On Monday 25 March, I will be giving a research seminar for the Anita White Foundation at the University of Chichester. The paper will be on my current research project
on the women of the 1908 Olympic Games. It will start at 4.00 pm in Holts 1 on the University's Chichester Campus, and all are welcome. See here for full details.
On Friday 12 October, I’m giving a talk on Hampshire’s Olympic history to the Odiham Society in Hampshire. The talk starts at 7.30 for 7.45 pm in the Cross Barn, Odiham. For full details, visit the Society’s site.
This summer, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some fascinating programmes through the Free Word Centre in London’s Farringdon Road. Free Word is a venue that brings together a number of organisations dedicated to writing, debates, free speech, and human rights, and it hosts events, films, exhibitions, and programmes on a range of themes.
My involvement started earlier this year when Free Word hired me as the historical consultant for their exhibition Politics & Olympics: Ideals and Realities, which opened in May and runs through to the last day of the Paralympics in September. I worked with the talented curatorial and development teams to bring the exhibition together, and it is going really well. It is not anti-Olympic; rather, it uses images from the history of the Games to raise questions about sport’s relationship with politics, including diplomacy, body politics, terrorism (by states and non-state organisations), human rights, and commerce.
Through this link, I have got involved with Index on Censorship, one of the organisations that is based at the Free Word Centre. On 19 June, Index will launch its special sport-themed issue, called Sport on Trial. Edited by Jo Glanville, it will contain provocative articles on a number of sporting-themes, exploring the links between sport and politics in both democracies and dictatorships. You can get a flavour of it from Mihir Bose’s article, ‘Sport v Human Rights’. Working with Stephen Escritt, one of the Politics & Olympics exhibition’s curators, I have co-written an article for it on the word ‘Olympic’.
To launch the issue, the Free Word Centre is hosting a panel discussion on Tuesday 19 June, starting at 6.30pm. I’ll be joining Jo Glanville, author and broadcaster Mihir Bose and professional footballer Clarke Carlisle, who works for the Professional Footballers Association and for Kick It Out. It promises to be an interesting event: with racism at the Euros and the many political issues being raised by London hosting the Olympic Games, the time is right for open debate.
I’ve just been booked to speak at the Ways With Words festival at Dartington Hall in Devon. I’ll be part of the panel for The Telegraph Debate, called ‘The Olympics: What Do They Mean For Us?’, which will start at 8pm on Tuesday 10 July. Liz Hunt of the Telegraph will be in the chair, and I’ll be joining Adharanand Finn, Guardian journalist and author of Running With The Kenyans, and Telegraph journalist Max Davidson, author of It’s Not The Winning that Counts and Fields of Courage. Visit the festival’s website for full details.
Filed under Festivals, Talks
One of the most intriguing of the many pre-Coubertin Olympics that I came across in my work for The British Olympics was held in West End, Hampstead, in 1799. Thanks to and article by local historians Marianne Colloms and Dick Weindling, we have a poster for a Grand Fete at West End which included a revival of the Ancient Olympic Games. To find out more about this obscure festival, come along to a talk that I’m giving with Played in Britain editor Simon Inglis at West End Lane Books, 277 West End Lane, West Hampstead on Wednesday 4 July. The talk starts at 7.30. Places are limited, so please book ahead. You can book by phone on 020 7431 3770, or by email on info@welbooks. co.uk.
Over the last few months, I’ve been working with a fantastic team at the Free Word Centre in London to create an exhbition called Politics & Olympics: Ideals and Realities, and it opened last week. My role has been that of historical consultant, working with curators Stephen Escritt and Nayia Yiakoumaki and researcher Oskar Kvasnes. Together, we have selected a variety of images from throughout the history of the Olympics that shed light on the diverse ways in which the Games and politics interact.
Themes include diplomacy, security and terrorism, national identity, human rights, body politics, and commercialisation. The exhibition, and the related events that will go on around it over the Summer, is not anti-Olympic: in line with the Free Word Centre’s remit, it is designed to encourage debate, argument, and free thinking, and to get us beyond the knee-jerk reaction that sport and politics don’t mix.
The exhibition runs at the Free Word Centre in Farringdon Road until 9 September, the closing day of the Paralympics. For full details of the events, visit the Free Word Centre’s website.
I’m giving a talk on my book The British Olympics at the first Brympton Festival of Literature, Music and Art, which will be held at the stunning Brympton House at Brympton D’Evercy near Yeovil in Somerset. My talk, which will start at 5.00pm on Sunday 22 April, will cover the history and heritage of the Olympic Games and their British forerunners. It will be my second literary festival, after my talk at the Guildford Festival in 2011, and it looks set to be a fascinating and entertaining weekend of talks, events, sport, food, and music.
Olympia Gardens, built on the first site of the Morpeth Olympic Games
On Sunday 15 April, I’m giving a talk on the Morpeth Olympic Games as part of the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering. The Morpeth Olympic Games started in the 1870s, and had taken on the name ‘Olympic’ by the early 1880s. They took place over two days each year in the Northumbrian town, with a programme of athletics, wrestling, and quoits, and their prize purses were the best in the north-east. They lasted until 1958, with breaks only during the two would wars. For me, they are a fascinating example of a sporting festival called the Olympic Games that had nothing to do with what the International Olympic Committee started in 1896. Unlike the Wenlock Olympian Games, they are not part of the British back story of the modern Olympic Games: their professionalism and prize money made sure of that. Yet they co-existed with the IOC’s Olympic Games for 62 years, and are a reminder that the name ‘Olympic’ has historically meant many different things.
My talk will take place at Morpeth Town Hall, starting at 6pm on Sunday 15 April. It will be followed by a rare screening of some archive film of the Morpeth Olympic Games and other scenes from local history, run by Keith Hartnell. These events are just part of a whole festival weekend.
The English Heritage sports project Played in Britain is staging an exhibition and a series of talks around the theme of Played in London at The Gallery in Farringdon throughout May 2012. It starts on 3 May with Simon Inglis, acclaimed author and creator of the Played in Britain series, talking about London’s sporting heritage. Then each Thursday evening, Simon will be in conversation with a range of authors and practitioners. I’m the guest for 10 May, talking about London’s Olympic heritage, with subsequent weeks including Olympic Stadium architect Rod Sheard, swimming pool architect Keith Ashton, swimming pool historian Ian Gordon, and pub games historians Arthur Taylor and Patrick Chaplin. It looks set to be a highly informative, entertaining, and innovative series.
For full details, see the Played in Britain website.
Last night, I gave a talk for the London Parks and Gardens Trust at the delightful Garden Museum in Lambeth. The well-attended talk was on London’s Parks and London’s Olympic Games. I used the Olympic park at Stratford as my starting point, and then went back to look at the ways in which London’s past Olympic and Olympian games had used London’s parks and open spaces. From Baron de Berenger’s Olympic Festival at Cremorne Gardens in 1832 and the National Olympian Association’s first National Olympian Games at Crystal Palace in 1866, I moved on to White City and Wormwood Scrubs in 1908, and Richmond Park in 1948, before ending with the mixed legacy that 2012 is creating: on the one hand, it is creating new parks and gardens; but on the other, it is having an impact on Hackney Marshes and Greenwich Park. The talk was followed with some lively discussion. I’d like to thank Katy Myers of the London Parks and Gardens Trust for organising the evening.