Let's have a cultural Olympics

The director Jude Kelly will run an arts festival alongside the Olympic Games if London's bid wins through. Plays and proms will make the capital buzz, she says

Thinking about Britain in the context of a bid for the Olympic Games, I have been inspired by John Donne's meditation: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..." Those of us who have embarked upon this marvellous adventure - I will chair the bid's Arts, Culture and Education Advisory Committee - have done so in the belief that Britain can gain something precious by sharing in the uniquely egalitarian idealism of the Olympic movement.

Thinking about Britain in the context of a bid for the Olympic Games, I have been inspired by John Donne's meditation: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main..." Those of us who have embarked upon this marvellous adventure - I will chair the bid's Arts, Culture and Education Advisory Committee - have done so in the belief that Britain can gain something precious by sharing in the uniquely egalitarian idealism of the Olympic movement.

When I was growing up, I was struck by the fact that some people seemed to have many more opportunities than others, depending on resources, advantages and the luck of the draw. As an artistic director, much of my work has tried to create contexts challenging the idea that only certain people should enjoy opportunity.

I was drawn to the Olympics by the idea that the Greeks used them as a mechanism for talking about the ideals of art and sport. My interest deepened when I investigated the ideas of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic movement. His definition of Olympism embraced principles that went far beyond those of a simple sports competition: he was searching for an ideal of a higher life. The Games would represent a platform of high achievement for people of egalitarian origins. There would be a four-yearly festival that would bring every nation together in optimism and the celebration of human endeavour. The idea that every nation has an equal right to compete makes the Games a powerful political symbol.

No one could have guessed that Kelly Holmes would be a double gold-medallist at the last Olympics. Combined stamina, drive and imagination permits both individual achievement and the collaborative spectacle of the modern Games. The Olympian model encourages us to strive to be better citizens of the world in which we live, and to create a legacy for the future.

I knew from the age of 12 that I wanted to be a director, to join the community of the theatre. The sense of belonging, the shared ideals, the working together for a greater understanding of the worldguided me to my work. I now know that these ideas are mirrored in sport.

I took up windsurfing in my thirties. I wanted to experience the exhilaration of an intense physical sport, competing against the elements and myself. Many people thought it was strange that someone so involved in art could also be involved in sport. There is a kind of tribalism in our society, in which people are expected to be one thing or the other. We often ask young people to make this kind of choice; to be "arty" or "sporty". Far from regarding the world of sport as the enemy to art, we should be encouraging affinity between sporting and creative opportunities. The Great Exhibition of 1851 led to the establishment of the Natural History, Science and Victoria and Albert Museums, Imperial College, Kensington Gardens and the Royal Albert Hall. The 1951 Festival of Britain produced the Royal Festival Hall, which kick-started a creative quarter on the South Bank.

With our great architects and planners, we have the chance to transform London in the 21st century: creating a brand new city in the undervalued east, redefining the historic museums quarter of South Kensington in the west, shifting international transport links to the north and unleashing the power of the unrivalled cultural strip on the South Bank.

London is well-positioned to explore how the Olympic principles of sport, culture, education and environment speak to the concerns of the present day. The city's cultural leaders share my belief in the importance of education, which has led us to the idea of an Olympic Institute; a centre of learning that crosses the boundaries of sports, science and arts. Our vision is that the institute, sitting in the Olympic Park, will have a mission to demonstrate De Coubertin's vision of Olympism. It will develop partnerships and research programmes and stage events that show the impact of sport, culture and education on health, citizenship, the environment and regeneration.

Britain's relationship with the sea and its history of maritime activity have contributed to a wonderfully diverse culture. As a child in Liverpool, I learned early on what it was like to grow up in a port. I remember taking ballet classes in the West Indian Centre in the middle of Liverpool's Chinatown. Vivid images of people from all corners of the world using the port have remained with me throughout my life. London is the most multiracial city in the world.

For the Olympic bid, we intend to sail a full-size ocean-going clipper - the Olympic FriendShip - around the world, crewed by young sailors and accompanied by students and professional artists, scientists and ecologists. We will launch it in Beijing in 2008, taking the theme of those Games, "Sail Onwards in Hope". The FriendShip will gather cultural bounty on this journey and sail home laden with the wealth of the world's ideas and partnerships. Its docking in London will signal the renaissance of the East End and the beginning of the Olympics.

Working with our partners, including the BBC, we will also launch a four-year Virtual FriendShip to run parallel to the sea voyage. This web journey will be powered by the Global Gateway, a web portal linking every school, which explores internationalism and contemporary cultures.

The voyage starts now. This summer, London will hold a Friendship Week in honour of the Olympic Games. The Olympic Park will bring to east London a new understanding of our cultural heritage through the Five Ring Project - a contemporary gallery and arts space at the hub of the Olympic neighbourhood. The five boroughs of east London have joined together in a historic partnership to explore opportunities for creativity. They have already proposed plans for a festival fringe, to draw on local talent, and for new ways of supporting creative industries.

The Royal Shakespeare Company and The Globe theatre will co-host Shakespeare productions from across the world. The BBC will commission composers to work on an Olympic proms; the Royal Opera House will commission an Olympic opera; and I have found enthusiasm around the country for celebrations in parks and squares on giant screens and stages.

The chance to take part in what is perhaps the greatest cultural undertaking of a lifetime - the race to win the Olympic and the Paralympic Games for Britain - really matters to me. I passionately believe we should put all our efforts into the bidding race and I believe we can win.

www.london2012.org

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Extras
indybest
News
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
people
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Digital Project Manager/BA

£300 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: An experienced Digital/Ecommerc...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

SEN Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply special educational ne...

Regional ESF Contract Manager

£32500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Birmingham: European Social Fund...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home