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The final week of rehearsals has seen us move into the Olympic Stadium, which was a hugely exciting moment not only for us as the creators of the show, but for the cast too.
It's given everybody a big thrill to walk out into the stadium and see the spectacular arena close up, and also to see all of the physical elements which make our show starting to take shape.
It's a great experience for everyone, but also a demanding one for our cast of volunteers. They have to re-orientate everything so they're au fait with their positioning within the stadium, including their entrances and exits.
All of the movement has to take into account elements including objects, lighting, graphics, and the aerial performances. It's an exciting process, but also very, very complex, and for the volunteers it means that there can be a lot of waiting around before they can actually rehearse.
With the final preparations come very long working days for everyone, but the cast are doing well. We're careful to ensure they aren't overworked, but they are very willing. We carefully plan our schedule to ensure that everybody has sufficient breaks, as it's important that everybody has a good experience working on the show.
Something else that has to be taken into account is the odd tweak to the performance. Upon moving into the venue, there are always little changes to be made to get things to work the way you want them to, especially as the various layers of the show begin to build. There are various bumps and corners to be ironed out in order to make the show as visually stunning as we possibly can, but it's very enriching to see it happening.
The backroom team are working incredibly hard, from the stage managers to the designers, crew and technicians. It's a real beehive of activity. The backstage crew is an army in itself with the organisation, and they're all absolutely beavering away at full speed. It's extraordinary to watch, and great to be a part of.
Some of the pictures within the show are looking beautiful. It's an interesting process for me to work with two artistic directors who have had a fantastic vision, and to create choreography to help them to realise it. So much art is done personally, or in small groups, but they have disseminated an idea across a vast amount of people on a huge scale to create what they have in their minds. To have so many people working to achieve a vision is a very interesting and human thing to do, a real communal effort.
With a day to go, our eyes are on the prize. It's a scary and daunting, yet exciting and thrilling time.
You can watch the Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony on Wednesday 29th August on Channel 4 from 8pm.
For more information about Kevin Finnan Motionhouse visit www.motionhouse.co.uk and follow on Twitter @MotionhouseDT
The Olympic Closing Ceremony has been and gone, which means it's us next! With that realisation comes a real sobering sense of urgency.
We are now working at a site that we call our 1:1. It is an area of open ground where we have two areas of open space that are the same size as the field of play in the stadium. This allows us to practise with the right dimensions for the show. It is an amazing logistical enterprise. There are miles of tents, pre-fabricated structures and portaloos forming what is essentially a huge camp, inhabited by the cast of the show.
Daily rehearsals are taking place. For a lot of our volunteers, this means sacrifices such as booking time off work to contribute to the rehearsals, and it's really fantastic to see the effort they are putting into making the ceremony happen.
Their commitment is extraordinary, and we are all doing our best to make their experience positive. Among the team are my 'dance captains', dancers who teach the choreography and practically run the rehearsals. They are working extremely hard at the moment to make this happen, and they are a really fun team to work with.
We have two spaces at the 1:1, both marked out to the dimensions of the stadium, and we are running whole parts of the show at the same time. There are lots of things to be developed and worked upon, whilst at the same time trying to keep the group sections going. With so much going on at the same time, it's like a monumental plate spinning enterprise for us, as we run from one section to the other to oversee things!
It's daunting and thrilling to be part of, and it's very interesting to see how things are made on this scale. It's not often that you get an opportunity to work at such a size, and it's great to see how things learned in little workshops with small groups of people are scaled up to work with hundreds, even thousands at a time. For me, the fundamentals are constantly being adapted and developed, and I am learning a lot of new things and new techniques. It's extraordinary.
Another aspect is the sheer logistics of getting everybody on at the right time and the right position, then off again following the completion of their section. It takes hours of organisation to make sure everyone knows where they need to be and when. We work with a fine Mass movement team who are really experienced in stadium shows and they are a wonder to behold as they organise these movements.
With only a week until the performance, there's a lot to do until we go live at Olympic Stadium!
It often surprises some people to discover that the majority of the cast at performances such as the Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies are not, in fact, made up entirely of trained, professional performers, but rather hundreds of volunteer amateurs.
As I mentioned in my last blog, the process of creating the show involves choreographing groups of hundreds of performers to create really intricate visual effects, and the challenge increases when you consider the fact that a huge proportion of the people involve do not come from an artistic background.
It's great to see the work that the volunteers have put into preparing this show, and their enthusiasm has made the job much easier. It hasn't been easy for them - many have had to travel a long way to attend rehearsals, and much of the time has been spent working outdoors in less than ideal conditions.
There's a real positive attitude among them that they need to do their rehearsals no matter what, they're giving up their time and their effort, and it's so wonderful to see. It's a very humbling experience.
Something that really touches me is the enthusiasm of the volunteers to make the show as good as it can be. It really motivates you to do your best for them. They are putting in so much effort, and it makes you want to create something that they can be very proud of as well, which raises the bar in a very different way.
The mood at our rehearsals, even though they are difficult and challenging at times, is really, really great, and we all go forward with high spirits as we move ever closer to the big day.
For more information about Kevin Finnan and Motionhouse visit www.motionhouse.co.uk and follow on Twitter @MotionhouseDT
Kevin Finnan, artistic director of dance theatre company, Motionhouse, is the Choreographer and Movement Director for the upcoming Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
In an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, Kevin looks back at Danny Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony, and offers an insight into preparations for his performance.
This week we have begun our transfer to what we call the 'one-to-one' space, where we bring our groups into an area the same size as the field of play in the Olympic Stadium.
We've been rehearsing for weeks with our cast split into groups rehearsing on different nights, but a few days ago we had our first rehearsal with 550 people all in one area. It's both exciting and terrifying at the same time, because it's the first time there's room to do the show fully, and essentially to see the show in a form that will resemble the final ceremony.
It's thrilling because you begin to see all of the fantastic visual pictures as the choreographic shapes emerge. It's a very satisfying moment, but you're also then presented with a huge amount of new information that the cast have to learn, such as all the movements around the field of play, and how to be in the right position for the choreography.
They also have to become familiar with the process of 'blocking', which is the term we use when volunteers arrange themselves around the field to achieve all of the big visual effects we make with the group, which create the patterns on the field of play for the stadium and aerial views.
This is an enormous amount of extra work for the cast to take on, and we work very closely with what we call the 'Mass Movement Team'. There's a real combined effort now to integrate choreography and mass movement so you can create the spectacle.
While it's exciting to see our performance taking shape in this manner, it's also challenging because while the cast have a huge amount of new information to take in, it's also important that what they've already learned is retained. Working at the 'one-to-one' is extremely interesting because it's a huge space and it requires enormous resources to make everything work and create a memorable spectacle that will be witnessed by the world on 29th August."
Birmingham based PR and Marketing agency, S&X, is in London during the Olympics to work on projects for its clients within the sports industry.
In the third of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, S&X Managing Director, Paul Phedon, describes the scene in the capital, and salutes one of sport's all time greats.
The build-up to the Olympics was blighted by a narrative of doubts over security, transport and even the weather, with some daring to suggest that London wasn't ready to host the greatest show on earth.
What were they worrying about?
The reality, so far, has been the exact opposite. The capital has shown its readiness for the Games with a largely smooth operation, and Olympic fever - thanks in no small part to the magnificent achievements of the Team GB medal winners - is well and truly sweeping the nation.
Here in London, we've not witnessed the transport chaos that was predicted before the Games, with many of the people travelling around the city in the first week of action actually exclaiming their surprise at just how quite the roads and tube lines were.
Kevin Finnan, artistic director of dance theatre company, Motionhouse, is the Choreographer and Movement Director for the upcoming Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.
In the first of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, Kevin looks back at Danny Boyle's Olympic Opening Ceremony, and offers an insight into preparations for his performance.
Since we completed work on The Voyage, the Motionhouse and Legs On The Wall collaboration which opened the London 2012 Festival in Birmingham, I've been focusing mainly on another big project related to the Games in my role as the Choreographer for the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
While this project is a personal endeavour, I'll certainly be aiming to deliver a performance containing all the energy and excitement that Motionhouse productions are known for, and I'm even more determined to contribute to a truly memorable show after witnessing last week's Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games.
Writing this during the warm dry spell in late July I am wondering what will happen to our weather by the time you read it in August.
Will it be wet and cool again, or will everything have dried out, leaving the countryside parched and our wildlife more confused than ever?
With the summer of sport underway in London, Birmingham based PR and Marketing agency, S&X, is in the capital to work on projects for its clients within the sports industry.
In the second of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, S&X Associate Director, Jo Green, discovers there's more to East London than just the Olympics.
The arrival of the Olympic Games in a once highly industrial area of East London has undoubtedly seen sweeping regeneration, not only in terms of the construction of the Olympic Park, but with new additions to the local area including the vast Westfield shopping centre in Stratford.
In many respects, of course, this can only be seen as a positive, with valid arguments that the new facilities have revitalised one of London's most run down areas, creating jobs and attracting people into the community.
As we've made our way around Stratford since arriving for the Games last Sunday, we've seen both sides of the current make-up of the area, from the shiny shrines to the modern world that the stadium and shopping mall can represent, to the artistic underground core which has long regarded the East End as its own capital.
Among such venues is the Stour Space, which has become a regular haunt for Team S&X during our time in London thanks to its convenient location around the corner from our base in Stratford.
With the summer of sport set to begin in London, Birmingham based PR and Marketing agency, S&X, is in the capital to work on projects for its clients within the sports industry.
In the first of an exclusive series of Birmingham Post blogs, S&X Managing Director, Paul Phedon, describes the scene as London prepares.
The sun is in the sky, anticipation is in the air, and S&X is on the ground as excitement builds ahead of the Olympic opening ceremony.
With weather often the favoured topic of discussion throughout Britain, it's only fitting that an upturn in conditions coincided with the spectacular arrival of the Olympic flame at the Tower of London last Friday.
The torch is now wending its way across the capital just as it has throughout the British Isles over the preceding couple of months, and with the final leg of its journey comes a distinct buzz in this bustling metropolis as the greatest show on earth prepares for its spectacular curtain raiser.
The area surrounding the Olympic Park is already alive, with the vast Stratford shopping centre full to capacity, and I've already been kept awake at night by the dulcet tones of a certain world famous singer as rehearsals continue late into the night for Friday's highly anticipated opening ceremony!
After a long seven year wait since the Games were awarded to London, there's now a genuine sense of excitement and a feeling that Britain is prepared to take the stage.
It's great to be here sampling the atmosphere of a home Games, and we're settling into our temporary base, a mere stone's throw from the centre of all the action close to the River Lea.
As a business, we're no strangers to London having recently opened the doors to our new office in Shoreditch, as reported in The Post. While our familiarity with the city is certainly beneficial to us as we settle in to life on the ground, the so-called 'Olympic bubble' remains an extraordinary environment to work around.
The Olympics is always a huge undertaking for us as an agency, and with several of our clients operating within the world of sport, it produces a wide number of opportunities - not to mention a host of challenges. An estimated 50,000 journalists from all corners of the globe have converged on the capital, and as we walk around East London we see interviews taking place on virtually every street with the vicinity of the Olympic Park. There's a genuine hunger for compelling content, and it's our job to provide just that on behalf of our clients.
For me personally, this will be my fourth taste of the Olympic Games, having worked at each one since Sydney in 2000. S&X Associate Director, Jo Green, is working at the Games for a second time, while other members of the team are getting their first taste of this unique and wonderful event. No matter how many times you've been part of it before, the anticipation is always the same, just as the experience is always vastly different.
An enthralling few weeks lies before us. Let's just hope the sun keeps shining...
Until next time,
Paul and the S&X team in London
Stay up to date with S&X throughout the Games on Twitter:
There is currently a lot of concern about both wild and domestic honeybee populations. In this country, as in other parts of the world, they are being hit by a combination of factors. These include the loss of wildflowers, the effects of pesticides and, most significantly, a virus disease carried by a parasitic mite. As they are a vital part of our food chain, pollinating many of our fruits and vegetables, the concern is well justified.
Good news then that over the last few years a new species of bumblebee has made its way to Britain and seems to be thriving here. It first appeared here in 2001 and is now found in most parts of England and Wales. It seems to be at home in suburban gardens so might well be in yours. Locally its presence has been highlighted following a string of enquiries to the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust. It seems that the tree bumblebee, as its name implies, likes to nest higher up than most other species. It looks for dry cavities in which to nest, and has found nest boxes to be ideal, hence the calls to the Trust from people who have seen bees where they expected blue tits.
These bees are easy to identify. They are thickset, furry, about 10 - 16mm long, and have a distinctive colour pattern: bright orange behind their head, then a broad black body with a white tail. No other bees have this pattern.
Ecological Records Coordinator Craig Slawson, who is responsible for maintaining a database of all wildlife recorded in Staffordshire, said: "The tree bumblebee reached Staffordshire in 2009, and we've had reports of it all over the county now, from Newcastle in the north down to Wombourne in the south, Burton and Uttoxeter in the west and Stafford and Stone in mid-Staffordshire. If you discover a tree bumblebee nest in your nest box, don't worry as it shouldn't pose any problems. The bees are quite docile and are unlikely to sting unless provoked or accidentally trapped. The best thing to do is leave them alone and enjoy them as they pollinate your garden flowers!"
More good news about this bee is that, unlike some other newly arrived species such as the harlequin ladybird, it does not seem to be having any harmful effects on other bees or other parts of the ecosystem. It is a very effective pollinator and is therefore just what we need to help to compensate for the decline in other species.
The Trust is asking anyone who has a tree bumblebee nest to report it, preferably accompanied by a photo, to email@example.com in order to help map the distribution of the species. For more information on tree bumblebees, also see www.tinyurl.com/ck4f4o7 .