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