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Oh Danny Boy! Make Large-Scale Art Part of UK Culture

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"He is spending the day sleeping," - the statement from a LOCOG spokeswoman when asked about Danny Boyle's whereabouts, the morning after the acclaimed Olympics Opening Ceremony.

No doubt Boyle's daytime dreams were filled with a mass of Mary Poppins figures, winged luminescent cyclists, smock-wearing farmers and giant flaming Olympic rings.

Arising from a well-deserved rest, the man of the cultural moment would have opened his paper to a flurry of tributes, praising his journey from fantastical vision to jaw-dropping reality.

"I think we knocked the spots off Beijing. I was crying like a baby," exuded London Mayor Boris Johnson.

"The first knight of these games, arise Sir Danny Boyle," exclaimed Gary Lineker.

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The Olympic rings light up the stadium during the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games

When theatre hits the spot, I get the prickling of goose bumps, spine tingling down the back, and - if a show really goes for the jugular - a lump in the throat. The opening ceremony gave me all three as the explosive combination of thousands of performers, epic-scale acrobatics, pyrotechnics and story-telling showed the world something it had not seen before.

The ceremony was more than the beginning of the Olympics games, it was a reminder of the true value of arts and culture in the UK.

Perhaps the international wave of accolades for Boyle's work is a message - the most effective way to bring the UK together in celebration of art and culture is this mantra: the bigger the better.

Large-scale art has been an increasing feature on our TV and computer screens. Belfast performed their very own outdoor spectacle at the beginning of July, with a colourful contribution to the Culture Olympiad - 'The Land of Giants' combined industrial cranes, aerial stunts, fireworks, music and dance, to an audience of 18,000 on the Titanic Slipways.

land of giants

The Land of Giants on the Titanic Slipways, Belfast

Creative company Artichoke have specialised in breathtaking epic outdoor Arts since 2005, bringing us events such as the 42-tonne The Sultan's Elephant and the 50-foot high mechanical spider in La Machine.

artichokesplit

Large-scale art involving Artichoke: (L-R) The Sultan's Elephant, a giant marionette of a little girl, giant mechanical spider La Machine

Like Boyle's vision, the work of Artichoke is creatively risky to say the least, something worthy of gold star awards, according to Martin Roth, Director of the V&A. Writing in the Evening Standard this week, Roth believes that "in the context of art, culture and design... risk plays a critical role in fostering innovation and creativity... without risk, and risk-takers, we lose 'the cutting edge', we lose breakthroughs."

The positives of risky crowd-pleasing events aside, there is the rather glaring issue of cost. Despite artists being paid just £1, including Sir Paul McCartney, the opening ceremony came at a whopping price tag of £27million, a fact that is hard to swallow for some.

Sam Leith of the Evening Standard wrote of the ceremony: " 'You can't put a price on inspiration' they'll say, the mouth-flapping dumboes. But actually: yes, you can. If you can put a price on human life... you can put a price on inspiration."

Why should eight-figure bills be the only option for Boyle-style shows? In the spirit of austerity, we should look to other ways to create spectacular large-scale events with a smaller price tag.

Here's a money-saving suggestion: all the film and TV production companies should take a long hard look in their wardrobes, blow the dust off the shelves and see what costumes, puppets, props and equipment is no longer of use to them, then donate it to Arts organisations, with the intention of creating low-cost outdoor events.

Surely Pinewood studios could let us have a few alien costumes from their recent production of Prometheus - and there must be an unwanted stunt zip wire lying around the 007 stage?

Perhaps Boyle could be a zero-fee creative consultant on such an undertaking?

We should let Danny sleep off the Olympic fever before he gets to work...

Click below for some of the best pictures from the Olympics Opening Ceremony:

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