Cultural Olympiad

August 10, 2012

Entertainment, Scotland

So, the Olympic Games are almost over again for another year. Have you been enjoying watching them? There have definitely been some exciting, history making moments, like Andy Murray (finally!) winning the gold in tennis and Usain Bolt returning to top form with his staggering win in the 100m finals.

But have you heard of the Cultural Olympiad. Its precursor was first introduced in 1906 in the principle of ‘Olympic Art Competitions’, with the first official programme taking place at the 1912 Summer Olympics where artists could compete across the categories of architecture, music, literature, sculpture and painting. Today, these competitions have been replaced with the Cultural Olympiad to showcase cultural and artistic practice. The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is “the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements”. It’s a four year programme of cultural activity launched in 2008, which includes both local and national projects. One of the national projects is ‘Stories of the World’, which enables young people to work together with curators, film makers, artists, writers and musicians to create exhibitions that explore and reinterpret the UK’s museum collections. More than 50 museums across the UK are working together on 7 Stories of the World projects, making it collectively the biggest ever museum project.

The National Museum of Scotland (my favourite, as you all know) is also taking part in Stories of the World with their ‘Sounds Global’ project, which explores how music has the power to change lives. It was launched during the UK Open Weekend in July 2012 and marked the begin of the two year countdown to the London 2012 Olympic Games. I was still working there at the time, and had the pleasure of being photographer for one of the launch event performances – a hip hop DJ set with live Punjabi percussion by Tigerstyle, one of the biggest names in Bhangra.

Sounds Global is showing at the National Museum of Scotland until 30 September 2012, and features people who see music as part of their identity. In the exhibition, you can “listen to their stories and music, read about their influences and watch interviews and filmed performances”. If you can’t make it to Edinburgh before the end of September, you can still be part of Sounds Global by sharing with the museum what music means to you, e.g. via Twitter or the museum’s Facebook wall. You can also watch a trailer for the film on show in the exhibition, or find out more about the featured artists on the museum’s website.

Video: ‘Sounds Global’ by National Museums Scotland on Vimeo

The Cultural Olympiad’s grand finale is the London 2012 Festival, which started on 21 June and runs until 9 September, and encompasses “the best of arts and culture across dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation”.


(1) Wikiepdia
(2) London 2012 Festival
(3) dcms
(4) National Museums Scotland


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