Arts Council England
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Artists take the lead in £5.4m commission programme for Cultural Olympiad

Artists of all kinds from across the UK are being challenged to use the nation as a blank canvas for twelve inspirational commissions that will showcase our creativity to the world, as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Artists taking the lead is the most ambitious and wide ranging art prize in the UK. 12 commissions of up to £500,000 will be awarded to create 12 new works of art across the country; one in each of the nine English regions, and in the nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The project provides artists across the country with an unparalleled opportunity to create work that celebrates the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and reflects the rich cultural diversity of the UK.

Artists taking the lead is the first of ten major projects of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad to be launched and is being developed by Arts Council England, in partnership with London 2012 and the arts councils of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Moira Sinclair, Executive Director of Arts Council England, London, said on behalf of the UK arts councils: ‘The London 2012 bid was always about more than England’s capital city and about more than sport. Artists taking the lead illustrates that bigger, bolder vision – of art inspiring people up and down the UK to celebrate the Olympic Games, of nurturing and developing our artistic talent, and of culture and creativity at the heart of our national life.

‘We’re excited to be laying down such a unique challenge to artists. We want them to look at their region and their connections with fresh eyes, to mark a moment in our histories in unexpected ways and places across the country, to surprise and delight the world with their extraordinary artistic vision.’

From today,19 March, until Friday 29 May 2009, artists can submit their ideas for the commissions online at

London 2012 Chairman Sebastian Coe commented: ‘The Cultural Olympiad harks back to the beginnings of the modern Olympic movement, when artists as well as athletes competed for medals. Artists taking the lead invokes this spirit, celebrating the unique talents of our artists and giving them the opportunity to create work inspired by London 2012 and the Olympic spirit. This is the first step in what promises to be a fascinating journey to 2012 as our plans for the Games in 2012 – both sporting and cultural – really begin to take shape.’

Barbara Follett, Minister for Culture, Creative Industries and Tourism said: ‘What is perhaps most exciting about this project is that it will form a creative marker of the London 2012 Games in each nation and region of the United Kingdom, uniting the country through culture, and leaving a lasting legacy of participation and engagement.’

The submitted ideas will be judged by panels in each of the nations and regions, made up of artists, the Creative Programmers (representatives of London 2012 outside the capital who help to shape the UK-wide cultural Olympiad), and an Arts Council representative.

Arts Council England expects to announce the shortlisted artists in July 2009, and the final twelve commissions in October 2009. The successful commissions will be developed across 2010 and 2011, and all twelve will take part in a final unifying celebration before the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

For further information see


Notes to Editors:

Artists taking the lead is one of the ten major projects of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. Arts Council England is managing the project on behalf of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Scottish Arts Council and the Arts Council of Wales.

Twelve commissions will be awarded, one in each of the English regions, and the Nations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The value of the commissions awarded to the chosen artists will be:
Nine English regions £500,000 each
Northern Ireland £190,000
Scotland £460,000
Wales £230,000

For further information see

About Arts Council England
Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives. As the national development agency for the arts, we support a range of artistic activities from theatre to music, literature to dance, photography to digital art, and carnival to crafts. Great art inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves, and the world around us. In short, it makes life better.

Between 2008 and 2011, we will invest £1.3 billion of public money from government and a further £0.3 billion from the National Lottery to create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

For more information please contact :
Sophie Woodward
Communications Officer, Vision 2012
t:020 7608 4149

Louise Wylie
Arts Council England
Director of Media Relations
t:0207 973 5528
m:07912 998 955

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