November 4, 2011 6:30 pm

Nationwide peal of bells to greet world’s athletes

A peal of bells will ring out across the UK to herald the start of the Olympics next summer as part of the London 2012 Festival that will see hundreds of cultural events take place across the country and feature some of Britain’s leading artists.

The countrywide festival, the grand finale of the so-called Cultural Olympiad, will encompass everything from music, film and theatre to fashion, dance and literature, and will run concurrently with the games.

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Tony Hall, chairman of the Cultural Olympiad, said the festival would be “as significant and as memorable as the 1951 Festival of Britain”, and serve as a boost to the nation.

“In the current climate, we need something to celebrate, and let’s celebrate what we’re really good at,” he said. “In a time of world economic crisis we need art and culture even more than when times are good.”

Martin Creed, a Turner Prize winner, is organising a countrywide bell-ringing at 8am on July 27 where people will be encouraged to ring any bell they can find – including their door bells – to welcome nations competing in the games.

As the centre of the festival, London will show Britain’s most famous artists, including David Hockney and Damien Hirst.

British actor Mark Rylance has organised Shakespeare recitals for the London Underground and British fashion designers including Sarah Burton and Stella McCartney are collaborating on a fashion project.

The opening weekend will see ambitious concerts across the UK, including a peace pop concert for 20,000 people in Northern Ireland on the site of a former army barracks that is being turned into an arts centre.

The Simon Bolivar orchestra will present an open-air concert against the backdrop of Scotland’s Stirling castle and music will blast out on the shores of Lake Windermere in Cumbria. Northern Ireland’s the Giant’s Causeway is to be transformed into a light installation by the German artist Hans Peter Kuhn.

Ed Vaizey, culture minister, said: “We are aiming to welcome an extra 4m tourists in the next four years – shining a spotlight on our first-rate culture is central to that success.”

This celebration of the arts is costing £52.4m and will include 1,000 events.

Hadrian’s Wall in northern England will be turned into an 86-mile art installation and Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh will be illuminated by hundreds of runners wearing special light suits.

The festival opens on June 21 and runs until September 9.

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