Best of British: The Cultural Olympiad in Hampshire
Experience British culture as the entire country places its iconic works of art and history on display from street to Cathedral.
Don’t expect to sleep late on July 27 if you are visiting anywhere in Britain. At precisely 8:12 am on that Friday morning, the bells will start to ring. Church bells, school bells, town hall bells, handbells, and, if all goes to plan, even bicycle bells and doorbells will herald the first day of the Summer Games. It’s actually a work of art by Turner Prize–winning artist Martin Creed, entitled Work No. 1197: All the bells in a country rung as quickly and as loudly as possible for three minutes, that is part of this summer’s Cultural Olympiad in the U.K.
The event, or series of events, ranges from specially commissioned, large-scale musical and theatrical productions to small local exhibitions, themed walks and performances, funded by a variety of local and national arts organizations. The Cultural Olympiad has been planned as an opportunity for communities all over Britain to put their best foot forward and to share their own stories with visitors arriving from all over the world.
On the Hampshire coast in Southampton, the SeaCity Museum will bring together the city’s historic collections to tell the Titanic story. The ill-fated White Star Line ship set sail from Southampton in 1912, only to sink to the bottom of the North Atlantic. Part of the 100-year commemoration of the disaster, “Titanic the Legend” is an original exhibition exploring the enduring impact of the story and its effect on ship design, safety and technology. It includes a 1:25 scale interactive model, a “Disaster Room,” and a 1930s courtroom depicting the London inquiry after the disaster.
In the Outer Close of Winchester Cathedral, visitors can share the Olympic and Paralympic games with Hampshire locals on a giant screen. Refreshments will be available on site, and “taster” sessions of the different Olympic sports and activities will be offered from 10 am every day.
In the run-up to the games, Winchester, King Alfred’s ancient capital, will also be holding the Best of British 2012 festival with a Jubilee Exhibition in Guildhall Winchester, a performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V in Winchester Cathedral Inner Close and open-air performances of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest in Avington Park.
More than 70 local events, from tastings and cookery demonstrations to special menus in restaurants, pubs and cafés around the county, will be part of the month-long Hampshire Food Festival throughout July.
And between 1 and 5 pm on September 9, The Bandstand Marathon—Communities in Tune will see more than 500 communities nationwide simultaneously present four hours of live music and entertainment for the whole family. It’s billed as the biggest closing event of the games, and in Hampshire county, you can join in at Winchester’s Abbey Gardens, Falkland Gardens in Gosport, Oaklands Park in Chichester, on the Plaza at Hayling Island and on the Precinct in Waterlooville.