“Let The Games Begin”

These were the immortal words reiterated by Gary Linekar in the early hours of Saturday morning after the spectacular Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Being in London, we have the opportunity to see the transformation of one of the greatest and most diverse cities in the world. From our windows here in Bethnal Green, not only can we see the sunshine (yes!) but also a new wealth of people flocking through our streets seeing what we have to offer.

Every four years records are smashed, hearts are broken and the world is given a new perspective about the ability of the human body. Whether that be running, swimming or cycling faster than anyone ever has or simply being at the pinnacle of your discipline. The Olympics gives us a sober reflection of what we can achieve if we put our minds to it and have the drive to succeed.

Independent of the sport, we can see innovation and recreation in architecture, engineering and other places where we might not usually expect. A good example of this is the Olympic cauldron that is burning in the Olympic Park as we type this. For those of you that are lucky to be in London or surrounding areas to enjoy the cultural, social and physical attractions that are happening for the next month will be open to a whole new world of ideas.

The Houses of National Olympic Committees are fantastic to go and see and be inspired by. They represent the nations of the world and what they have to offer. The opportunity to see the Czech Republic or Brazil down your road is not something that will return and so we think it is a good idea to just experience a different way of living and share it with your friends.

The Games have begun, and they will last 16 days. If you blink, you might miss it. But the legacy and symbol of these Games goes further than those two weeks and a bit. The slogan for the Olympics in 2012 is “Inspire A Generation” and we are the “Ideas Generation” so why don’t we create the legacy when we pass the torch on to the next generation?

Pass it on… – #WordOfMouthMondays

10 Tips For The Olympic Park

For those of you that have not been to the Olympic Park yet, it will definitely be an amazing experience. After having a conversation with someone yesterday, they thought it might be a good idea if they could get an insight into the sort of things that you should know about preparation for the Olympics:

  1. Arrive there nice and early – getting through the queues and the security is a bit difficult. The army are quite stringent there, so make sure you don’t bring a cold drink because they will throw it in the bin. For men, do not wear loose trousers with a belt because you will be asked to take them off (the belt that is!) and for everyone, wear loose-ish trainers as you might have to remove those as well and you don’t want to hold people up.
  2. Eat well before you go – the food there is pretty expensive with not the greatest portion sizes so I would fill up on stuff before you get in. And you will just end of eating McDonalds – oh the irony!
  3. Bring an empty water bottle – rather than paying £2.30 for a bottle of Coke, you can fill up at free water fountains and save yourself some money and probably save your teeth as well. Although you might have to wait in a queue so get one person to do multiple bottles.
  4. Travel light – the chances are that the weather is going to be hot and so lugging around a rucksack is not going to be ideal. You are only permitted to carry a medium size bag anyway so take that into account.
  5. Expect queues/delays – this is probably the most important point. There are going to be lots of people, you are a small fish in an extremely busy, international pond and so don’t do the British thing and complain. Grit your teeth, enjoy the sunshine and bear it because the greatest show on earth only comes around for two weeks in our lifetime.
  6. Take A Walk –the best thing to do is to just explore and look through all the nook and crannies of the park. See if you can find the trail of crayons in the Thames and the meadows of flowers and long grass – really is worth a look!
  7. Talk to Volunteers  – some of them have absolutely amazing stories and information to tell you so do not be afraid to go up and ask them a few questions. They are trained to be polite and smile, so they should hopefully be able to point you in the right direction and give you some good service.
  8. It is not just about Sport – it would be a good idea to download the “Join In” official app on your smart phone and have a look at what is going on elsewhere in London. They have spent millions on making London the best city in the world and so why not enjoy it? Most of it is free anyway, and most of us like a bargain.
  9. Public Transport – make sure that you plan your route before you leave the house, because as soon as you have set foot out of it, you could be stuck and waste a ticket. The Get Ahead Of The Games posters that we have been seeing is a really useful tool to get up to date info and also plan your way in any way out to save you some time and some of your sanity.
  10. Capture it! – for goodness sake, do not forget to take as many pictures and videos as possible and find the weirdest and wackiest things that you can. You can send the best ones on to me and I can post them with your name on this blog and people can have a look at what you have been up to.

That is all from me for now. Hope those of you that are lucky enough to be here will enjoy the games and everyone else on the telly. The greatest show on earth is less than 24 hours away…will you be watching? 

SPOILERS – London 2012 Opening Ceremony

For those of you that are impatient like me, this is the sort of post that you might like to read. For those of you that want to “#savethesurprise” (the official hastag Twitter thingy) then I would suggest that you go back to Facebook or actually read a real book.

As soon as you walk up to your seat in the stadium, you are hit by how real and up close you are to what is going on. Whether that be the “fake” clouds that are roaming past you and, I kid you not, the farmyard animals that are roaming on the grass in the middle of the stadium – the papers were not lying. It was a bit weird at first, but with some of the actors playing traditional roles in the countryside, it was mystical. But the only thing I kept thinking was how the hell are they going to move all of this stuff to make way for everything else?

The Barnyard

But they did. It was everything that London isn’t – efficient, on time, minimum fuss or confusion and finished. We are lucky that Danny Boyle is Scottish, aren’t we? All joking aside, even through writing this post, I feel bad for divulging too many details – as he said himself “This show is for the performers, it is for the people and so I ask you to keep it a secret for them.” I was still tweeting pictures during the rehearsal, but still fair do’s.

What are they cooking up in the cauldron?

The only thing that I can do is to give you some clues about what the show might entail. The Beijing Ceremony for me was a great spectacle of discipline, aggression and fierce beauty, but I felt as if they were showing off a bit. It really lacked the character and the sheer British humour that Boyle captures in this show. He takes everything from film, music and history that is uniquely British and turns it into a real West End style show. It evoked an emotional response from everyone in the crowd, a sense of pride that has been lost in the last few years – you could tell that people were getting goose bumps watching the show, even though it was only a rehearsal.

The Stadium in All its Glory!

I have to say it really is the best show that I have ever seen live, I am not sure how it will come out on television. For those of you lucky enough to have tickets (spare ones are welcome at my house if anyone is feeling generous) then you will not forget what happens on Friday for a long time. It is something that you will be able to tell you kids or your grandkids, or someone else’s kids if they are lucky.

3 days and counting, the greatest show on earth comes to London…


I was fortunate enough to be in London for the Diamond Jubilee weekend when everything was happening and so one can give a review on the weekend. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. To be honest, the rarity of the four day weekend is a close kept secret amongst London-folk where they dream of not having to sweat, whatever the weather outside, on the Tube and being able to sit at home on a Sunday without having the stormy cloud of the Monday Blues hanging over their head. I could see from my social networking feed how many people were excited by the happenings of the weekend in front on them on the previous Friday. People were already camping out and buying their bunting. Sainsbury’s sold the most barbeque food it has ever sold on that Saturday for the following day in its history, so the stage was set.

And then God did the British thing. And kept doing it until now. It is doing it whilst I type. Let me give you a couple of clues – it is wet, rhymes with pain and is as recognizable in Britain as the Queen…worked it out yet? Rain. Proper, start-building-an-ark rain which literally washed out basically every street party in the country, apart from the ones in Scotland. So the one weekend where Scotland isn’t miserable and wet, England was and all of those people who had asked for permission to close their streets, sat under their gazebos as their neighbours dare not venture out, as the cakes started to go stale. What a perfect start.

“A fair amount of flag waving”

Luckily for us we were able to avoid it sufficiently in order to get to the banks of the River Thames at Blackfriars in order to observe the flotilla, which in English is a boat parade of a thousand boats on the famous local river. OK I know it sounds like watching paint dry. At least that is what could be said of the BBC coverage. 2,500 complaints was it and the Director General said he was”proud”…hmmmm. Well the pleasant thing was that watching it live was not so bad. And plus Londoners were actually talking to each other on the train and in the street….and they were not arguing…it was definitely a sight for sore eyes. It is true that atmosphere cannot be underestimated, watching thousands of people wave flags was quite a sight.

So to take us to the Monday and it seemed that people were still recovering from the night before. Nevertheless we got to the city to meet a few friends and it seemed as if it was business as usual. The weather did not hold out as much as I would have liked, but I got a few good snaps of some of the relics from the weekend in Covent Garden. Visiting Chinatown in general is an experience, but a street party there is a whole new experience – I will never forget how dragon candy is made, the orient’s best kept secret. Wrapped it up with a trip through Soho to get to the car. It seemed that some of them started early that day and anyone who has been to London knows what Soho is known for, so I need not say anymore. If you don’t, then Google it – it will probably explain it better than me.

Finally, even though I was pretty much numb from the waist down from the standing and walking, I trudged on to Tuesday. With a few friends, I got to see the Queen passing us in the street, and that was the nicest part of the day. We were hit with road closures, blockages and just general nuisances which meant that we got lost in the National Portrait Gallery (don’t ask…) and ruined our plan of going to Trafalgar Square. So we walked to St. James Park. Closed. Then Regents Park. Closed. Finally Green Park. Op-Closed. So we walked to Hyde Park which was an hour away in the rain and plonked ourselves in front of the big screen surrounded by free crisps and other goodies that were rejects from the Jubilee Festival – I can tell you we were not complaining. It was cool to see the Red Arrows live, but then again the rain seemed to dampen our spirits.

Overall I can say that the Diamond Jubilee is an event that will probably never come around again, and I really hope it doesn’t, I don’t think my legs nor my umbrella could take it. I guess it is one of the steps on the road to A Summer To Remember, and trust me, it isn’t something that I am going to forget for a while. So chin chin, as one must retire. Hope you have a lovely Jubilee (Del boy accent)!

“Doctor Who’s box has gone a bit fruity…”

The Day That I Met The Queen – Part 1

Now that I am free of the academic shackles for another year, I thought it would be a good time to update you with what has been going on. It has been a little while since it happened, but I thought it would be a good idea to answer the questions that people have been asking me all in one go. So it all started on the 26th morning of March…

We were told that she was coming a few weeks before the event on her Diamond Jubilee tour around the country and that she was going to visit Ilford, which is where I live. We were asked to create a piece to commemorate the tenure of her reign. We weren’t happy. In the middle of our exam, already slightly behind and stressed, creating a piece for this exhibition was not at the top of our priority list. And we were convinced that she was not coming. Nevertheless we trudged on for three weeks in most of our free periods making this huge piece.

It was a 1.5 metre tall stamp of the queen made up of little stamps and it was a horror to create. First we sourced stamps from the last 60 years, and then we mapped out where they were going to go. Then we had to stick them. One by one. Every stamp. I can truly say that I never want to see or stick another stamp down in my life.

That is a close up of what we created. It looks great there and we were really happy with it. Then I got the call. I really wasn’t expecting it, considering we were told unequivocally from the beginning that we were never going to meet her, regardless of how good the work was. I guess we were all wrong. My teacher told me that I was chosen to meet her and present the work to her – I must admit it was a bit of a surprise, but a nice one at that! I received an official invitation in the post a few days later, calligraphy and all and it sunk in…I was going to meet the Queen. The document contained lots of detailed instructions on etiquette and all that rubbish about how to address her and talking to her and making eye contact (not joking!) so it became real for the first time.

And at the risk of boring you with the rest of the back story, I suppose I better get into the main bit.


Oh wait, did you hear that? You know what that means…it means that’s all we have got time for folks! I have always wanted to do that…sorry. I will go into the real details of our conversation in the next post, but I am fast approaching my 500 word limit so until next time…

The Greatest In The World. Not Half.

I am in a good mood today, because I am done with the bulk of my exams and so I am feeling relieved and looking to relax. Then I realised I haven’t blogged in a while and so I thought I would get my pen out (metaphorically speaking) and talk about something that I thought was interesting.

The thing that has been bombarding me recently is…wait. I am not going to tell you what it is yet – I want you to guess. It involves fire, a lot of exercise and thousands and thousands of people. No it is not a rubbish pub joke, I am talking about the torch relay. The sign that the Olympics is a matter of days away. There is only a small amount of time before the eyes of the world will be on London.

The thing is, I don’t think people have been excited about the Olympics. Sitting on the Tube in the last few months, I have been listening constantly to people just finding any excuse to say how horrible the Games are and how poorly planned they will be. No wonder people are so miserable. You just need to spread a little bit of positivity – London is going to be the greatest city in the world for 6 weeks and we are going to be in the middle of it.

That is pretty special. Thousands of people are flocking to our city and all we can think about is how many people are going to clutter up the transport system. I can’t believe I am saying this, but grow up, wake up and feel it. It will be gone in the blink of an eye and you will regret not experiencing the greatest show on Earth.

Sure I am disappointed not to be flying the flag, or more appropriately carrying the torch (no hard feelings Seb Coe) but I can appreciate that past all of the drama and the problems, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so even if I am sitting in a park, or watching my TV, for once we need to be proud of our city and proud of ourselves.

Samuel Johnson, you legend: “You find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

The greatest city on Earth. Not half.

The Revolution Begins…with the BBC!

For those of you that don’t know I am going to give a little bit of background before I get into the good stuff. Monday 13th February was the day when 10 young people marched to the Royal Courts Of Justice in order to give a submission to the Levenson Enquiry about the way in which young people are portrayed in the media. With our research we found that 76% of press about young people is negative, which is wholly unbalanced and we are here to put the record straight. More information about everything can be found at Right, well enough of that formal stuff…

It must have been over a week now, but it feels longer, since I was asked to an interview with Eddie Nestor on Drivetime BBC London 94.9FM radio. It was on my birthday that one of his researchers called, 14th February (yes I have heard all of the Valentines’ jokes thank you!) and I was asked to come into the studio and have a chat with him. Of course I said no, being my first day off and being at home properly since August. Then I realised that I had made a monumentally stupid mistake. Luckily, good ol’ Eddie got me on the phone, and he invited me down to see him face to face…I was definitely going to be ready. Dealing with a fair few journalists in my time, I know that one thing you have to be is prepared, questions can range from the mundane to the obscure and I was not going to be caught out.

As you can imagine, the butterflies were doing cartwheels inside my stomach before we were due to go on, considering I was told that I was the main person that he was going to talk to. I relished the challenge, but that didn’t stop my hands from shaking! Going into the small studio, made it slightly cosier and I believe in all seriousness that Eddie was glad to have us on. It was interesting to listen to the interview back as it felt completely different to how it felt live. What felt like probing questions and awkward answers seemed to be a lot more friendly and seamless as I listened to it again. Although what I learnt was that, regardless of my experience with journalists, and Eddie’s obvious politician-style dodge when we asked about a regular feature, that the BBC were prepared to listen.

Yet Eddie is not right in some respects. Young people have valid opinions across the board, not just on issues affecting young people; their perspective is as good as any. And it is not just about helping old ladies across the road, but getting record A Level results, or having less young people going to prison or more young people spending more time selflessly than other any person before them. These are just the tip of the iceberg…most young people will tell you.

The fact that millions of people heard what we had to say and agreed with us showed us that some of the things we hear are not true. Adults want to believe in young people. They just need to know how. And that is where we come in. That is where it clicked. The reason why previous campaigns on this issue have failed…because they ONLY focus on young people and not adults as well, which is only half-hearted.

That is why I think that we will succeed where others have failed. That is why over 65 youth organisations representing millions of young people have backed us. Because we bridge the gap between the young and old, taking both opinions to the media and telling them we have had enough. And I have. This may be the only chance in a generation to change the way that we are spoken, listened and written about and I am not about to pass up that chance. I hope you are not either. If any journalists are reading this, I think there is a story here…you would be foolish to pass it up!

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