Culture Street

By Sophia Whitfield

In a nod to the influence of literature, the London 2012 opening ceremony featured tributes to authors past and present. Fictional well- loved characters, spanning the generations, made an appearance delighting the young and old.

It was fitting that the ceremony began with Kenneth Branagh belting out Caliban’s speech from The Tempest, the last play Shakespeare wrote alone. Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. Caliban’s speech was perfectly pitched reflecting the theme of the opening ceremony: ‘Isles of Wonder’.

'Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,

Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.

Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments

Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices

That, if I then had waked after long sleep,

Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Ready to drop upon me, and when I waked,

I cried to dream again.’

If that did not get the tears flowing then the emotional tribute to the beloved JM Barrie, author of Peter Pan, was sure to get you. In his will JM Barrie left the copyright to his work to The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), a children’s hospital in central London, which provides world class care. The royalties from his work continue to benefit the hospital.

JK Rowling joined the tribute, making a rare public appearance, reading from Barrie’s Neverland. As she did volunteers danced as nurses and children as patients in the ‘bed dance’. The stage was lit up with the letters GOSH.

As the children drifted off to sleep, one child read under the covers with a torch, allowing her imagination to take flight. Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter – JK Rowling) and Cruella de vil (The Hundred and One Dalmations – Dodie Smith) made an appearance before being chased away by the charming Mary Poppins (P.L. Travers).

With so much historical material at his fingertips it was brilliant to see Danny Boyle, the director of the opening ceremony, incorporate a snap shot of the great literature that the UK has to offer. For a brief moment literature took centre stage.




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