It’s Games on for culture festival in run-up to 2012 unveiled

THE streets of Westminster will come alive with the Olympic spirit as part of a four-year festival leading up to 2012

Sanchez Manning

THE streets of Westminster will come alive with the Olympic spirit as part of a four-year festival leading up to 2012.

The council's Festival Of Culture will begin at the end of the Beijing Games this summer and continue until the torch is lit in London.

The series of arts, music and community events have been inspired by the Cultural Olympiad - a wider programme of cultural and arts events planned across the capital.

In the spirit of the Olympics, organisers hope the events will encourage a better understanding between different cultures in the borough and involve more young people in the arts.

Westminster alone has residents from 180 countries, with more than 150 different languages spoken in schools.

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Cllr Daniel Astaire, who has been closely involved with the development of the festival, said: "We need to bring down the barriers that stand in the way of local people benefiting from the rich blend of cultural provision in Westminster and beyond and ensure all residents are able to experience, enjoy and contribute to the city's unique cultural offerings.

"By the time the 2012 Games are over, we want every young person in Westminster to feel entitled to walk through the doors of any art gallery or museum in London or any theatre in the West End with the self-confidence to express themselves creatively."

Full details of the programme are yet to be released. But many of the top London-based arts institutions, including the Tate, the English National Opera, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the National Portrait Gallery have already signed up.

In a speech he gave at a conference to unveil the council's plans in Mayfair's Sketch Gallery restaurant on Wednesday, Cllr Astaire hinted at some possible highlights.

He said: "More work is needed to develop these ideas - but elements could comprise a trail around the city showcasing different events and animations of all communities' histories, including Londoners, Middle Eastern, Asians, Caribbeans and Bengalis.

"We could also incorporate the storytelling and literature, exhibitions and performance, activities in parks and memories of previous Games from 1948 onwards."

The Cultural Olympiad will officially start after the close of this year's Beijing Olympics.