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The Olympic Closing Ceremony – London 2012

 A blog by Craig J Sherratt

As the nation watched the closing ceremony unfold this past Sunday night it became crystal clear to me stood there in the stadium why it had taken so much work, energy, time, dedication and passion from a brilliant creative team to get us there. A group that was headed by world renowned artistic director Kim Gavin and filled with the best in TV, stage and film there was times when even they thought this was too big to take on, a huge task being watched by the world.

Having been fortunate enough to work with Kim over the past few years on the opening to Dancing on Ice and The Help the Heroes concert in Twickenham, I cannot say he has become a friend but he is someone who I can call and turn to at any point, ask advice from with regards design and generally chew his ear off at any chance I get. Around 22 months ago now whilst literally sat having a brew with Kim at Dancing on ice he suddenly blurted out a sentence that would stick with me right up till Sunday night, he just said “what if I said a thousand drummers, what would you say” my answer with my logistics head firmly on “you will not get a thousand drums” he then went on to tell me he and Danny Boyle had been chosen to head up the creative teams to put together the opening and closing’s ceremonies to both the Olympics’ and the forth coming Para Olympics and the rest as they say was written in the stars.

Since then my involvement has been minimal BUT to me has been massive, I have had chance to sit in on meetings and creative discussions way way above my head, just the opportunity to sit back and watch things develop, see this thing grow, see things fail and succeed and ultimately stand and watch Sunday night the vision they all had the whole time, things on Sunday night they had never seen themselves until they had the chance to get into the stadium and try – breathtaking props like a tube line complete with a carriage that was dangled from the roof that at the last minute was taken out and never seen because it obscured too many people view when it was put in place. Over the development process drummers were always going to be involved, when and where and how many was the question – many people from TheCO asked me about auditioning as a volunteer drummer when they saw it advertised, I had to in a roundabout way without giving too much away steer them off the idea as I always knew I would get the nod to find drummers.

So we finally settled on 48 performers (a good number for a drill writer) again not really knowing exactly what we would do – STOMP supplied 40 members which was the The Olympic Closing Ceremony – The Performers biggest cast they have put together also. The difficult part was getting people accredited and passed through security; it was more stringent than applying for a passport. As I knew I had the Para’s also coming also I decided to get as many people as I could through, it didn’t matter if I used them all or not but I would have them just in case – I finally after roughly four months of trying got 106 performers accredited and passed. One accreditation comes from the Olympics once this is through it then goes to another one that is done by the government and is the final yes or no – at this point anyone being refused could appeal against the decision, something that takes 60 days and then another 60 days to hear your case, not good for an event lasting in total 35 days!

Again over the design process the 48 performers I had were on stuff then off stuff then back on etc etc, this continued right up to the final week – we had 10 drummers dressed as Grenadier Guards to open for The Clash, like a military look and traditional drumming then the band would rip the jackets from the drummers and burst into “Should I Stay or Should I  Go” this was set in stone virtually for 18 months until suddenly The Clash said they didn’t fancy it!! This is how it was the whole The Olympic Closing Ceremony – At Dagenham way. Finally two weeks to go it was decided and my first chance to give them as much info as I could – we rehearsed up North a couple times getting the basics down but again having to stress to them all it may change. In Dagenham Essex about 8 miles from the stadium they had a scaled version for rehearsal so when we first got there it gave them the chance to see and fell how big this opportunity was going to be – we had three days on there finalising everything before the big day. On Thursday 9th August we got our first dress rehearsal, costumes arrived and it started to feel like this was all real. Everything was taken care of – the costumes were so well tailored right down to the boots, things where they could have got away with stuff not as good and cheaper but NO this was the world watching and nothing was left out – every inch was perfect. The day was full of artist and stars wandering around doing there bit like we were really, there chance to have a go properly, it was such a buzz to see people’s face light up as people walked passed – I do get star struck but I also try and play it cool (not very well) This was to be the first rehearsal for the Spice Girls, security tried to block people’s view and stop people getting in but being bold flashing a pass and looking in a bad mood usually works and did – I found myself watching them put together there set stood chatting about family and kids with David Beckham, yes I am name dropping from a great height and will continue to do so – I was literally shaking in my trainers whilst he just chatted like a normal guy watching his wife perform – very surreal, maybe cheesy but something I will not forget (he probably feels the same)... A long day was had arriving back in Barnsley in the early hours of Friday. 

The day before closing we were bought down to London and to our accommodation for security reasons and to make sure we were all in town – we had a great relaxed night, the group splitting off and doing different things, the majority of us headed to The Blind Beggar (the fatal scene of one of The Kray killings) onto the curry house another pub then an impromptu bike ride courtesy of the Barclays bikes you can hire.

An early start Sunday to get us into the stadium and settled – we were in our dressing room at around The Olympic Closing Ceremony – With Jessie J 10.00am a full 12 hours before our performance time. The day was allot of hanging around whilst the stage was set – unlike the opening they could only start putting it down after the final event so the pressure was really on for them. Rehearsal should have started at 11.00am but by 3.00pm still nothing – the decision was made to run the first half of the show only – this left us and the rest of the second half with no rehearsal !! oh except the Spice Girls who threw a huge tantrum and got their own way. The show unfolded at 9.00pm and we finally enter at 10.27pm – we were part of a tribute to British fashion and accompanied super models to the soundtrack of David Bowies ‘Fashion’ – we then played on the opening to Annie Lennox ‘Little Bird’ unfortunately not getting any coverage on TV – to be fair this was always there as a distraction to set the stage so was never about us. The finale let all the groups go back out and celebrate a great Olympics which concluded with an awesome fire work display and more ticker tape than you can imagine. The whole thing suited a great games and a proud British audience.

We got out of the stadium around 2.00am and straight onto the bus home – I walked back into my house at 6.00am, 22 hours after leaving the hotel Sunday – a long day, very long, but more than worth it. An experience I will never forget, and a process I will learn from and take with me as I go. Thank You to everyone who passed us good wishes – Thank You to everyone who supported me in this, the management and staff at TheCO who never questioned anything I did and of course my wife Rebekka and children Ella and Evie who saw the ups and downs of it all for two years previous. Now for the closing of the Para’s which will see us ............................................... wait and see...


Craig J Sherratt

16th August 2012



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