Lake District braces itself for World Premiere

Lake District braces itself for World Premiere

Julie Tait

Thousands of people are due in Bowness tomorrow night (Thursday) to witness a spectacular Lakes Alive world premiere marking the start of the London 2012 celebrations across the whole of the North.

The massive show has been arranged by arts group Kendal Arts International and is called On The Night Shift. It’ll be performed by one of Europe’s most acclaimed outdoor arts companies, the Toulouse-based “Les Commandos Percu,” and featuring 12 up-and-coming UK artists who won auditions for the roles of drummers and dancers.

It is one of only four opening events for the London 2012 festival taking place outside the capital and the only one in the North with the rest being in Birmingham, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Against the backdrop of England’s longest lake on The Glebe, they will perform an hour long piece featuring fire works, percussion, dance, music and performance.

The event has been 18 months in the making for the six-year-old Kendal Arts International headed by Director Julie Tait.

All this week, the three members of staff, have been working round-the-clock on the sophisticated pyrotechnics, choreography, drummers, sound systems and drama needed to pull off a world premiere. Attendance is expected to be high as the event is free and follows the arrival f the torch into the South Lakes.

Julie Tait remembers the last time Les Commandos Percu (translated simply as Commander of Percussion) – played Cumbria in 2010. Spectators remarked it was like “something you would see outside Sydney Opera House.”

Kendal Arts International through its Lakes Alive programme was specially commissioned to stage the opening spectacular by London 2012 Festival organisers. The London 2012 festival is 12,000 events taking place UK wide with the aim of spreading London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games like a Mexican wave beyond the capital and into the regions.

She believes the coup of a London 2012 Festival opening event in the North and in particular Cumbria, is a “glass ceiling” moment. The moment when street arts and the North steps on to the cultural podium to achieve national recognition.

Julie explained: “For us to be launching the London 2012 Festival as the only opening event in the North and one of only four across the UK means street arts has truly come of age. It now has a presence and a significance that did not exist 10 years ago. It’s massive.”

Thursday’s event is part of the final year of the “2012 Cultural Olympiad,” the arts programme accompanying the games which has been running since 2008. The initiative and the festival are overseen by Ruth MacKenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad.

Ms MacKenzie ranks it as an indication of “the mark of esteem” Lakes Alive is held “nationally and internationally,” and a “clear demonstration of its profile and status.”

She said: “Lakes Alive is one of the most brilliant inventions of the Cultural Olympiad. We want to have an event that will kick off the London 2012 Festival in the Lake District.”

It is also being tipped to make a headline weekend for tourism in the Lake District in Cumbria too. Lakes Alive shows like the Kendal-based international arts spectacular, Mintfest, have been found to bring £1.3 million of spending into the local economy. It is estimated that for every £1 spent on organizing and hosting Lakes Alive events, around £2.22 is spent in the local economy.

In 2010 alone, Lakes Alive street arts events in Cumbria generated an estimated £3 million of extra spending with about 75,000 people attending them around the county.

After the 21st June event in the Lake District, the show will conclude the London 2012 Festival in Preston, Lancashire, as part of the Preston Guild 2012, before embarking on a national and international tour in October.

On the Night Shift is co-commissioned by Lakes Alive, the London 2012 Festival, Preston Guild, Arts Council England, We Play Expo and the Lake District National Park Authority.

The celebration coincides with the long-awaited arrival of the Olympic Torch for as it makes its journey southwards to Bowness-on-Windermere for stop 38 on its UK-wide relay.

The event is commissioned by Lakes Alive, the Lake District National Park, We Play Expo and the London 2012 Festival.

Lakes Alive is one of three annual programmes commissioned for WE PLAY, the Northwest cultural legacy programme for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. WE PLAY has been funded by Legacy Trust UK, creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding ideas and local talent to inspire creativity across the UK.

The project is led by the Arts Council England Northwest on behalf of a new regional partnership. Lakes Alive is sponsored by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and has also received funding from Arts Council England and the Northern Rock Foundation.

For more information about the performance go to