This Lord of the Rings version of Englishness is strangely similar to what lay there before
Filmmaker Danny Boyle’s plans for the £27 million Olympic opening ceremony were unveiled this week to scarcely masked gasps of incredulity.
At the launch Boyle stood proudly next to what appeared to be a quaint model railway landscape, the stadium filled with neatly undulating mounds of grass and hedgerows, as if fresh from a hobbyist’s basement workshop — or the offices of Fat.
His “green and pleasant” vision will be an intriguing antidote to Beijing’s uber-choreographed dance spectacular, exchanging armies of gymnasts for a cast of 70 sheep, 12 horses, three cows, two goats, 10 chickens, 10 ducks, nine geese and three sheepdogs — as well as real clouds that will provide rain.
But the images couldn’t fail to conjure up memories of a landscape rather closer to home than the Cotswold hillocks to which it was compared.
Until 2006, this very part of the winding Lower Lea Valley, where the manicured lawns and tarmac Olympicscape now sprawl, was home to a similar tangle of vegetation, a productive idyll of a different kind.
Boyle’s bucolic vision will feature farmers tilling their fields, but where are the dispossessed gardeners of Manor Gardens allotments, forcibly relocated by the LDA? Why not also include the 12,000-strong congregation of the Kingsway International Christian Centre, the evangelical warehouse church also removed from the site - along with the travellers’ groups, salmon-smokers, fridge-recyclers, Halal butchers and Chinese wholesalers that used to make up the lively patchwork of uses in this forgotten edge of the city.
Locog’s Lord of the Rings version of Englishness will no doubt be fun, but it’s missing a trick by ignoring this former, truly British, landscape.
19 June 2012 | Updated: 19 June 2012 3:44 pm
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