Islington takes centre stage for Cultural Olympiad festival

Islington may not be playing host to any major sporting events during the Olympics, but it will be firmly in the spotlight for the huge cultural festival celebrating the occasion.

The full line up of the 12-week long London 2012 Festival – the culmination of the four year Cultural Olympiad – was announced last week with the borough’s renowned theatres, a new public square and an award winning Holloway artist all taking starring roles.

Tickets have already gone on sale for a unique one day festival called Traction at the new Granary Square in King’s Cross, which opens to the public in June.

Curated by Radio One DJ Gilles Peterson and presented by Eurostar, the event will feature music and performance collaborations from across Europe, including Mercury prize nominee Ghostpoet, joined by London band Plugs.

At the forefront of the UK’s biggest ever celebration of dance will be Sadler’s Wells in Rosebery Avenue, Finsbury, and the Barbican Centre in Silk Street, Barbican.

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They are featuring an anthology of works on various countries by Tanztheater Wupperthal Pina Bausch – a German-based dance company which tours the world and is known for ground-breaking and elaborate multi-media productions.

It was set up by the late dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch, who formed a formidable international reputation as one of modern dance’s greatest innovators during the 1970s.

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There are also lots of opportunities for the public to get involved and participate directly in nationwide initiatives like Big Dance 2012, which includes a number of world record attempts.

Sadler’s Wells will be running taster workshops at various locations for a diverse range of dance from ballet to hip hop and Bollywood to African contemporary.

Other highlights at the Barbican centre include the UK premiere of Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s legendary Einstein on the Beach, with choreography by Lucinda Childs; Juliette Binoche starring in Mademoiselle Julie and Cate Blanchett in Gross und Klein, a Sydney Theatre Company production.

The Almeida Theatre in Almeida Street, Islington, will be running a production of King Lear, by William Shakespeare as part of the festival, while the Pleasance Theatre in Capenter’s Mews in Holloway will host Ring Around The World – the biggest children’s opera ever made – which takes the audience on an adventure in world music.

The Pleasance Theatre, which has a base in Edinburgh, has also come up with the idea of taking various comics on a narrowboat journey from London to Glasgow – even though there is no direct canal link between the cities – in order to perform impromptu shows for webcast on the river banks.

Other madcap ideas include Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, of Holloway Road, Highbury, heading from Glasgow to London with a lifesize inflatable Stonehenge bouncy castle.

Ruth Mackenzie, director of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, said: “The London 2012 Festival will be the largest cultural celebration in our lifetime.

“With new work from the best musicians, comics, artists, film makers and more, there will be arts events taking place in unusual places all over the UK that will showcase the best in international culture when the eyes of the world are on us this summer.”

n For the full line up and more details about the London 2012 Festival, visit

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