November 4, 2011 / 3:49 PM / 7 years ago

Olympic ring: Bells to launch UK 2012 arts festival

LONDON (Reuters) - Bells will ring out across Britain on the morning of July 27 to mark the opening of the 2012 Olympics in London, part of a 12-week program of cultural events celebrating the arts alongside sport.

Martin Creed, winner of the Turner Prize whose featured work that year comprised lights going on and off in an empty room, will create “Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes.”

The work aims to involve thousands of members of the public ringing whatever bells they have at hand on the day the summer Olympics begin — from the largest church bells to those on bicycles and in school playgrounds.

“It’s by people and for people,” said Creed. “On the morning of the opening of the Games it’s a massive signal that something is happening.”

The concept was announced on Friday at the launch of the London 2012 Festival, a 12-week program of concerts, exhibitions, films and live events across the United Kingdom to coincide with the Olympics.

The festival is the culmination of the longer four-year Cultural Olympiad, and both are designed to showcase Britain’s artistic heritage and boost tourism beyond 2012.

Leading lights of the art world will be involved, including singer Damon Albarn, playwright Alan Ayckbourn, Australian actress Cate Blanchett, American Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison and artist Damien Hirst.

“Hosting the Olympics next year is an enormous opportunity for us to show the world just what a creative nation we have,” said Tony Hall, chair of the Cultural Olympiad board.

“In 2009 ... the economic times were quite rough, and looking around this morning ... they are rougher now,” he told reporters in London’s West End theatreland.

“But actually in a time of world economic crisis, I think we need art and culture even more than when the times are good.”

The festival will run from June 21 to September 9, the last day of the Paralympic Games. The Olympic Games run from July 27-August 12 and the Paralympic Games open on August 29.

Hall described the program of hundreds of events, which will be expanded in the run-up to the Olympics, as an “extravaganza.”

Among the opening events on June 21 will be a pop concert in Northern Ireland and a performance in Scotland at which Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel will be joined by the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra and young people from the Raploch housing estate, one of the country’s most deprived areas.

Famous landmarks including Stonehenge and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh will become giant art installations for the festival, which the BBC reported would cost around 52 million pounds ($83 million).

Other public projects will include Big Dance, designed to encourage five million people across the country to take part in everything from ballet to street dance and hip-hop to ballroom.

Hall said there were 10 million chances for people to see festival events for free.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato

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