London basked in yet another weekend of amazing sport and amazing entertainment as the Africa Express reached London on Saturday with Led Zepplin’s John Paul Jones and Sir Paul McCartney joining the likes of Baaba Maal, Damon Albarn, Jupiter & Okwess International, Kano, Fatoumata Diawara , Rizzle Kicks , The Noisettes and the amazing Rokia Traoré in a five hour sold out marathon live set in Granary Square in London’s King’s Cross – in front of 5000 delirious London 2012 Festival goers, on what must of been one of the hottest sunniest days of the year. And what a night!
And then on Sunday on to the closing ceremony for the Paralympic Games in the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. The Festival of The Flame kicked off with a parade of weird and wonderful cannibalised and recycled vehicles from Joe Rush’s Mutoid Waste Company and was followed by an extraordinary show that featured a set from Coldplay and special guests Candoco Dance Company, the seventeen piece British ParaOrchestra – and my old friend from Canterbury, Mat Fraser, as a guest drummer with Coldplay!
Congratulations to show director Kim Gavin – for once the show actually involved people with disabilities – both Candoco and Rio’s Corpo em Movimento from Brazil mix able-bodied and disabled dancers, and the British ParaOrchestra features disabled musicians. In the Rio section, visually impaired ballet dancers performed a samba na ponta – whilst actress and model Viktoria Modesta played the snow queen with a beautiful prosthetic leg on show (there was sort of a four seasons theme), Lissa Hermans, who is blind and autistic, sang the National Anthem and narrrator Rory Mackenzie from South African was serving as a medic with the British Army when he was blow up and lost a leg . Joining in the fun, Prince Edward and IPC President Sir Philip Craven enter the stadium in a specially made ‘Mad Max’ vehicle driven by Captain Tony Harris. Captain Harris is also an amputee after being injured in Afghanistan. There were disabled aerialists, climbers, child performers and Mat has phocomelia, shortened arms – and he is one is heck of a drummer! Captain Luke Sinnott who lost his legs and an arm in a blast on the battlefields of Helmandt helped close the Paralympic Games – by climbing a flagpole and proudly flying the Union Flag.
Oh, and and there were some lovely fireworks – and on top of all of that special guest appearances from Rihanna and Jay-Z too – both of whom had kicked off the summer of fun headlining at the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekender ! Teenage swimming star – and face of the games – Ellie Simmonds, 17, was joined by sprinting sensation Jonnie Peacock, 19, to play a part in the final moments of the Games to extinguish the flame but before it died they used torches to pass on the flame to light hundreds more torches held by members of the cast throughout the field of play. It’s been an amazing few weeks in London, some of the best of times!
Bizarrely, this weekend felt a bit like Glastonbury on occasions – Coldplay, Jay Z, Africa Express and The Mutoid Waste company have all triumphed in Michael Eavis’s fields in Somerset – and now they have all celebrated the London 2o12 Games – Games “made in Britain” but celebrated around the World – in some style. As Lord Seb Coe put it “”Together these past few weeks we have shared some wonderful days, haven’t we?” We have. We’ve had the greatest Olympic and Paralympic games ever. And the flame lives on.
Whilst officially ended, there are just a few London Festival 2012 events left including Sir Elton John’s Peace One Day concert at Wembley Arena on September 21st – more at http://festival.london2012.com/