BT River of Music was a gargantuan outdoor cultural extravaganza at six sites across London celebrating the music of all 204 Olympic countries. It was one of the highlights of the Cultural Olympiad and took place a week before the Olympics. Serious produced it, which was some achievement, and I worked on it for three and a half years as a project manager.
I don't think we realised in 2009 quite how complex the event would become. It was a big learning experience for me: I had little experience of outdoor events prior to this so was learning on the job. I was also part-time while I trained to become an Alexander Technique teacher.
I started by walking up and down the Thames identifying the best sites for large stages. We eventually narrowed it down to the wonderful Battersea Park, Trafalgar Square, Somerset House, Tower of London, the lovely Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, and the London Pleasure Gardens by Pontoon Dock. Each of these locations was to represent a continent (Europe had two).
Then began the planning and programming: approaching artists, venues and funders, endless Safety Advisory Group meetings, police meetings, site meetings, supplier meetings, LOCOG meetings, event management plans, risk assessments, tabletop exercises, simulated terrorist attack operations, briefings, presentations, contracts, site plans, method statements, schedules, timelines, milestones, deadlines...
During the planning we worked with embassies, charities, foundations, trusts, institutes, sponsors, venues, festivals, newspapers, broadcasters, councils, agencies, emergency services, operational bodies, Games bodies, heritage bodies, suppliers, traders, not to mention the hundreds of artists who Serious brought together for special collaborations, new commissions and world premières.
The end result was an incredible free event for London the like of which we will not see in a long time. We engaged live audiences of 125,000+ over the weekend and reached an audience of 8 million worldwide via TV and radio broadcasts.
By the end we were elated and exhausted. It had certainly been an education for me. And I was delighted I actually got to hear some of the music!