So Danny Boyle and his team sit down in his mum’s living room at the first meeting to plan the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. They’ve got some tea, chocolate digestives, and a spot of fruit cake to keep them going and to get the creative juices flowing.
There’s a bit of thumb twiddling for a while, a bit of yawning – Danny Boyle’s mum has to replenish the biscuits twice – until Danny Boyle suddenly says thoughtfully: ‘I want there to be grass’.
The team members look at each other, shrug, and the allocated note-taker writes down on his special pad that he bought for the occasion, in his very best handwriting:
Then there’s a bit more thumb-twiddling, Danny Boyle has to tell off a couple of team members for texting, and they open another packet of biscuits. Then one particularly tall team member who happens to be smoking a cigarette, even though Danny Boyle specifically said there was no smoking, suddenly rises from his chair.
Danny Boyle’s eyes light up.
‘I want incredibly tall chimneys rising from the ground, with smoke billowing out of the tops into the night sky!’
The team members look at him.
‘Er, why Danny?’ asks one.
‘Um….’ Danny searches the room for inspiration, and his eyes fall on the Brunel University jumper that the youngest team member is wearing. ‘Industrial Revolution!’ he cries. ‘Yes! The chimneys can have something to do with that. Britain being industrial and stuff. Yeah. I definitely want the chimneys’.
So the note-taker writes:
By now Danny’s getting into his stride.
‘And DRUMS!’ he cries. ‘I want drums. Drums are great, who doesn’t like a drum? But instead of only a few drums, like a normal amount of drums, let’s have SHIT LOADS of drums. I mean, like, more drums than is sensible. The kind of amount of drums that would make even the most die-hard drum fan say ‘Woah woah woah, that’s way too many drums’. I want that amount of drums.’
So the note-taker writes:
At this point, one brave team member pipes up: ‘Um, Danny – this is great and everything – I like the grass, and the chimneys and the drums, this is all excellent stuff, but er… I think we need something that’s quintessentially British. You know, like, the most British thing ever.’
Another team member, with his feet up on Danny Boyle’s mum’s coffee table, says idly: ‘James Bond?’
Danny Boyle shakes his head.
‘No no no. We can’t just turn the Olympic Opening Ceremony into an opening sequence to a Bond film. I’m not having James Bond run into the middle of the Olympic stadium and start shooting at stuff willy-nilly. Unless….’
Danny Boyle grabs his phone.
‘That was unexpected,’ mutters one team member to another.
So by now Danny Boyle is really excited.
‘And then after the Queen leaps out of the helicopter with James Bond – oh, can you write down ‘gold safety harnesses’, please – then I want loads of beds, just fill the stadium with beds, that’ll look really cool, and let’s have loads of children jumping gleefully up and down on these beds, and some kindly nurses tending to them and stuff. And then…’ Danny Boyle takes a thoughtful munch on a chocolate digestive ‘… let’s literally scare the SHIT out of these children, and out of all the children in the world, by having giant inflatable literary villains explode out of the beds, and THEN…. let’s get the child catcher in!’
Well, this really sorts the men from the boys in the team.
‘All right, all right,’ mutters Danny Boyle, rather grumpily. ‘What about a load of Mary Poppins flying in to defeat the hideous creatures that are chasing the terrified kids round the stadium?’
The team members nod, as one leans to another and mutters
Danny Boyle is very excited. It’s all coming together in his head.
‘And there’ll be dancing, just loads of dancing, and loads of really funky British music, and let’s get some social media in there, show the world how digitally advanced an age we’re living in, how amazing technology is, and let’s have someone who’s really relevant to it all, someone really important…’
‘What about the dude who invented the Internet?’ says one team member.
‘Well, who knew?’ says Danny Boyle. ‘Yeah, get him to come along. We’ll put him in a house and then lift the house up and he’ll be sitting at a desk underneath and it’ll be really cool. And then there’ll just be shit loads of fire and funky blue lights and sparks flying everywhere, and stuff’ll explode, and it’ll be amazing.’
The team members nod slowly.
‘But there’s something not quite right,’ muses Danny, walking over to the window and gazing out of it (he does this for a bit of dramatic effect). The team members hold their breath, wondering what spectacular Britishness he will come up with: a procession of armed guards, perhaps, or a hundred canons firing, or a rousing rendition of Land of Hope and Glory?
Danny Boyle suddenly snaps his fingers and spins round from the window. The team members lean forward, anticipation searing like lightening through their veins.
The team members lean back again.
‘Right, well, thanks for a very successful meeting,’ says Danny Boyle, shaking their hands.
When everyone has gone, he picks up the notepad and glances over the notes that will eventually become the Opening Ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
And on the night of 27th July 2012, as the smoke of the fireworks dies away, the 80,000 spectators blink their dazzled eyes, and East London echoes with the roars of Britishness, Danny Boyle turns to his team and says ‘And that, my dears, is what I’m talking about.’