Glasgow had Tunnock teacakes and real Scottish terriers dancing while the Gold Coast had surfers and a giant inflatable white humpback whale. So what will the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham have?
Don’t dance bread puddings, joked Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight as he learned about tea cakes. What exactly the content will include is secret, but he vowed, “It’s going to be mind blowing, that’s all I can say.”
Knight, who also wrote the film Dirty Pretty Things and the TV drama Taboo, has been announced as executive producer of the Birmingham 2022 Opening and Closing Ceremonies.
He will be part of a creative team that also includes director Iqbal Khan as artistic director; novelist Maeve Clarke as a writer; and rapper Joshua ‘RTKal’ Holness as a music consultant.
Misty Buckley, the stage designer for Stormzy’s performance at Glastonbury in 2019, will be the production set designer while Hamish Hamilton, who directed the London and Tokyo Olympics ceremonies, will serve as broadcast director.
Knight told The Guardian that he was keen to take any opportunity to “beat the drums for Birmingham and let people know what a fantastic, multicultural and welcoming city it has been and continues to be”.
He suggested that the city was sometimes guilty of underestimating itself. “There is a reluctance in Birmingham to get too big for your boots, a preference for the harsh verdict, if you will. Which is great and it’s funny and humorous but it doesn’t help the city’s marketing.
Birmingham was heavily bombed during WWII and rebuilt in a time of austerity. “It has a pretty blunt practicality to it. But all that, I also like… there is something daring in a city whose ring road crosses the center.
He said Birmingham had “a reluctance to brag” but the time had come to change that. It’s a booming city and the 2022 games have been a perfect showcase for that, he added.
Knight said his job was to “admire a lot of very talented people who know what they’re doing and comment on occasion.”
He loved it. “The idea of you putting on a show that will be live, in front of a billion and a half people, is terrifying but also a great challenge.”
Knight said he tries not to look at examples of other opening ceremonies, hence his ignorance of Glasgow, a ceremony memorable for its kitsch and geek clichés. It also featured Susan Boyle performing Mull of Kintyre and John Barrowman singing a song that included lines such as “we come from a country of heather, where men wear kilts and women blether”.
Producers said the July 28 ceremony will bring together 1,200 participants and welcome the return of the Queen’s Baton after a 300-day stint around the Commonwealth.
The team was assembled by Creative Director Martin Green, who also directed the London 2012 ceremonies.
Khan said the opportunity to do something that was sort of a “love letter” and an advertisement for his hometown was too good to pass up.
“Artistically, the opportunities are amazing… especially over the past year and a half. This is a very important time to help us move forward.