Cultural Olympiad North West: Year 3: Can we up the Anti?

In the North West we are shortly about to kick off year three of the four year cultural olympiad programme with the Manchester Edition of Abandon Normal Devices. This edition runs from 1st – 7th October and the festival will be
a hybrid experiment of cinema, performance and media art – a new capital for the chemically disordered generation – human shrink wraps, radio active carnivals, body scanners, Marxist pop artists, filmic odysseys, techno socials and urine harvesters. AND invites artists, young people and audiences to challenge and question the body and economy in the lead up to 2012. This edition of AND is presented by Cornerhouse and will launch with Shrink, performance by Lawrence Malstaff.

Shrink, Performance by Lawrence Malstaff, Photo by Dirk Pauwels

To coincide with the start of Year 3, we are launching a publication of the Cultural Olympiad in the Northwest which documents the first two years activity. A PDf of this publication will be published on this blog. This publication draws a line in the sand at the mid way point  and provided a space for reflection on what we have formed and achieved.

Here is an extract from the publication:

The starting point for the creative programme was a regional mission to make a distinctive cultural contribution to the Cultural Olympiad which would achieve greater levels of creativity, participation and innovation in the North West through a focus on three content areas which supported regional strengths. In the North West our ambitious and inspiring programme seeks to engage people in topical debate around the Body and Economy, provide new outdoor adventures in Play and Space and promote mobility and exchange through Routes and Trails.

The programme we have created is unique to the region and to London 2012 and is driven by the De Coubertin vision of the modern games as a marriage between art and sport. It attempts to arrive over the duration of the Cultural Olympiad to a greater understanding of the role and value of play as a creative, physical, social and intellectual activity of as yet unrealized social and economic potential. Play is an activity which connects art and sport and drives innovation and learning across many fields. It implies community, participation and involvement and is an inclusive activity, accessible to all. Through the mindset of play we can all progress. ‘’The truly great advances of this generation will be made by those who can make outrageous connections. And only a mind which knows how to play can do that” Nagle Jackson, Theatre director and Playwright.

Over the last two years, an extraordinary range of cultural projects have taken place outdoors, in venues and online. Many of these events have been free, creating new audiences and bringing cultural experiences to people from all walks of life. Our programme of over 370 events has engaged 8500 participants (artists, volunteers and workshop participants) and reached over 1 million audiences. Its development has involved more than 50 new commissions and 272 partnerships. Featured in the programme are projects from big to small, from major public events to community participation projects and spanning the arts, culture, media and film, sport, heritage, environment, community, museums, libraries and archives. At its centre and hub are the annual programmes of Abandon Normal Devices, Blaze and Lakes Alive which form part of the regional programme WE PLAY. These commissioned programmes bring a regional distinctiveness to our Cultural Olympiad activity, centred on digital culture, street arts and culture and sport.

Interplay between the North West and the Cultural Olympiad over the last two years has generated a regional programme whose defining characteristic is the unique connection that it makes between different communities and contexts. The scope of our programme is local, regional, national and international.

The programme involves both local and international artists from the North West, UK and around the world. It features mainstream, independent, popular and experimental forms of arts and cultural production, placing new, emerging, established and world class artists side by side. It gives a voice and platform to artists from culturally diverse backgrounds, to young people as commissioners and cultural producers, to the public as active participants and art makers and to non cultural organisations as venues and hosts of cultural activity. Both development and presentation experiences are included with skills development and exchange, debate, workshop and residency projects featuring alongside public exhibitions, spectacles, festivals and community events.

Significantly, the North West is being utilized as a major public playground for the Games by project producers. Our cultural activity has been taking place on high streets and in neighbourhoods, city centres and towns, in harbours, lakes and on rivers, in forests and woodlands and places including sports centres, visitor centres, museums, libraries and galleries, theatres and arts venues, train stations, world heritage sites, national parks, local shopping centres, cinemas, public screens and online.

The Cultural Olympiad programme in the North West has been formed through the process of self organization and random behaviour in networks. The 500 + participants listed in the Partners and Artists section of our publication (and this list is not exhaustive) come from the creative and cultural sector, sport, education, community, health, environment, economic development, regeneration, tourism and business. The variety of organisations and individuals taking part tangibly reveals the cross sector scope of our region’s local interaction with a global event.

The two years programme features 24 regional projects awarded the London 2012 Inspire mark for culture, making them part of the Cultural Olympiad; 5 Major Projects commissioned and underway for Cultural Olympiad national initiatives in the North West and other regional activities developed for the London 2012 Live Sites programme and Countdown celebrations. What unites them all is the inspiration of London 2012.London 2012 is a call to action and a catalyst for social change. For the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to be realized as a mechanism for social change, it needs communities to come forward and generate cultural projects inspired by the Games.

The first two years of our programme has laid the foundations for making the most out of London 2012. It aspires to the very highest standards and involves a diverse range of excellent partners, cultural organisations and artists. It features projects and events specifically created for the Cultural Olympiad. By documenting the scope of our programme to date, I hope to encourage others in the North West to be part of the Cultural Olympiad. There is an open invitation to join in across the region in the build up to London 2012.

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~ by Debbi Lander on September 12, 2010.

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