Confidential Ceremonies Things: The Epilogue

Ya know, it's a lot harder to find time to blog when writing a post involves more than Command-C and Command-V. But I want to talk about the closing ceremony before it's completely ancient history (sob), and I think my current feeling of wanting to be productive yet simultaneously wanting to procrastinate is conducive to this task. So onward, ho!

I last left off with my departure from London, but my saga continued briefly when I returned in August and got to visit Dagenham one last time. :) It was such a trip being back there. I got to break out the ol' high vis vest and workforce ID and everything was the same... until I got there and walked into the workforce volunteer break area and found it full of costumes. Uhhh. So, things were slightly different. Only one field of play was in use, and there were all these giant metal props everywhere -- remember the London skyline?

Well, this is what we had at Dagenham:

Eventually I found my way, reunited with my fellow volunteers and got my first... er, not-work assignment. To get into Olympic stadium on the night of the ceremony, each performer had to have a specific sticker on their accreditation passes. So I got to hand them out! I really wanted to take one for myself, even though I didn't have the accreditation pass, nor was I going to be there on the night of the ceremony. :P I did that for a bit, and then got to not-work a check-in desk again! So much nostalgia!

While this was all going on, there was some buzz about the talent on site that day. The dress rehearsal was for the first half of the ceremony, so (in theory) all of the singers featured would have to rehearse. I caught a brief glimpse of OneDirection and the Spice Girls while I was in the tent! They were far away, though, and not singing. But it was still really exciting! I'm not sure why the Spice Girls were there, though. They performed in the second half. Hmmmm.

The Spice Girls. This is actually basically what I saw of them! :)
But anyway, I was in the check-in tent for a while before being sent into the circus tent to help wrangle the little kids while they waited for rehearsal to start. Jo was one of the staff members in charge of them so I got to hang out with her! Her group was part of the Thames during Waterloo Sunset -- this part was completely ignored by American TV, of course. During that song, the kids (wearing glittery blue costumes) ran out into the skyline and were the Thames. It was adorable. I can't find any photos of it, but here's what the kids looked like.

Photo from
Now just imagine hundreds of them!

After some time spent in the circus tent, we took the kids outside to wait by their vom (entrance onto the field of play, not vomit). I didn't really have anything to do anymore, so I got to just hang out here and watch rehearsal. I saw everything from the beginning until the Running Up That Hill/Here Comes the Sun bit in honor of the new IOC members and the volunteers... but of course NBC decided to cut this out of their broadcast. I have no words for my anger. So, in terms of American TV, the last part I saw was the giant John Lennon head.

While OneDirection had left by the time rehearsals started, I DID get to see some singers actually perform! I saw Emeli Sande, Madness, and I think Pet Shop Boys (I'd never heard of them before so I'm not sure if they were actually there, but someone was singing West End Girls, so...). Madness actually walked pretty close to me, and I actually know Our House, so that was exciting. :) If you recall, the beginning of the ceremony was a street party with trucks full of people wearing different colors -- I was watching from near the blue trucks, diagonally to the right of the front of the stage.

There was a break between rehearsals, and this was when I stumbled across Helen, a fellow volunteer, and got some AMAZING stories about the summer. Oh my gosh. Okay, get ready for all of this. The opening ceremony rehearsed at Olympic Stadium for weeks and months, so she said that going to the stadium became just a normal part of life. Excuse me while I choke on my jealousy and the sheer epicness of that statement. And, as huge as the stadium looked on TV, she said it actually felt more intimate than Dagenham. Go figure!

I asked her about what her duties were and when she told me, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. All the royals and dignitaries and such have their own special box in the stadium, right? Somehow Helen was one of the stand-ins for them during rehearsals. So she casually got to sit in the Queen's box. And she ALSO was a stand-in for one of the Olympic flagbearers. You know, the really important British figures that got to carry the big Olympic flag into the stadium? Yeah, she was one of them.

I actually can't. But, as jealous as I was (and still am, because holy crap), I really really like Helen and was so glad that she got to do such awesome things. She was so excited about it when she was telling me, and she's one of the people that cried when she saw the Pandemonium pre-vis video for the first time, so I'm glad someone who cares that much got such a cool honor as to be the freaking QUEEN OF ENGLAND.

We watched rehearsal again after that -- Madness had left, but Emeli Sande performed again. I watched from near the yellow/orange trucks. It rained for like five minutes, just to give me the full Dagenham experience again before I left. ;P I don't think I have any new stories from this rehearsal, but here are some pictures of the bit NBC cut out.

I liked this dance and I saw these guys rehearse once or twice, so I was doubly upset that it wasn't shown! Oh, and I was also a volunteer, so I was actually triply upset. Boo.

Despite NBC's suckiness (yeah, I said it), I loved watching the ceremony on TV. I had half of it to know what was coming and half of it to have little to no idea what was coming and when. The only parts I knew about in the second half were the Spice Girls and Annie Lennox. The Annie Lennox performance was actually what I was looking forward to the most. I was at that group's first rehearsal when they announced that they'd be performing with Annie Lennox singing live (so I've known that secret for ages!) and were paired into their partnerships & started learning the dance. And, poetically, they were the final rehearsal I got to see (and the final group whose bibs I got to collect) before I left London. Watching them perform in the ceremony was like watching my children all grown up. :) I'm also completely obsessed with that song and listen to it multiple times a day, but sshhhhh.

And that's it, for real. Wow. I have no more Olympics secrets. I feel so uninteresting.

Sochi 2014, anyone?


Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the final entry about my behind-the-scenes experience with London 2012 Ceremonies.

Entry 4
 I’m writing this while sitting in Heathrow Airport and trying not to cry while listening to my London 2012 playlist. Let’s just keep this in mind. 
 After that first shift at Dagenham, I worked four more, each weekend that was remaining.
Gutted BMX was cut from the Olympics opening ceremony
 I spent two Saturdays with the professional casting team. They deal with the pros, the people that are getting paid to perform, as opposed to the volunteer performers. It wasn’t the most busy or exciting of times, as I was the only volunteer most of the time and there wasn’t much to do. I was basically told by Andrew (who is absolutely lovely) to just kind of make myself available. So I did a lot of watching and following around and not much actual work. Both times I was rescued by vols to help with bib collection at the end of the shift. But both times pro casting was dealing with BMX bikers, which was really cool. They kept warning me that they might be a little boisterous, and while they were a little rowdy, they were so mellow and caused zero problems. My job was to send them into the circus tent, and they went without complaint. The first week I got to watch auditions for regular cyclists as well, and on the second week I was a flag marshal for the BMX rehearsal. I got to stand out on the course with a big red flag that I had to wave if someone fell. Of course, they were all so good that it was completely unnecessary, so I basically got to stand there, look important, and watch some awesome BMX.
 It was FREEZING, though. That’s the thing about Dagenham – it’s a completely open area next to a wind farm. Needless to say, it’s always windy, and there’s really no shelter from the weather. On the first Saturday (and Sunday, for that matter), it was blisteringly hot and I got a little bit sunburned. But on the second weekend? FREEZING. And rainy! Oh man, on Sunday it rained all day and I had the late shift, so by the time I was there, the site was basically a lake. Rehearsals were cancelled due to rain, and the ones that did take place happened in the circus tent. You basically had to swim from tent to tent. 
 That last Dagenham shift was quite interesting. It was the day of the Diamond Jubilee flotilla, for one. And the cancelled rehearsals meant less to do, so Helga and I helped out in the costume department for a bit. They gave us a pin for our trouble, which was nice, and I got to write numbers in some costumes. It wasn’t fun work (lots of elbowing heavy fabric out of the way), but while watching the Opening Ceremony I’ll get to say I put my hands in some of the workers’ pants, which’ll be good for a laugh! There was also some food in there, which was a nice change. After we finished, of course, we had to sprint through the puddles and the pouring rain to get to the WFX volunteers break area, where we were met with a soggy Elle and Jo not long after. Bib collection was the WORST that night, which I thought was rather fitting. It was just a hot mess. But then we got CEREMONIES T-SHIRTS afterwards! I literally wanted to cry with happiness. A shirt is all I wanted. :) 
 That was my last scheduled shift, but if I thought that was the end, I was again mistaken! Jo dropped a shift at 3 Mills during the week that she delegated to me, and Sara B. told me to come back into the office on Friday because she wanted me to. :) I mean, twist my arm! 
 The shift I actually picked up was really cool, as it was with the pros again. There wasn’t a ton to do, but I got to watch a good chunk of their rehearsal. It was a group of dancers from the Thanks Tim segment (the "now" music), and OH MY GOD. TALENTED. 
 My final final shift was last night, and it was the usual 3 Mills procedure; scanning in, some bib work, office stuff, and bib collection. The scanning was very simple, I got to work with ID badges AND the database in the office, and bib collection went flawlessly in both studios. Go figure, right? 
"See you in Rio!" :)
 It was ROUGH, though. Sara and Glenda kept hugging me and threatening to kidnap me and hold me hostage so I wouldn’t have to leave. Jo made cupcakes in my honor. Shelly said I’ve been “consistently fantastic” (her exact words). And everyone signed a card for me! I haven’t read it yet – they told me to wait for the plane, though I might read it at the gate. I’m terrified. I’m going to be a complete mess. 
 AND, icing on the cake? I talked to Danny Boyle! Jo and Helen convinced me to go up to him before I left, so (after much prodding) I got over my awkwardness and did it. He was standing with a group of people, and Jo and Helen accompanied me on my quest. 
 “Mr. Boyle?” 
 “Oh, Danny, please. I’m not Mr. Boyle.” 
 Basically, that alone made him my favorite. But then I told him that this was my last shift because my visa was expiring and I was going back to America, and he exclaimed “well what the hell are you still doing here?!” Greatest. Ever. 
 I told him it was an honor to get to work on his production, and he thanked me for my contribution. Danny Boyle. Thanked me. For my contribution. To his ceremony. Let me just… have a moment. 
 He asked where I was going home to, and when I told him New York, he said his daughter is in college (Parsons) there and that it’s the one city in the world he’d live in besides London. I said “me too!” :P Then he asked for my name and offered me his hand to shake (DEAD), and wished me safe travels.   
 Then, when we were outside the studio and walking to the exit, he yelled “BYE DARCI!” from the back of studio 7. Like, across the lot. How. What. Why. Life. Can’t.
 And then… it was over. It was over, and I cried. I hugged everyone goodbye, got some contact info, signed out, and that was it. I’m still slightly in shock. 
 I’ve worked a nice round thirty shifts on the nose. I’ve watched auditions, and rehearsals for the industrial revolution, fields of plenty, dove bikes, BMX, NHS, the Annie Lennox dancers, TIM dancers for the ‘70s, swing out sisters, the Closing Ceremony street party and Here Comes the Sun, Pandemonium drummers, and probably more that I can’t even think of right now. 
 I’m terrible at closing reflections on things, but I can’t put into words how much this experience has meant to me. I got amazing professional experience and got to take the first step towards my dream while working with the most amazing people on the planet. I like to believe that there’s a reason for everything that happens, but for one of the few times in my life, I’m absolutely sure that I was exactly where I was meant to be and made the right decision. Coming to London for the Olympics was the best choice I’ve ever made, and I will cherish my time spent with the casting team until the day I die. 
 I can’t wait to watch the ceremonies. I’m so proud to have been a part of them, and I’m so proud of the people who are making it happen! So, to Penny, Shelly, Sarah-Ellen, Sara B., Glenda, Martin, Haith, Cheryl, Jenny, Trish, Diana, Hannah, Kieran, Vanessa, Lesley, Andrew, Will, Billy, Laura, Grace, Pete, Solomon, Rhian, Leslie Ann, Steve, everyone else at London 2012 Ceremonies, and every single volunteer – thank you from the bottom of my heart!

The end.

(...Except not really. Now I get to write about the closing ceremony and my return visit to Dagenham, so stay tuned! But in the meantime, pardon me as I wipe away a tear brought on by reading all of this again. And, okay, HOW COOL IS DANNY BOYLE?) 


We're getting to the good stuff now! There's one more pre-written entry, and then I get to talk about what I did and saw when I visited during the Games. :)

But until then... Dagenham!

Entry 3

5/19/12 – Wow, I have been majorly slacking with updating this, and oh, how things have changed!
Oy, I don’t even know where to begin. Alright. Let’s see. 
 Obviously, what I thought was going to be my last shift was not. At all. Not even close. I think that was the point where they let people go if they were being unreliable, slash allowed people to drop out/not schedule any more shifts if they didn’t want to do it anymore. I only had a couple of shifts in March, since I had all of my major semester assignments due, plus all sorts of things going on and keeping me really busy. But it was about one per week. 
 By that point, auditions had pretty much ended, and we were well into callbacks. Things got pretty dull for awhile, and we’d be validating for about an hour at most and then not even have an audition to stick around and watch. We were put to use during Games Maker interviews, though, where Shelly gave me a clipboard to hold and told me to direct people. So that was really exciting! I also got to wristband people out in the tent at the entrance, and be a sort of shuttle system and take people back to the lobby. Shaking things up a little bit.
Then I was away for three weeks, and by the time I got back, there was an induction for volunteers during REHEARSALS! This is still legitimately the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. I get to watch ceremony rehearsals. It’s been almost a month since I’ve been doing it and it’s not getting old.
 The induction was for a new round of people, basically, and it was at 3 Mills, so I didn’t get much new information. Plus, I worked it, validating the volunteers as they arrived, so I didn’t have to stay for much of it. There’s a slightly different process for rehearsals, as everyone’s already in the system. New IDs were being printed, so each performer has to be given their ID plus Oyster cards for travel, have the correct forms collected, etc. So we’re not working with costumers anymore – they’re in the workshop now, actually working on costumes. How freaking cool is that?
 Shifts are slightly longer now, since they need us at the end of rehearsals to collect the performers’ bibs. So we validate when they come in, and then we get taken up into the office to help out there. I’ve done tons of alphabetizing, sorting IDs, filing, database work, bib sorting, etc. It may not be the most interesting work, but it actually feels like I’m helping the cause, ya know? It’s all stuff that needs to get done. 
 Now rehearsals are starting to take place at Dagenham, which is the 1:1 venue. This means that the rehearsals can take place at full scale – there are two real-sized fields of play there. It’s just this massive concrete space set up with makeshift offices and tents and such. It feels like a music festival, lol. Basically, this is where the performers learn the staging of the ceremony. In 3 Mills, they learned the choreography they do when they get to where they need to be. Dagenham is about learning how to get to where you need to be and when. 
 All volunteers have photo IDs now. So I’m an official IDed member of the L2012C workforce. I have my own Casting Team high-vis vest, with my name written on it any everything. And, apparently, all volunteers now are Games Makers.
 It’s truly a shame that my life has peaked so early. But hey, I can’t really complain.
Today was the first ever Dagenham rehearsal, and it was basically the longest day ever. I worked the morning shift, starting at 8:30, which meant waking up at 6:45 and taking the tube out to zone 5, aka the boonies. Seriously, it’s not even London anymore that far out. A handful of us get to scan in the hundreds of people showing up to rehearse, and then we kind of just do whatever we’re needed for. We got to staple things to some bibs at one point, and help out the catering team set up the various break areas. We got tons of breaks though, so I got to watch the NHS crew run around with their beds. 
 The shift was supposed to end at 2:30, but one of the groups that was rehearsing didn’t finish until 3, so I stayed late to help with bib collection at the end. Somehow, it was me and one other girl in charge of collecting 400 bibs and putting them in number order. It was absolute madness and took FOREVER, so I ended up not leaving until almost 4. It was an actual full-length work day. I absolutely loved it, though. Even though I completely missed lunch. 
 The actual paid staff, though, is there from 8 am until all rehearsals are over. I just want to call everyone’s attention to these fabulous people for a second. They work 12+ hour days every day. EVERY. DAY. Obviously they have a day off every now and then, or can leave early, but they’re working all the time. And this is going to continue until at least September. 
 And they’re seriously the nicest people you could ever imagine working with. They’re all just so upbeat and friendly and hilarious and welcoming and thankful… I love them all so, so much. Not only is it going to be rough leaving next month because it’s the Olympics, but I’m going to be gutted to leave these fantastic people. 
 As of right now, though, I’ve finally hit the acceptance stage of my grief, and am just going to work my butt off until I have to leave!

Stay tuned for the next installment, in which I'm forced out of the country and have a conversation with the brilliant and wonderful Danny Boyle. :)