Last Saturday I donned my weekend clothes and made my way to the supermarket in East London. On my travels that morning I drew the odd admiring glance and knowing look – aimed not at me per se but at the pair of grey trainers with red laces I was wearing.
They weren’t new – over two years old now – but as those people who recognised them knew, they were far more than just a pair of old shoes. They were my Games Maker trainers and probably one of the most obvious legacies of the summer of 2012 and of my time working at the Organising Committee in the seven year lead-up to the Games.
The more intangible legacies of the knowledge and skills that people like me – and the thousands of people who worked on the Games – acquired are the focus of a new programme of work here at King’s.
At the end of 2013 we published a report as part of our first Cultural Enquiry, Beyond Performance, which explored the role that arts and culture play in adding value to major sporting and national events. The potential for culture to enhance events was obvious with the Cultural Olympiad, and we’ve seen it more recently with Culture and Festival 2014 as part of the Commonwealth Games.
However, the process of integrating a major cultural festival with a major sporting event is not always an easy or straightforward one, with the different languages, priorities and ways of working presenting some interesting challenges, as those of us working on the Cultural Olympiad within the Organising Committee will remember. With that in mind, the King’s enquiry made the case for a programme of work to explore ways to tackle those challenges through a consortium approach and earlier this year, thanks to funding from Legacy Trust UK, we started work.
As part of this, Culture at King’s has commissioned a public tracking study with Nielsen, which will act as a barometer for attitudes to culture in the UK generally and within the context of major events. The results of the first wave make for some thought-provoking reading – for example, as many younger people (16–29) consider themselves an ‘arty person’ as a ‘sporty person’ (49% vs 51%). This raises interesting issues for policy makers, funders, sponsors and businesses.
We are also about to embark upon a series of case studies that will explore in some depth a variety of the issues raised as part of the enquiry – from the bidding process to how to deliver benefits across the whole country.
Finally, at the end of this year we are aiming to share our findings at a seminar with colleagues invited from future host cities such as Tokyo, in order to share the experience gained as part of that extraordinary experience of staging the London Games and to help ensure that the inclusion of culture into major events is a given and not an add on. Not time to take the trainers off just yet…