We look back with the former Olympic head of ceremonies, now chief executive at Hull City of Culture 2017, on what turned out to be a momentous occasion.
What is your abiding memory from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony?
Curiously it is from the next morning rather than the event itself. As you can expect we had our heads down and were wholly focused on producing the best event we could – we didn't have much sense of what was going on in the outside world at the time. As part of my role as head of ceremonies I also had to oversee the medal ceremonies. The morning after I had to be in Hyde Park. A complete stranger came up to me and thanked me for making the country very proud. It is a sentiment I still hear now four years later and one that still means a great deal to me and the team that worked on it.
What was your favourite part of the show?
It was a piece some people might not have actually been aware of in which J.K. Rowling made a surprise appearance in a segment dedicated to children’s literature and read an excerpt from Peter Pan. It was a really beautiful moment which started with Mary Poppins floating down from the ceiling. As you know JK Rowling doesn't do many public events, so it felt very special.
How are your experiences from the Games influencing your work on Hull City of Culture 2017?
Organisationally as an industry we are getting better and better at producing world-class events. We are learning every time and getting creatively better with each event that passes. For Hull 2017 we've recruited a lot of talent from the local area, but have also hand-picked people that worked on major events like the Olympic ceremonies and the 2014 Tour de France Grand Départ who can share their experiences with others. Hull 2017 however is a very unique project – it is 365 days of events and has a personality of its own.
What can we expect from the Rio 2016 Opening Ceremony?
I have absolutely no doubt it will be a great success. Rio is steeped in culture, carnival, and celebratory spirit so you can be sure it will start with a bang. There is always a lot said about ups and downs in the build up to the Games, but my memory from London is that the moment it starts everyone forgets about all that.
What is next on the agenda for Hull 2017?
We've already hosted some great events including the immersive 'Place des Anges' show that attracted more that 10,000 people, and Spencer Tunick's Sea of Hull photoshoot earlier this month featuring 3,500 naked people, which have shown a real statement of intent. The full programme will be released on 22 September. Members of the public can expect 365 days of compelling cultural events.
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