minute rehearsals for the Olympic opening ceremony — not that she minds. In fact she’s having a blast! Here she lets us in on what she’s been getting up to behind the closed doors of the Olympic Stadium in Stratford…
I’m in the privileged position of being one of the volunteer cast for the Games opening ceremony. There are about 10,000 volunteers involved and many specialist performers who will amaze you all on the night.I’m not about to start leaking secrets from rehearsals as I definitely think this is one of those times when the surprise will be worth it. I can tell you that as the cast is so large most of us don’t actually know the full vision but wow, Danny Boyle has an incredible imagination.
Danny Boyle is the Artistic Director for the Olympic Ceremonies and you’ll know him as the English film director and producer responsible for such films as Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later and Trainspotting. What’s fantastic is that he attends every rehearsal and takes the time to talk to the volunteers every day. He is incredibly approachable and is always honest with us. When we do a run-through of the show we know he’s watching and he’ll be the one sitting high in the Olympic Stadium jumping up and applauding us when it’s gone well.
Danny Boyle was brought up in the Manchester area and I wonder if that’s influenced his vision for the start of the Opening Ceremony with the “Green and Pleasant Land” incorporating cricket on the village green, maypole dancing and farm animals. Yes, there will be live farm animals – sheep, horses, chickens, ducks, geese, cows, sheepdogs, goats – and there’s also a representation of The Holy Thorn Tree on Wearyall Hill in Glastonbury, Somerset. What Danny Boyle has said is the ‘green and pleasant land’ theme was chosen “because it is something we are really proud of”.
There are three main sections for the volunteer cast and mine isn’t the one I’ve just described so you still know no more as the details above have all been reported in the Press.
Danny Boyle is incredibly approachable and is always honest with us. When we do a run-through of the show we know he’s watching and he’ll be the one sitting high in the Olympic Stadium jumping up and applauding us when it’s gone well.
Not all londoners
In my section there are 800-900 volunteers and we made a huge commitment when we agreed to accept a role in the Opening Ceremony as there have been 24 dates with rehearsals soon reaching 14 hours long. Some of the people I’ve met are from east London – I live in northeast London so can be home in under an hour from the Olympic Stadium – but others are travelling from all across the country. I’ve met people who regularly commute for rehearsals from Kent and Surrey to the south, from Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk to the east, from Oxford in the west, and the incredible distances from the north from Liverpool, Sheffield, Manchester and Newcastle. Many booked train tickets as soon as rehearsal dates were announced to get the best price, and most are working on the days between rehearsals. When we stay late in the Olympic Stadium some are catching overnight coaches to get home as the last train will have already left and then they go straight into work. Now that’s commitment.
I wish I could show you some of the fun we’ve had, not just on the ‘field of play’ as the centre of the Stadium where we perform is called, but while waiting between practices when we’ve got to know each other and have formed strong friendships. Some of the volunteers started a weekly theme for dressing up and we’ve had wigs, spots, bows, and my recent favourite ‘Bling your Bib’ or ‘Pimp your Poncho’. We all wear a number bib to identify us and the wet weather has made wearing huge plastic ponchos a necessity. I’d love to show you the sequins and glitter that appeared for that rehearsal! We’ve also had a flashmob sing-a-long with the words to the ‘Danny Boy’ tune reworked to include the fun we’ve had in our section of the Opening Ceremony. As we sang this to Danny Boyle he cringed as he said the tune always reminded him of his dad who’d sing to him after a few drinks down the pub.
Best seen on screen
I expect some of you may have tickets for the Opening Ceremony – and I promise I’ll wave to you – but for the rest of you I can let you in on a secret: the show will be best viewed on TV as the aerial camera will get the best shots. Also, if you’re coming to the Stadium on Friday 27 July, I hope you did get the cheaper seats as you will get a fantastic view from the top of the seating and you’ll be under cover as the ‘ringside seats’ are exposed to the elements.
I wish I could tell you more but why don’t I do that after the Opening Ceremony? See if you can spot me on the 27th and I’ll tell you afterwards what I did and more about why I am so proud to be involved with the biggest live show in the world.
You can follow Laura at @AboutLondon.