London 2012 Festival attracts almost 20 million visitors

Initial figures released as 12-week programme comes to an end
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Simon Stephens
More than 19.5 million people took part in the London 2012 Festival, according to the first figures released following the end of the 12-week programme of cultural events that celebrated the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The figures, which take in attendances up to the end of August, show that 16.5 million went to free London 2012 Festival events, while 3 million people took part in paid-for events.

The 10 most popular events, excluding the 2.9 million who took part in Martin Creed’s All the Bells artwork, accounted for 11.5 million attendances. Museums and galleries accounted for 7 million of the total attendance to free events.

The programme of activities included Unlimited, described by London 2012 Festival director Ruth Mackenzie as “the largest ever series of commissions for deaf and disabled artists”.

Exhibitions that were part of the London 2012 Festival included The Tanks: Art in Action at Tate Modern, London; Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 at the National Gallery, London; She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea by Tracey Emin at Turner Contemporary, Margate; and We Face Forward at various venues in Manchester.

Following the end of the London 2012 Festival, thoughts are now moving on to its legacy. Prior to his appointment as health secretary in the cabinet reshuffle, former culture secretary Jeremy Hunt had suggested holding a biennial arts festival, and the festival team is now exploring this option.

“Following this extraordinary year, I also want us to capitalise on the successes we have achieved in developing cultural tourism,” said Hunt in a speech made earlier this year.

“How can we build on this? One promising idea is to have a London Biennale - a biennial London or UK-wide arts festival to celebrate the best of what we have to offer culturally.”

The next major cultural event in the UK will be the first ever UK City of Culture festival, a yearlong celebration taking place in host city Derry/Londonderry in 2013.

A work by David Shrigley, Small City Becomes Huge, was unveiled on 8 September at the City of London Guildhall as a link between the London 2012 Festival and the Northern Irish city. It will be presented at the Derry/Londonderry Guildhall later this year.

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