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Starting Line - London 2012

Starting Line - London 2012

Paralympic Torch Lighting Ceremony, Stoke Mandeville - Aug 2012

Ground-breaking multi arts project celebrates the Paralympic Movement

7 August 2012

Live art, dance, film, hundreds of athletes & young people worldwide, and the Paralympic Torch. This is Starting Line.

Sir Ludwig Guttmann’s pioneering work at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire revolutionised the lives of paraplegics. Not only that, he also organised the very first ‘Stoke Mandeville Games’ to coincide with the start of the 1948 London Olympics and realise an ambition of a global sports competition for disabled people. Guttmann envisaged that his Games would be held every four years as ‘the equivalent of the Olympic Games' and now, sixty four years later that dream has become an established reality.

Starting Line is a large, outdoor performance art collaboration taking place in Aylesbury town centre on 28 August 2012 – and includes the Paralympic Torch as it begins its journey from the birthplace of the Games to London. The ground-breaking arts performance tells the story of the Paralympic movement of the present day - and looks forward to just what can be achieved in the future. It will also be performed in Trafalgar Square, London on 7 September.

Starting Line has been commissioned by Accentuate, the London 2012 legacy programme for the South East, as part of the Paralympic Flame Festival. Accentuate seeks to change perceptions and offer a comprehensive range of opportunities to showcase the talents of deaf and disabled people.  It is an ambitious programme, composed of fifteen major projects, with the potential to create a national change. The project has been funded by Legacy Trust UK, with the aim of creating a lasting impact from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, by funding ideas and local talent across the UK. Screen South is the home of Accentuate.

Artistic Director Ryan Dawson Laight and award winning visual artist Rachel Gadsden - who exhibits internationally and works across mainstream and disability art sectors – have created this performance. 

The dynamic 20-minute collaborative performance will involve disabled and non-disabled young people from around the world, spinally-injured young people based at Stoke Mandeville Hospital and five dancers from the Candoco Dance Company. Rachel Gadsen will create eight brand-new works of art in charcoal and paint live on four large screens during the show. Abigail Norris’s film will mix archive Paralympics footage (from the Stoke Mandeville Stadium collection, thanks to  WheelPower) with new interviews from many of the international athletes who’ve competed over the years, plus responses from over one hundred disabled and non-disabled young people from across Buckinghamshire, as well as people from South Africa, USA, Ecuador, Cambodia and Australia who’ve been taking part in the accompanying Starting Line education project led by Creative Junction. 

Rachel Gadsden says:
“I have great hopes that London 2012 and the return of the Paralympics to its birth place, is an opportunity for a massive sea change to occur within our society. I hope Starting Line – with its message that disability, or simply being different, should be celebrated and not commiserated and that everyone can shine – will inspire and contribute to making this vision a reality.”


Accentuate Programme Director Esther Fox highlights the inspirational nature of the project:
“We are very excited about Starting Line as it symbolises much of what the Accentuate programme is all about: bringing together disabled sports people and artists, inspiring young people and developing international connections between people to share experiences and identities across the globe.”

Ryan Dawson Laight draws a parallel between the project and the seconds prior to a race getting underway:
“Starting Line is that moment – that pause – that breath – just before the starting gun is fired. It is a moment in time when anything could happen, when the world is suspended between stillness and motion. It is a moment when just a thought could sway the outcome, and bodies, minds; hearts are all poised, ready – raring – to drive. All eyes are on the prize. It’s a great metaphor.”