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Under Bristolian skies

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Jo Morrison

Digital Projects Director

The Kenyan Olympic team divulge some of their ambitions for London 2012 and the Southbank Centre’s festivals thoroughly impress our regular blogger Jo Morrison of the University of the Arts London (UAL), which is comprised of six colleges: Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design (CSM); London College of Fashion (LCF); London College of Communication (LCC); and Chelsea, Camberwell and Wimbledon Colleges of Art and Design.

Under Bristolian skies doesn’t have the poetic resonance of Paul Simon and Miriam Makeba’s Under African Skies, but for the Kenyan Olympic team the West Country has certainly provided a warm welcome – despite the wet weather.
The Kenyan squad recently arrived in Bristol and is training at the University of the West of England and the nearby Kip Keino Athletic Stadium (named after the Kenyan double-Olympic champion), before moving to London’s Olympic Village later this month.
The Kip Keino Athletic StadiumI was privileged to meet the team after their official welcome to the city and, with friends, spent an evening talking with them. It was fascinating to learn of their expectations for medal success in four disciplines, their competitive awareness of Team GB’s 5,000- and 10,000-metre athlete Mo Farah as well as the Ethiopian long distance runners, and their plans while in the city.
In turn, the team’s managers, including boxing’s John Kameta, were keen to hear about the design inspiration for the Paralympic medals, the Paralympic Simulation Camp that is held each summer at the University of Bath, and the innovative designs that LCF and Chelsea College of Art and Design produced using Speedo’s renowned LZR Racer material – in all of which the UAL’s community has been involved.
The Kenyan’s training camp has minimal Olympics and Paralympics-branded signage and dressing, which runs counter to the experience the athletes will have in London. Love it or not, once in central London there is no missing the distinctive London 2012 visual identity and merchandise. On street signage, billboards, the underground, building facades and so forth, the Olympics and Paralympics have arrived. “The Olympics products are outselling Van Gogh!” I was told in the National Gallery’s shop.
I’d visited the National Gallery to see Vincenzo Catena’s compelling portrait of Andrea Gritti, the Doge of Venice in the 16th century. As part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad, the National Gallery is collaborating with a multitude of contemporary artists including Conrad Shawcross and Wayne McGregor, as well as the Royal Ballet, on a phenomenal project – Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. The National Gallery has previously collaborated with CSM on Transcriptions: Animation, an innovative project where postgraduate animation students created short films inspired by the Gallery’s collection.
The National Gallery

Literature and utopia

Later that evening, at the Southbank Centre’s London Literature Festival 2012, I heard the esteemed author Michael Morpurgo in conversation with Maggie Fergusson, with whom he collaborated on his recent biography War Child to War Horse. Morpurgo shared intimate stories, and read from the book. As well as the Literature Festival, the Southbank Centre has an outstanding programme of events over the summer included in its Festival of the World 2012, one example being Africa Utopia, which runs across July featuring music, theatre, film, dance, and talks.
I was fortunate enough to attend Africa Utopia’s Word Sound Power, an evening of readings and performances by several poets, writers and musicians. Baaba Maal, the acclaimed Senegalese musician, gave a bravura performance throughout and the accompanying musicians were superb. The evening interwove poetry and music, with stellar performances from Lemn Sissay, Botswana’s TJ Demma, Pedro Perez, Innua Elemms, and Zena Edwards from Hackney, with a powerful reading from Pauline Black. I’ve been recommending Africa Utopia to everyone I meet – including the Kenyan Olympic team.
However, back in Bristol the Windmill Hill City Farm’s Summer Fun in the Farmyard activities will also be in full swing for the duration of the Olympic Games. This fantastic farm gives the local community the opportunity to experience farming in the heart of the city. For those who do not have tickets for the Games or the awesome cultural events taking place across the summer, a chance to hang out with the pygmy goats is not to be missed!

Read more of Jo’s recent blogs:

Image of Kip Keino stadium courtesy Jo Morrison. National Gallery image by Tom Godber on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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