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Tuesday 28 June  — Friday 1 July 2011

At the Unicorn Theatre, London Bridge

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Welcome More information about the Biglop programme and its partner organisations can be found at

For the last year I have been blogging at about the Olympics and A New Direction’s Biggest Learning Opportunity on Earth programme (Biglop). The program has bought artists and cultural organisations together with schools across London to explore London’s Olympics. This essay brings together the thoughts and ideas on that blog and gives context to the pictures on the walls here in the School of Research.

Printed & designed at Modern Activity, London 2011. Printed on recycled material using a Duplo printer. Edition: 250 copies Supported by:

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Conveying the value of creativity in learning is incredibly difficult — I have made reference to many of the projects in the Biglop programme here, but to do any of them justice would require essays of their own. If you’re not convinced of the value of artistic and cultural processes in schools ask yourself why, of all the talks on, it is Ken Robinson’s talk on creativity in schools that remains the most popular.

Charlie Tims June 2011


The time has come to build an educational structure with architecture more suited to the needs of the day. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the Modern Olympics. 1925


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The Olympics are a chance to do what would otherwise not be possible. They unleash the ambitions of athletes, architects and city mayors. To go faster. To build higher. To dream bigger. To see a perfect moment, reflected in the eyes of the world [2]. To witness people go past the limits of their bodies, their nations and their minds; reaching, thinking, feeling beyond themselves.

And it’s also why some people believe that the Olympics can stand for the greatest ideals of all [6]. Lord Bates, a former Conservative MP, has quit parliament and put the contents of his flat on ebay to fund a walk from Mount Olympus to the House of Commons, to raise awareness about the Olympic Truce and encourage its observance during the 2012 Olympics [7].

That’s why people remember the Olympics. And it’s what makes them special [3]. Sarah in Los Angeles remembers her Dad renting four TVs so her family could watch four different events at the same time. Taey remembers the first time she set eyes on black people at the stadium in Seoul in 1988 [4]. Alexi remembers how his Dad snuck into the Olympic pool with the Russian swimming team when the Games were staged in Helsinki in 1952.

But dreams, magical memories and glorious ideals do not always easily fit into the staging the Olympics in your city. With hope, comes blame [8/9]. With winners, losers. And as the deadline draws closer, dreams clash.

It’s also why the idea of the Olympics endures beyond the Games as we know them. 2012 will witness the 30th staging of the modern Olympics in London, the 126th Wenlock Olympics in Shropshire, and the 400th Cotswold Olympicks in Chipping Campden with its tug-o-war, gurning and shin-kicking contest [5].

Allotment holders and housing residents fight for the right to stay in The Olympic Park, but are reluctantly moved on [10]. Barge owners claim that they are being cleansed from the waterways. Artists take up their causes. Activists form. They ask, how can this be everyone’s Olympics if the word Olympics belongs to the sponsors [11]? Skyscrapers rise, hoping that they too can trap the world’s eyes on their glass in 2012 [12]. Taxi-drivers bristle. the Games aren’t green enough! The torch isn’t carbon neutral enough! The tickets aren’t cheap enough and the marathon route isn’t fair!

Fans of Tottenham, West Ham, Leyton Orient, Harlow Town and Crystal Palace scour fan forums and wonder if the Olympic stadium will change where they go to watch their teams play football [13]. What began as a dream starts to feel like a fight [14]. AJ Rivers Nakasila, a boy from East London, contemptuously casts his verdict in the trailer for his forthcoming film about the Olympics effect on East London and declares ‘this is business’ [15]. 28.06— 01.07.2011

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And his words matter, because these were the Games that were won on a promise to young people. The video widely credited with securing crucial votes for London 2012 at the bid submission in Singapore in 2005 showed a vision of young people transformed by the Olympics. This theme has remained central to the communication of London’s youthful brand identity [16]. His words also matter because the Modern Olympics were originally intended to be a youth project. Baron de Coubertin a young Frenchman, revived them just shy of his 30th birthday at the end of the 19th century with a mission to transform young people through sport, education and culture. He saw ‘Olympism’ as a philosophy that could prepare young people for the

DREAMS OF SOMETHING BETTER education cannot be ‘delivered’ by a corporate entity or an organising committee. It comes from people and organisations who have relationships with young people and can find ways to work with them.

Turning the Olympics into something that can make a difference to young people requires people like this who can make them personal, meaningful and relevant. Olympic

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Of course, it’s unrealistic to expect the Olympics to magically transform the life chances of all young people across London. But, in different ways, somewhere beneath the angry headlines, there are people and projects trying to find little ways to connect young people to the opportunities the Games bring. Stories like those of Somewhereto, a project funded by the Legacy Trust UK, which aims to match young people with unused buildings and places across the country. `And stories of people like Gabin at Rising Tide (the music project in Hackney where the music producer, Labrinth, started out) who tirelessly looks for ways he can help his groups of young promoters, musicians and film-makers to use the Olympics to find new audiences and support for their work.

Their stories probably won’t appear in the official Olympic Report or the various expert critiques of London’s Olympics — which is a shame as they are a big part of how the Olympics happens in a city and would be useful to future Games’ hosts. In 2005, shortly after London had been awarded The Olympic and Paralymic Games, we did some research looking at young people, learning and the Olympics in London. We visited schools in the five host boroughs. It was interesting. Most young people could remember where they were when they heard London had won the Olympics, but they didn’t see the Games as anything other than some sport to watch on telly. We saw an opportunity to fill a gap between the excitement generated by the Olympics and their limited expectations of what it could mean to them. The result of this research was a report called ‘The Biggest Learning Opportunity on Earth’ which called for London’s Olympics to be creatively used to capture the imaginations of young people. It later became the learning

[3] The Olympic Phone Book

[7] The Olympic Truce

BT are an official sponsor of London’s Olympics, but if you look inside the phone book, you’ll find plenty of other businesses who make a connection to the Olympic dream in their name.

The Olympic Truce is a truce which has been backed by the UN General Assembly every year since 1993 and requires member states to pursue initiatives for peace and reconciliation in the run up to the Games. Signatories have tended to view the Truce as a symbolic statement rather than a commitment to work for peace.

Image Captions — Dreams of Something Better

strictures life in the 20th Century. They are important words because they remind us that the Olympics are supposed to make young people feel more powerful. That the Olympics should help young people explore their own capabilites, their city and the world they live in. To imagine a different future for themselves. [17]

[5] Cotswold Olimpicks

[8] Everyone’s Olympics

The Cotswold Olimpicks take place each year on the first Friday after the Spring bank holiday on Dovers Hill above Chipping Campden.

London’s Olympic brand articulates the aspiration that the 2012 Games will belong to everyone — an ambitious commitment that has proved hard to fulfill.



[6] Convergence Strategy

[10] Manor Gardens

Young people are central to the communication of the Olympic story and have been present at most of the major key moments in London’s Olympics. At the time this photo was taken the London 2012 website read ‘Seb Coe has made it clear that the London 2012 Games is all about the young people of the world. He’s keen that through the curiosity, energy and creativity of today’s youth, our country can reach out to other nations in the spirit of friendship and sharing.’

The five Olympic ‘host Boroughs’ are Greenwich, Waltham Forest, Hackney, Newham and Tower Hamlets. They have a shared strategy, which aims to bring residents of their boroughs into line with the rest of London on a whole range of different socio-economic measures by 2020.

Despite fighting a spirited campaign to stay, the plot holders of Manor Gardens were relocated away from the Olympic site in 2007. Many were too old to start again on new plots. The story is well told in the BBC 2 programme ‘The Last Stand at Stratford’. The Olympic Park Legacy Company is committed to relocating the re-located plot-holders back to Queen Elizabeth Park in 2014.

[19] Trafalgar Square 06/07/05

[20] Field Guides

[9] Facts

[12] The Shard

London won The Olympics and endured the tube bombings on sequential days. The mixture of feelings produced by both events has become part of the city’s shared memory.

Inspired by Miranda July’s ‘Learning to love you more’ project, we have been collecting ‘Field Guides’ to London streets on the Biglop blog. These are bottle tops found on a street near Manor House.

Some information painted on the fence of the construction site at the new Westfield Centre in Stratford.

The Shard at 310m is the tallest building in the European Union and will house apartments, a hotel and office space. It will be completed in time for London 2012. It is visible from most parts of the city.

Image Captions — The Changing City

[16] Launch of the 2012 Logo

The position of the diving board at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona made it possible for photographers to visually fuse the Games with the host city in ways that will probably never be equalled. Bob Martin, the man who took this photograph, is the director of photography for London’s Olympics.

Image Captions — Stories of London

[2] Barcelona Diver


[14] Blood in the pool

[25] Message in a Playground

The Olympics is supposed to inspire young people, so on the Biglop blog we tried to find people who had experienced the Olympics as children in their home city. Many had interesting almost magical memories. This is Taey on her eighth birthday shortly before a visit to the Seoul Olympics in 1988.

An injury sustained by the Hungarian water polo player, Ervin Zador, at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne during the semifinal with the Soviet Union. The match, one of the most politicised in Olympic history, occurred against the back drop of the Soviet Union’s suppression of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, in which 5,000 Hungarians were killed. Zador regrets being known as a ‘the guy who got smashed’ — rather than one of the greatest water-polo players of his generation.

A photograph of a wheel made from plastic bags in Emergency Exit Arts’ messages to the world project. The students were using London 2012 as a pretext for communicating concerns about the climate change and the earth’s dwindling resources.

[11] Proud to accept only Visa

[22] Peace, Love, Unity

[24] Digging Clay

[32] Where Londoners were born

Organising committees say corporate sponsors are vital to minimising the cost of the Games to the taxpayer. Critics argue that sponsors have too much control over the running of the Games.

Olympic iconography symbolises ideals of peace and harmony between the nations of the world.

The Clayground Collective digging clay in a school as a part of the Biglop programme. Clay deposits, in a range of different colours and hues, can be found in most countries.

This information was compiled from the 2001 census for the Greater London Authority.

Image Captions — Connections To The World

[4] Taey’s Birthday

Baron de Coubertin founded the International Olympic Committee in 1894. Many of his educational ideas were inspired by British schools. The quote at the start of the essay is taken from his speech to the Olympic Congress in prague in 1925.

Image Captions — Connections To The World

[1] Baron Pierre de Coubertin



[21] Atom is shown the stadium

[26] The Olympic Cafe

Cult London author and Hackney resident, Iain Sinclair, has been one of the Olympics’ most vocal critics. This quote is taken from his essay ‘The Olympic Scam’ published by the London Review of Books in 2008.

Atom is a puppet from Kinetika’s ‘Imagination Our Nation’ project which has been part of the Biglop programme. In the project, young people adopt puppets and introduce them to people, homes and places in their communities. In this photo Atom is shown the Olympic stadium from the top of Parliament Hill in North London.

The Olympics come to London in 2012, but in many ways they are already part of the city’s story. the Games were staged here in 1908 and 1948 — London is the first city to stage the Games three times. A search on Google Maps returns 10 cafes across London that take the name ‘Olympic Cafe’.

[15] AJ Rivers Nakasila

[23] Olympic Square

[29] The Opening Ceremony audience

[31] Where Irish people live in London

AJ Rivers Nakasila is a young film-maker from East London, who is making a film about the effect of The Olympics on east London. The trailer is available at vimeo. com/12400916.

A new square in Wembley opened in 2007. MP for Brent South said of it ‘The newly built piazza sustains that feeling of awe as you walk down the expansive steps and into the square, meeting friends, family and visitors to Wembley.’

This estimate was made by Nielsen who compile data on media consumption. To put this in perspective, the 2010 World Cup Final was estimated to have an audience of around 700 million people.

These figures are from the 2001 Census. They show where people identifying themselves as Irish live in London (which appears to be on the side of London closest to Ireland).

Image Captions — Stories of London

[18] The Olympic Scam

Barry Hearn, the owner and Chairman of Leyton Orient FC, argues that his club’s fanbase will be destroyed when West Ham move to the Olympic stadium. He has also expressed interest in moving the club to the Olympic hockey stadium. Rumours have circulated amongst fans that West Ham’s relocation could lead Hearn to relocate their club to Harlow in Essex.

Image Captions — The Changing City

[13] Leyton Orient Football Ground

DREAMS OF SOMETHING BETTER be incorporated into the design of public spaces and buildings. In the Biglop programme Fundamental Architectural Inclusion visited the Olympic park with students, and used it as stimulus to redesigning different parts of their schools; Rolling Sound used the The Olympic Park’s Acellor Mittal tower to help students design monuments in their own communities.

[28] Oscar Pistorius

A large tap made as part of Emergency Exit Art’s ‘Messages to the World’ project in the Biglop programme. The students were using London 2012 as a pretext for communicating concerns about the climate change and the earth’s dwindling resources.

Image Captions — Dreams of Something Better

[17] The Tap

Paralympic champion sprinter Oscar Pistorius could compete against ablebodied athletes in London in 2012. Pistorius won the right to compete with his high-tech prosthetic limbs after scientists concluded they didn’t give him an advantage.

[27] I Am Determination

[30] Londoners support The Olympics

Lyrics taken from a chant written by children at Wembley Primary with artists from LIFT working in the Biglop programme. The chant was composed to introduce a series of puppets based on the Olympic values.

Londoners were originally told The Olympics would cost £2.34bn. The final bill is likely to top £7bn. Opinion polls suggest Londoners remain broadly positive about the Games.

This programme has placed 14 artistic and cultural organisations in nearly 150 schools across the whole of London to explore the Olympics in different ways. These projects have brought the imaginary worlds of the Olympics into focus. They are the same worlds that artists, journalists and academics use when they explore the Olympics. And it is these worlds that we are exploring at The School of Research this week as we research a Field Guide to London with 240 children. If you want to explore the Olympics with young people you might have to go into these worlds too. 1. The Changing City The Olympics is urban change in fast-forward, a caricature of civic development neatly encapsulated by the Olympic Delivery Authority’s slogan ‘demolish dig design’. Dismantled warehouses, buried allotments, demolished flats and excavated edge-lands give way to new buildings, parks, railways, roads, sculptures and offices [18]. The Olympics raises questions about how we cope with the loss of places and buildings in cities. It also asks us to think about how we design new places and how different interests and concerns can democratically

28.06— 01.07.2011

programme of the same name, run by A New Direction which is now more colloquially known as Biglop.

2. Stories of London The Olympics is a chance to tell and sell London’s story. The cultural festival and the opening ceremony are the greatest story-telling exercises in the capital’s history. This is an epic learning process. Who are Londoners? What is London? What do we share in common? The Olympics raises so many questions about the city and its personal and collective stories [19]. On the Biglop blog we have been collecting Field Guides to streets — collections of found objects on London streets that tell a story [20]. In the Biglop programme The Discover Centre collected stories from children and their parents and shared them amongst one another. Nimble Fish made a film with primary school children that philosophically explored London’s culture and its connection to the Olympics. Kinetika tasked young people with caring for puppets and introducing them to London’s diverse stories and communities [21]. Punchdrunk

4. Dreams of Something Better The Olympics aims to inspire better athletes, better cities, and a better world [26]. It embodies a sophisticated understanding of perfection and beauty, which goes beyond pure physicality [27]. Stories of human courage and triumph over adversity are as celebrated in Olympic memory as winners. The

Olympics has also become a way for the oppressed and marginalised to draw attention to their plight. In today’s games Paralympians are just as iconic as Olympians [28]. In the Biglop programme Cineclub made films with children about their school heroes. Graeae Theatre explored themes of belonging and understanding through the story of The Iron Man. Eastside Educational Trust explored the aspirations in the Olympic values in a range of different projects. And the Lift Theatre Festival used their archive as an inspiration to create a series of stories, songs and performances about Olympic hopes and dreams. *** On the evening of Friday 27th July 2012 these dream worlds will play out in the theatre of The Opening Ceremony. So many of the hopes for London’s Olympics will rest on this moment, witnessed by the largest ever global television audience [29]. It will create impressions in writers, fishermen, children, farmers, postmen, businessmen, future Prime Ministers and Presidents the world over. One of the reasons why it is hard to quantify the financial impact of staging an Olympics is because it is impossible to put a value on moments like this. It is impossible because it is a moment that belongs to the realm of messages,

This is why de Coubertin’s original vision of the Olympics bringing together Sport, Education and Culture, is as relevant today at it was at the end of the 19th century. When combined with a bit of imagination and effort the Olympics can help young people see themselves and the city in which they live with new eyes. Hopefully you can take some of that imagination from the Biglop programme and here, from the School of Research too.

experiences, stories, ideas and feelings that make up the cultural world. Maybe this explains why Londoners have remained supportive of the Olympics, despite the increasing costs [30]. Just as London tries to position itself in a world made of culture, so too do thousands of young Londoners everyday. They live in a city shaped by hundreds of languages, customs and traditions where 2,000,000 people were born in a different country [31/32]. Their lives are now saturated with technologies that vastly expand the variety of ways they can communicate and express themselves. Just as London needs to position itself within a global culture, so too do these young people in the culture of London. Understanding culture can help them learn about who they are and where they stand, authoring it gives them the power to change who they are and where they might stand. In a ‘city of culture’, in ‘the world in a city’ this is how young people will form relationships, find security and make a living.

28.06— 01.07.2011

3. Connections to the World The coming together of all the world’s nations to share in a single event is unique to the Olympics [22/23]. This raises questions about what it means to be a citizen of the world and to think about the many different things that connect us to other people in the world and the countries of competing athletes [24]. On the Biglop blog we are trying to gather a library of objects from Olympic competing nations. In the Biglop programme, Emergency Exit Arts explored the world’s fragile ecosystems and designed huge signs to send messages of environmental awareness to the world [25]. The Clayground Collective dug clay with schools and explored the Games through clay.

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searched for the spirit of London’s Olympics in the history of several schools. MakeBelieve Arts used themes of the past, the present and the future to explore the Olympics through stories.


I learned that my teaching approach is a good one, so I feel more confident in my teaching methods. I have high expectations of myself and my students and these have been reinforced. I would like it to be a permanent feature for the school.

I’ve been at this school for four years and I’ve never seen anything like it before. This is a great way to create awareness within our school & community. We want to make a change. We are going to make a change. I thought I wasn’t creative. I now think I am creative. We worked well as a team and learned much about the planning, design and building process. We are going to help design the new school gates which we hope will be seen for a long time to come.

We realized that performances don’t only happen on stage.

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Students took great pride in the idea that their objects will be traveling the world and were excited to know how they will be perceived in South Africa.

Our students lack a male role model, so them finding this in your practitioners was very positive and left an impact.

It has basically given me a good idea of what I want to do in work. It has given me the confidence to develop my ideas. We learned about panorama and perspective. We learned things from a different point of view. I just wanted to say on behalf of the school, what a fantastic project this has been. The children and staff have gained so much from it in so many ways.  It’s been absolutely fabulous!  This cross-curricular approach helped to develop a truly holistic working field around the olympic idea of diversity and cultural pluralism. That was the best lesson I ever had.

You have improved our Monday morning attendance. We always used to have a couple off on Mondays but now the attendance is 100 percent!

My favourite thing about culture detectives is that we get to meet other people that we don’t know and we get to know what their culture is and if we ever meet them again we’ll be able to know and tell them that we know who they are and what culture they have.

The children learnt more about each other and the value of family roots. As a result of both of these things I think they learnt to appreciate the qualities in each other that are not always obvious at first.

It was inspiring watching the children celebrate their own and others’ strengths. It is nice to see your own teacher try something new. It makes me feel good, as we all learn together. Pupils are now more explorative, they want to find out more. The project has developed their enquiry skills and they are asking a lot more questions than they did before. Their talk and conversation has improved and they are asking more questions starting with ‘why’ and ‘how’ which lead to richer responses. The children and staff absolutely loved the experience they had yesterday. I loved David’s comment ‘I want to work here when I’m older.’ It taught me to take time to stop telling our pupils about respect and listen to their ideas instead.

Biglop Programme Feedback

The whole project has been a much deeper learning opportunity for the staff and the children than I had ever imagined.

We don’t normally do stuff like this in humanities. I’d never thought what Global Spirit meant before.

The children and staff have gained so much from it in so many ways. It’s been absolutely fabulous. It taught me not to assume anything about students we work with. The joy and sense of achievement that the pupils gained from the project is evident in the photographs, and so once again a big thank you. We all have to make people more aware about what is happening to our world. As Champions, we have to spread the word and encourage people to make a change. We intend to share ideas to create one big idea. It is easy. If everyone does one small thing, we can make a difference. We hope our ideas can pull together to make a sign, that will affect people globally.

when I’m older.

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I want to work here

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