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Discovering Places Newsletter - March 2011
Welcome to Discovering Places
Welcome to the first e-newsletter from Discovering Places - London 2012’s Cultural Olympiad campaign to inspire communities across the UK to discover their local environment. Although many of you will already be familiar with the Discovering Places project and may even have participated in one of our events as part of Open Weekend last year, we’ve undergone something of a transformation in recent months and have emerged into the spring sunshine ready to stretch our wings and share our latest news far and wide.  We’ve used this edition to introduce you to the Discovering Places project and to explain more about the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad and what it means for you.

In future editions we’ll be bringing you news about our campaigns, upcoming events and opportunities for your organisation to get involved in the programme.

This inaugural newsletter comes to you via The Heritage Alliance; the delivery partner for Discovering Places, but if you wish to subscribe to future editions please let us know by emailing

I look forward to keeping you all up-to-date on the exciting programme of events taking place in the run up to London 2012.
Claire Horan, Discovering Places Project Manager

The Cultural Olympiad – what’s it all about?
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just about sport.  Traditionally host cities have always showcased the arts and culture of their nation to the rest of the world during the games.  What is different about London 2012 is that when the handover ceremony took place in Beijing in 2008 the Cultural Olympiad began in the UK.  The Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012, and to inspire creativity across all forms of culture, particularly among young people and to leave a lasting legacy.

There is a network of Creative Programmers, one for each nation and region of the UK, who make sure the most innovative projects take their place in the Cultural Olympiad.  They do this through the Inspire Programme which has to date over 300 accredited projects.

There are seven major strands to the Cultural Olympiad covering Art, Film and Digital, Literature and Libraries, Museums and Galleries, Music, Outdoors and Events, and Theatre, Dance and Comedy.  Running within these strands are the following major national projects:
Open Weekends are the annual countdown celebrations to the opening of the London 2012 Games; a moment of mass participation incorporating arts, cultural, sporting and environmental initiatives.  Over the past 3 years LOCOG estimate that over 4 million people have attended or taken part in a Cultural Olympiad event, and over £40 million has been generated. You may well have already contributed to this success in some way.

The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in the UK’s biggest ever cultural festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation, leaving a lasting legacy for the arts in the UK.
More information about the Cultural Olympiad can be found on the London 2012 website
Discovering Places  -  under starters orders ...
With such an emphasis being places on the arts, one might well ask where the historic, natural and built environments fit into the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad?  The answer is Discovering Places, a national project set up as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad to champion the historic, natural and built environments and to inspire communities across the UK to get out and discover the hidden places and extraordinary spaces on their doorstep and to discover the stories waiting to be told.

Discovering Places officially launched, in July 2010, alongside Open Weekend.  Over 100, free, dynamic events, interactive programmes and engaging projects took place across the country, making it a huge success.

Discovering Places aims to use the power of the games to bring new audiences to the historic, natural and built environments; leveraging technology to attract and engage with younger audiences.

The project aims to nurture and showcase new partnerships and models of working to enable a sustainable model of engagement for historic, natural and built environment organisations and to leave a lasting legacy of greater engagement and ownership among local communities.

Discovering Places is funded by a grant from Olympic Lottery Distributor (OLD) through the London Organising Committee of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG). It is delivered by The Heritage Alliance, the biggest alliance of heritage interests in the UK, set up to promote the central role of the non-government movement in the heritage sector.
Since last year’s launch, we’ve been working hard to develop a comprehensive programme of longer-term engagement projects, operating at both local and national levels.
Locally we’re working closely with a number of artists on projects that aim to help local communities to discover their local environment by encouraging them to think about it creatively and to see the everyday from a different perspective. This part of the programme is being developed jointly with the London 2012 Culture team for launch in summer 2011.

Discovering Places is also focusing on four major engagement projects.  These will be delivered in partnership with organisations from the historic, built and natural environment sectors and will have a UK-wide reach.  The projects are designed to interlink and complement each other and to link into the wider London 2012 Sustainability and Get Set programmes. Each project has been created to offer a new experience to established audiences, while attracting new audiences through the use of social media and interactive digital technology.

The four major projects and their corresponding delivery partners are:

MEET THE SPECIES -  Bristol Natural History Consortium (BNHC)
Launching spring 2011
Meet the Species is a bona-fide scientific research project, but with a difference.  It is a digital experience, online community, arts and education project, which encourages outdoor active participation.  The project is based around a list of over 2000 species which has been created by a scientific committee. The project requires volunteers of all ages to search for species on the list and create authentic scientific records through a myriad of projects and initiatives designed to drive public engagement with biodiversity and open spaces.

‘Since 2003 the Bristol Natural History Consortium has been working with organisations across the UK who are passionate about the natural world.  We are thrilled to be partnering with The Heritage Alliance on the Discovering Places project.  This project is a real combination of our organisation’s expertise, and a first for the UK to bring together world class citizen science, the arts, and the involvement of the nation’s most exciting natural and built spaces.  It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to help deliver the Cultural Olympiad and through ‘Meet the Species’ we’ll be visiting every corner of the UK.  We look forward to seeing you at one of our events.’
Savita Custead Chief Executive, BNHC
DISCOVER EXPLORE - Geography Collective LLP

Launching summer 2011

The project aims to inspire young people and their families to discover hidden, extraordinary and important historical sites and stories in cutting-edge and engaging ways. The unique collaboration between Discovering Places, Geography Collective and numerous small and medium scales historic and natural environment organisations will inspire active participation, animate spaces, raise awareness of environmental sustainability and enhance learning by linking up local heritage assets. 

‘We are extremely excited to be working on this cutting edge and creative strand of Discovering Places.  This project is going to open up opportunities for children and families to explore and experience places in new ways and have a great deal of fun while thare are at it.  We will be uncovering heritage in ways that will demonstrate how inclusive the Cultural Olympiad and breaking ground on engaging young people with the people, places and stories of not only our pasts but our future’s past.’
Daniel Raven-Ellison, Project Director, The Geography Collective
WALKTHE WORLD - Royal Geographical Society (with IGB)

Launching autumn 2011

Walk the World uses UK-wide connections with the 205 Olympic nations to promote exploration of local neighbourhoods and accessible spaces. 20 interactive, exemplar online walks, in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will highlight the links to the 205 nations that can be found in everyday, familiar items and places; from common-place food stuffs found on the high street to memorial plaques, buildings and open spaces. Through the downloadable walks members of the public will be encouraged to explore these physical manifestations in our landscapes and to uncover the stories behind them. An interactive digital platform will enable participants to post their own local connections and record stories of their own.

‘I am delighted that the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) will be working in partnership with The Heritage Alliance to deliver ‘Walk the World’ as part of Discovering Places.  Throughout our islands we have a myriad of fascinating links with the 205 Nations – some are historical associations and others contemporary.  The physical evidence is all around us, from tree species and foodstuffs to street names and building stone, and will be uncovered in walks that aim to entertain, inspire and inform, bringing fresh perspectives to our understanding of the connections between the 205 Nations and our local environments and neighbourhoods.’
Dr. Rita Gardner, CBE, Director, Royal Geographical Society (with IBG)

In development
Discovering Places is currently developing an engagement project around the contemporary built environment where we can show case the benefits of sustainable working, regeneration and their positive impact on the local community.
On your marks, get set .... go Open Weekend 2011
The weekend of 22nd to 24th July 2011 marks ONE YEAR TO GO.  As the momentum to the games increases and as the rest of the Olympic Nations begin to look to London and the UK – let’s show them that we are ready and we are excited. Open Weekend starts the UK wide celebration to show case the best culture, art and sport that your community has to offer.
This is your chance to be part of the Cultural Olympiad and shine a light on our rich heritage, stunning natural environment and diverse built landscapes to reach new audiences.
In 2010 Discovering Places successfully launched as part of Open Weekend with over 100 events.  We have profiled some of these events later in the newsletter.  This year we are joining forces again with Open Weekend to profile the historic, natural and built Environment events. 
The registration and participation is much simpler this year in response to your feedback.    All events will be Open Weekend events and carry the Open Weekend branding.  Discovering Places will be working to encourage all of our networks to run events so that everyone can discover just how unique and inspiring our nation is. 

Don't miss this opportunity to demonstrate the talent in your local community and participate in a moment of history.

Follow the link to find out more

Here’s a selection of some of the amazing natural, historic and built events that took place last year during the Discovering Places launch as part of Open Weekend, in July 2010
Mini-BioBlitz, Bristol Natural History Consortium, Bristol - raced against the clock to find as many species as possible living in central Bristol
Discover Windsor’s 1908 & 1948 Games Heritage: Cycle Tour, Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead, Berkshire – discovered some of Windsor and Eton’s sporting heritage on a guided cycle tour
Kielder Osprey Watch, Kielder Partnership, Northumberland – the Kielder ospreys are back.  After successfully nesting in 2009 for the first time in Northumberland in 200 years, this was a rare chance to see them.
Tasting the Past, Museums Sheffield
Found out what Henry VIII ate for breakfast and what Queen Victoria liked for tea. Interactive museum event with food related activities.
Mad Hatterz Tea Party, Beam, Wakefield – ‘Alice in Wonderland’ themed event with local groups of young artists, musicians, dancers, poets and performers which showcased local young talent and discover the historic Orangery and garden
CedarsPark Archaeological Dig, Broxbourne Borough Council – Joined Enfield Archaeological Society on an excavating journey as they uncover the secrets of Theobalds Palace in Cedars Park
Cauldrons and Furnaces, Cadw, Denbighshire – local school children invited visitors to find out about Flint Castle through and afternoon of art, music and storytelling
Wildlife Triathlon, Tameside Countryside Service, Tameside – team entered a fun countryside Minibeast Triathlon
Rediscovering Dunville Fountain, Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, Belfast – the spotlight shone on Dunville Park and its magnificent terracotta fountain
If you’ve enjoyed reading about Discovering Places and wish to be kept up-to-date with future news please subscribe to our newsletter by emailing

Your feedback and suggestions would be welcome so please do email any comments to
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