London’s Olympic Park is gearing up for a second life: as a place for rock concerts, a floating cinema, street art and theater.
On July 13, Jay-Z’s only 2013 European concert is planned in the newly renamed Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, said the London Legacy Development Corporation, which is leading the park’s 292 million-pound ($442 million) transformation. Justin Timberlake performs on July 12. It’s all part of producer Live Nation Entertainment, Inc.’s transfer of the Wireless and Hard Rock Festivals from Hyde Park, announced on Feb. 19.
Elsewhere in and around the park -- seven months after the 2012 Olympic Games -- a cinema-on-a-barge, outdoor murals and fringe theater are getting under way. They’re supported by the Legacy List, a charity set up to bring culture to the park, which has raised 1.7 million pounds so far.
“The sport is there, center stage: We’re going to add the extra 10 percent, the magic gold dust that brings a place alive,” says Chief Executive Sarah Weir, who previously co-ran the Almeida Theatre and headed Arts Council London.
“To leave behind that memory of the three elements of the Olympics is really important: sport, education, culture,” says Weir. “What we can do is continue to tell the story of the park through artists.”
The site will reopen in stages, starting on July 27 with the north park -- where the athletes’ village was located. The area around the Olympic Stadium and the Aquatics Centre opens in 2014, once temporary venues, seating and walkways are removed and paths put in.
The floating cinema -- designed to move along the narrow canals, host screenings and talks, and project outdoor movies -- had its pilot run about the time of the Olympics. The inaugural season included an outdoor projection of “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (the 2009 stop-motion animation movie) in front of the 3 Mills Studios in east London where it was made.
In late June, a new, slightly larger cinema opens. Designed by Duggan Morris architects, it’s built on a disused, 60-year-old steel barge that once transported cargo. The program is being drawn up by curators who track their progress on a website: http://www.floatingcinema.info.
“The canals have really started to be reconsidered as a place for culture and leisure,” says Emma Underhill, director of UP Projects, which commissions artists and architects to create temporary public work. “They’re the consistent thing that runs right through the park, almost like arteries that connect the exterior to the interior.”
The walls of the canal opposite the park will come alive with street art commissioned by Cedar Lewisohn, who curated Tate Modern’s street art show in 2008. He’ll have four artists make non-permanent “interventions, as opposed to bombastic murals.”
“Some street art can look messy,” says Lewisohn. Here, the art will include abstraction and avoid “the typical image people associate with street art, which is stencil-led or graphic and cartoon-y.”
A third Legacy List benefactor is the Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, on the park’s edges. It was started in 2011 by ex-actor Jay Miller, now 28, who, with 9,000 pounds in startup cash, built an amphitheater in a warehouse that can fit as many as 140 spectators.
Miller wants stage talent to get noticed. Visual artists “can get a pencil and piece of paper and be self-reliant,” he says. In theater, “you need to have serious capital in your back pocket before you’ve even thought about beginning.”
The Yard is already getting attention. Michaela Coel’s humorous monologue about growing up in Hackney, “Chewing Gum Dreams,” transferred to the Bush Theatre in London.
“We’re in an area of London that’s changing on a day-to-day basis, and has been forgotten for years and years,” says Miller. The challenge now is to “develop what it is: a place which is raw and has loads of stories.”
Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News, supports the Legacy List, and more specifically two of its programs: UP Projects’ Floating Cinema Extra-Ordinary, and The Canals Project of outdoor art.
Muse highlights include Richard Vines on food, Robert Heller on music and Katya Kazakina on art.
(Farah Nayeri writes for Muse, the arts and culture section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are her own.)