Are you for the mosh pit or the posh pit? Yesterday we learnt that the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics will, at a cost of £27million, depict a scene from the English countryside. The stadium will be filled with grassy slopes where sheep safely graze, giant flowers bloom and a water wheel gently turns. Fluffy white clouds will float above. At each side of this vision of pastoral harmony will be a large pit. No, not a Teletubbies' sandpit, nor a gravel pit, nor even an orchestra pit, but a “mosh pit” and a “posh pit.”
For this will be no quaint rural idyll. The mosh pit will stand below a representation of that ancient pagan symbol, the Glastonbury Tor. The people in this pit – all volunteers – will be expected to behave in the manner of a mosh at the Glastonbury Festival. (Readers of this column unfamiliar with concept of a mosh should turn for enlightenment to the Urban Dictionary, which explains “You get pushed around, shoved, you fall on your ass but it's all in the spirit and you have a f***** great time!!!” )
According to the film director Danny Boyle, who is responsible for conceiving and directing the opening ceremony, the volunteers in the “posh pit” at the other end of the stadium will behave in a more “civilised” manner. They will represent the audience at the Last Night of the Proms. Presumably instead of crowd surfing, elbowing and shoving, they will be restricted to waving Union Jacks, shouting Heave Ho! and chorusing Rule Britannia? Not quite. Boyle has expressed the hope that their civility will soon be abandoned, because they will be expected to “do battle” with the occupants of the Glasto mosh pit and have a “face-off.” The scene will, in Mr Boyle's view, “create a picture of ourselves as a nation.”
I wonder where the 2012 organisers will recruit the necessary volunteers to fill the pits and to participate in the face-off? We are told that thousands of people will be taking part. With a seeming lack of irony, the Telegraph reports that they will “possibly” be “East Londoners.” Not in the “posh pit”, surely? I feel confident that Mr Boyle has already put a call through to the Bullingdon Club, who will rally round for this great occasion, bread rolls and champagne bottles to hand.
What a delightful celebration of British culture. Let us hope that St John's Ambulance will be standing by, because the Urban Dictionary also warns that “in a really good mosh pit, you can be rendered unconscious.” Perhaps that's only if you have consumed the appropriate substances.
What about the sheep? I hear you cry. Don't worry, Mr Boyle has already anticipated your concerns. “They'll be treated very well,” he said yesterday. “Far better than the volunteers.” Mr Boyle, it appears, wants us to know that he does, after all, have a sense of humour.
I sincerely hope that our Education Secretary Michael Gove has been issued with a ticket for the ceremony, and that he will take the opportunity to attend. Not because I think he will derive any enjoyment from the spectacle, far from it. But he will, I think, be reassured that his attempt to apply some rigour to education standards comes not a moment too soon. What brilliant timing, to unveil Mr Boyle's confection in the very week when the Education Secretary announces his plans to end the dumbing down of the curriculum.
Mr Gove wants primary schools to raise their expectations, requiring children to master complex sentence construction, develop a love of literature and recite poetry. If he succeeds, perhaps the average pupil from a state primary will have the chance to commit to heart the rhythms and rich vocabulary of Cargoes or The Night Mail, instead of, as at present, Big Babies Rap.
As Mr Gove rightly perceives, education should be about enlarging children's horizons, not narrowing them. By contrast, Mr Boyle appears trapped in a set of shallow and class-ridden assumptions about the tastes of his audience. His cute, faux-naif depiction of England is bland and blameless enough to lure the punters, small children included. No doubt he anticipates that they will then be shocked and entertained in equal measure by a confrontation based on class differences. The moral of the tale? That the mosh pit is the real and beating heart of modern life.
The reverence with which Mr Boyle is treated by the organisers of London 2012 shows how great the task that Mr Gove has set himself.
If Jeremy Hunt had a hand in entrusting the opening ceremony to Mr Boyle's direction, might I suggest he need not wait for the outcome of the Leveson enquiry before handing in his resignation?