Olympic Opening Ceremony ‘borrows’ liberally from unknown artists?

The top image was part of my proposal for the Artists Taking the Lead arts competition in 2009. The image below is part of the design for the official opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic games in London. Although shortlisted as a concept to mark the 2012 Olympics my proposal was ultimately unsuccessful.

At the time there were some grumblings about the ultimate recipients of the award in the Yorkshire region by all of the other shortlisted Artists. The main one being that the winning bid was not Artist led but a consortium of Leeds based cultural institutions.

At the time, though suspicious of the result myself, I felt that complaining about this would only look like sour grapes. Who wants to enter a competition with a foregone conclusion? Especially one that would require months of work, research and planning?

I received an email at the time from one of the other finalists explaining their concerns over the fairness of the competition and expressing some doubt over the legitimacy of the Leeds Canvas bid. Since then I believe all the other finalists were brought into the Culutural Olympiad in some capacity and their concern about the unfairness and potential illegality of the ATL competition faded.

It seems that more information about the inner workings of the Leeds bid and its relationship with the Arts Council has emerged, which if true is troubling to say the least.

See this article on Arts Professional’s site.

or if you prefer in the Artists Newsletter

Which brings me to the reason for this post.

Two weeks before the opening ceremony my friend Dominic who assisted with the art work for my proposal, pointed out the bottom image above to me. I was quite startled by its parallels with our art work, and perhaps even more startled that the whole concept echoed my proposal so thoroughly.

After the opening ceremony I began receiving messages both online and by text etc. People wondered if I had some involvement with the planning of the opening. I had not. I hadn’t watched the opening ceremony but the gravity of the situation became very apparent. See this article in Arts Professional Artist suspects foul play over Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Please understand, I do not think I invented Spiral Mounds or hills, but the similarities conceptually and visually here are very strong. I believe the Olympic opening ceremony would have been very different visually and conceptually without our input.

In light of the questions being raised over the legitimacy of the competition I entered and the lack of any form of attribution or credit for our work I now feel that I have no choice but to highlight these issues. I would be interested in your views, so please leave a comment and share this article through your social networks.

Best Wishes, L.M.S.


Update: November 2012…

The article below was recently published by the Art Newspaper and is only available in print….

UPDATE: Thursday 15 th November 2012

Its come to my attention that an extensive and wildly inaccurate version of this story has appeared in the Daily Mail, from the outset it is slightly troubling, the headline being rather over demonstrative and dramatic. I should make it clear that I am not trying to fleece Danny Boyle or LOCOG or indeed ACE, and I do not think I invented hills! In fact my design was largely inspired by Silbury Hill. The Devil, as they say, is in the detail. I will be making a separate post about these details here very soon. For now please read:

Artist may sue Olympics organisers claiming Danny Boyle stole his ‘grassy mound’ idea for Opening Ceremony.

The comments are particularly interesting and I’m heartened to note that despite the vague representation of my grievance there are many members of the public that are supportive. I guess it is something that will firmly divide opinion. I think the images above speak for themselves!


11 thoughts on “Olympic Opening Ceremony ‘borrows’ liberally from unknown artists?

  1. Carol Lee says:


    THE CULTURE COMPANY was the trading name of a company called PHOTO-ARTS 2000

    During the Leeds Canvas bid preparation period (between 13 December 2007 and October 2009) through to May 2012 when the company was dissolved, Photo-Arts 2000 had 3 directors, Timandra Gustafson, Christopher Bailey and Nicola Stephenson.

    Timandra Gustafson was an active mem
    ber of the Leeds Council’s Cultural Olympiad task group (“LCOTG”) where according to council minutes the decision to submit the Leeds Canvas entry into the Artists taking the Lead award (“ATTL”) was made. She had previously been employed by ACE North East and was at the time co-director of SITUATION LEEDS – partner organisation of Leeds Canvas.

    Christopher Bailey represented LEEDS MET UNIVERSITY on LOCTG. He has numerous associations with ACE and is currently Chair of Turning Point (the abbreviated title of Arts Council England’s strategy for the contemporary visual arts for 2006-16). He was also a director of NORTHERN BALLET THEATRE (24/09/2009 – 12/08/2011)– also a partner organisation of Leeds Canvas.

    The third director Nicola Stephenson was selected by ‘senior members of ACE Yorkshire’ to serve on the Independent panel of artists judging the ATTL award, in spite of the fact;

    – that she was employed by Photo-Arts 2000 alongside Timandra Gustafson and Christopher Bailey who were directly associated to 3 of the 9 partner organisations of Leeds Canvas.

    – that she commissioned the Quay Bros (Leeds Canvas ‘artists’) installation at Leeds Art Gallery (represented on LCOTG) on behalf of OPERA NORTH ( partner organisation Leeds Canvas).

    – that the Culture Company website lists LEEDS CITY COUNCIL and LEEDS MET UNIVERISTY (both partner organisations of Leeds Canvas) under ‘clients and partners.

    Nicola Stephenson was closely associated with 5 of the 9 partner organisations of Leeds Canvas – and the Quay brothers!

    NONE of the above associations was mentioned in the Declaration of Interest form completed by Nicola Stephenson provided by ACE via a FOI request.

    ACE response? “It is unsurprising that the panel had a range of existing relationships with potential applicants to the scheme. This is a regular occurrence across a range of our funding programmes”

    I say these associations should have been declared.


  2. More from Carol Lee

    “IN EMAILED RESPONSE TO ME Catherine Blanchard denies any ‘sounding out’ of ACE on bid to ATTL – in spite of council minutes to the contrary.

    This is what Catherine’s email says;
    “If I take the question on its own merit however I can repl
    y by saying that we would never asked the Arts Council for authority to bid to any of their funding streams.”

    and this is what the council minutes say;
    “Report from the Ideas Workshop held 24 February 2009 (no minutes available), given by Catherine Blanshard (chair). It was recommended that we make an artistically-led bid to the national Artists Taking The Lead Programme. Catherine will sound out Arts Council Yorkshire on the likely reception to a Leeds bid.”

    NOTE: the Ideas workshop where the details of the bid were decided, were not minuted. Why I wonder….

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