Olympic Games 2012: Olympic Truce Debate

Full Debate: Read Full Debate

Lord Hall of Birkenhead

Main Page: Lord Hall of Birkenhead (Crossbench - Life peer)

Olympic Games 2012: Olympic Truce

Lord Hall of Birkenhead Excerpts
Monday 11th October 2010

(13 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Hall of Birkenhead Portrait Lord Hall of Birkenhead
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I, too, am delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Bates, has raised this important subject for debate this afternoon. I would like to speak briefly about the inspiration of the truce for young people and artists. Whereas the role of the Government is very important, the role of other organisations such as LOCOG, the Cultural Olympiad and the Olympic Festival are also important. I remind the House that I am chair of the Cultural Olympiad Board and on the board of LOCOG.

My job and that of the team preparing for Festival 2012 is to make sure that some of the best creative talent in the world and in this country can give their best in the run-up to Games time. It is interesting that as we develop the programme with some of the world's greatest artists, including many of the UK's brightest, one theme keeps returning as an inspiration for the festival’s creative commissions. For many artists, the story of the Olympic truce and the idea of what the truce can do is an inspiration.

In ancient Greece, artists were part of the Olympic celebrations, which meant that when everyone in the ancient world agreed to a truce they came to watch not only the sportsmen but the artists. That idea of intertwining sport and art is exactly what we hope we can achieve in this country in 2012. In 2012, artists will have the chance to speak to the world, and the opportunities are greater than ever before in our history if we think about the millions—or probably billions—who will join in by watching digitally.

Of course, artists will do what artists want to do and we all know that the only way to get the very best shows, concerts, performances, exhibitions and events is by giving them the ability to do exactly that. What is so interesting is that so many artists and talented creative and cultural partners are already turning to the idea of peace and truce as a theme that they want to pursue with their creative work preparing for 2012. It is what they want to say to the world. That is not new if we think back to some of the greatest work in the causes of peace such as Benjamin Britten's “War Requiem”, Picasso’s “Guernica” and the war poetry of Wilfred Owen. But what is so great is that London 2012 is giving a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at that whole theme afresh.

Let me give noble Lords a couple of examples of the sort of projects that the idea of truce is inspiring. On World Peace Day this year, the Cultural Olympiad launched a creative collaboration with the charity Peace One Day, whose founder, Jeremy Gilley, has achieved so much through the power of film, as the noble Lord, Lord Bates, reminded us earlier on. The project that we are working on together will involve young people in creative workshops who will then end up making their own short films in our programme called “Film Nation: Shorts”. The best of those films will be shown in the Olympic Park in 2012 and will be showcased by Peace One Day at its World Peace Day concert at the O2 next year. That scheme for young people is sponsored by Panasonic. I mention that only because its company motto is:

“Peace and happiness through prosperity”,

which is a testament to those important themes that we are discussing this afternoon.

Another example shows how these themes of truce and peace are something of which this country has a lot to offer the world in 2012. I am talking about the experience of people in Northern Ireland and the extraordinary and difficult route taken towards resolving that conflict. For all of us, a highlight of the Cultural Olympiad programme so far has been the Pied Piper project in Belfast, a performance bringing together primary school children and their families from across Catholic and Protestant communities, in a powerful example of the way in which music can foster friendship and reconciliation. The Cultural Olympiad and its festival will have as one of its most important partners Derry-Londonderry city of culture 2013, which like us has put the theme of peace and reconciliation at the heart of its creative programme. We share a passion to show how the arts can illuminate and support the process of peace and will be sharing creative commissions to help Derry to build up its programme in 2013, and a legacy beyond.

The inspiration of the Olympic truce is a powerful tradition of the Games and for London 2012. I am delighted that the inspiration will enrich also our education and cultural programmes. LOCOG intends that from September next year schools will be invited to learn about the principles of building bridges, community cohesion and conflict resolution in a major initiative around the idea of Olympic truce. We are working in 15,000 schools in the UK and building up to working with 12 million young people in schools in 20 countries around the world. I hope that the Government will support this wonderful work.

The UK’s creativity was one of the strengths that won us the Olympic Games, and our arts and creative industries are envied worldwide. We want our festival in 2012 to show the UK at its best and to be a springboard for economic growth and cultural tourism. As Boris Johnson’s cultural adviser memorably said:

“Culture is to London what sun is to Spain”.

Culture is what attracts vital tourist income, and London 2012 is our chance to show the world how wonderful our cultural institutions and creative artists are. I hope that the Government think very carefully about how best to ensure that, come 2012, we show off what sets this country apart: its arts, its culture and its creative industries. We also want a festival that raises the bar for artistic commissions, inspired by the themes of Olympic truce, which future Olympics could find hard to beat. We have the talent and ambition, and we hope that we have the Government’s wholehearted support.