When it comes to designing Olympic stadium closing ceremonies, according to the old adage, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Esmerelda Devlin is an award-winning international stage and costume designer. A graduate of London’s Central Saint Martins College, she has designed opera productions all over Europe, as well as working with Kanye West, Lady Gaga and Take That, through whom she was introduced to a creative director called Kim Gavin. And it was Kim Gavin who was commissioned to spearhead the fantastic set design for the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.
It was decided to base the set design on the ubiquitous Union Jack. Ms Devlin was charged with building on the way attitudes towards the flag had changed through 2012. From being an iconic pop image in the 60s, through the abuse by the National Front in the 80s, to the surge of national optimism with the advent of New Labour in 1997, the flag has evoked all kinds of emotions in its various manifestations across the years.
Es Devlin explained, “How to resolve the flag question came to me last October, as I landed at a grey, cloudy Heathrow. As I looked out of the oval window, I imagined a centrifugal explosion of red, white and blue paint covering the stadium floor, to celebrate the anarchy and diversity of British pop art, and by extension the energy and multiplicity of contemporary British culture. The stripes would be formed by ramps covered with humble newspaper. On closer inspection, the text would quietly celebrate the British literary imagination, with quotations by everyone from Chaucer and Shakespeare to Carol Ann Duffy.”
With a little help from Damien Hirst, who produced the artwork from which her design was formed, the final piece was conceived, snappily titled ‘Beautiful Union Jack Celebratory Patriotic Olympic Explosion in an Electric Storm Painting (2012). Sums the whole two weeks up very succinctly.