Kid’s Lit At The Olympic Opening Ceremony

After what has seemed an interminable wait the London 2012 Olympics have finally arrived. I am incredibly excited about the whole thing having secured a ticket for the women’s basketball (I will report back from my visit to the Olympic Park next Sunday) and, equally exciting, a ticket for Paralympic weight lifting.

It was the official opening ceremony last night and today’s Tortoise Soup blog will give my views of the ceremony and especially the section devoted to children’s literature. As a Brit, I can have a tendency to be overly cynical. I was expecting the ceremony to be pretty rubbish in all honesty: as a nation we are skint, the unions are calling strikes left, right and centre and the previous Beijing opening ceremony had set a remarkably high benchmark. Well, I was proved very wrong as the ceremony surpassed all of my expectations and delivered a Gold medal performance of its own.

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Danny Boyle is an enigma. I loved his ‘Trainspotting’ but was left cold by ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ and disappointed by everything else that he has directed. But he was spot on with his direction last night: we didn’t try to outdo China, we ignored that ceremony altogether and went our own special way.

Yes, the Olympics should be primarily about sport but Boyle chose to make the opening ceremony abou three things that we Brits as a nation should treasure: our industrial heritage; our sense of humour; our culture.

There were brilliantly bizarre moments of humour: Mr Bean played the Chariots Of Fire tune, the Queen skydived from a helicopter with James Bond. These perfectly summed up our inherent eccentricity that is in danger of being lost in the increasing globalisation of our island.

The most brilliant section of all though was the one dedicated to children’s literature. I believe that culture is the leading legacy that the United Kingdom has left to the world. From Chaucer to Betjeman, from Purcell to Britten and the Beatles, from Gainsborough to Hockney – these purveyors of genius are the true heroes of Britannia.

I also believe that children’s literature is the most important literature of all. I used to read a book every night as a child, I loved the Moomin series of books by Tove Jansson so much that I read them until the covers fell off. This began a life long love affair with reading that endures and strengthens with every passing year. It is what inspired me to become a children’s author – I hope that my new novel Tortoise Soup can also inspire children to discover the unique wonder of reading.

As a children’s author it was a thrilling moment when I realised that the Olympics shared my views, that they had dedicated a whole section of the London opening ceremony to children’s literature! I have many friends on Twitter (follow me @ByronTinker) who are in the industry as agents, publicists and authors and I know that they too were thrilled. Voldemort stomped around the arena. The Child Catcher looked on menacingly as J K Rowling read from Peter Pan. Thankfully, Mary Poppins was there, as always, to save the day. It was all executed so brilliantly, it could only have been better if my heroes Byron and Ruby had been there!

So I want to say a big thank you to Danny Boyle and to everybody who was involved in any way. You made me so happy, so proud to be British and to be involved in the brilliance of children’s literature. If the ceremony has encouraged children across the world to pick up a book and enter a world of imagination and wonderment then Great Britain has become even greater!

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