12 big ideas for England in 2012

Date Posted: 11/01/2012

Pictured: Sudeley Castle will host year-long celebrations to mark the 500th anniversary of Katherine Parr.

2012 is set to be a big year for England, with the world’s sporting elite preparing to compete in the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the London 2012 Festival and Olympic Torch Relay, and a packed calendar of cultural events to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and Dickens’ bicentenary.

Here are 12 highlights of the most exciting events taking place across the country during this very special year, from the national tourist board, VisitEngland.

1. David Hockney: A Bigger Picture, Royal Academy, London: From 21st January until 9th April the Royal Academy of Arts will showcase the first major exhibition of new landscape works by David Hockney RA. Featuring vivid paintings inspired by the east Yorkshire landscape, these large-scale works have been created especially for the galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts. David Hockney: A Bigger Picture will span a 50-year period, demonstrating Hockney’s long exploration and fascination with landscape. The exhibition will include a display of his iPad drawings and a series of new films produced using 18 cameras, which will be displayed on multiple screens, providing a spellbinding visual journey through the eyes of the artist.

2. 500th Anniversary of Katherine Parr, Sudeley Castle, Cheltenham: Sudeley Castle in Cheltenham will host year-long historic, literary and musical celebrations to commemorate the life of Tudor Queen Katherine Parr, who lived, died and is entombed here. The castle and the neighbouring village of Winchcombe will hold family days of archery and falconry, Tudor banquets and even a re-enactment of Katherine Parr’s funeral. At its heart of the event will lie a special Katherine Parr exhibition, featuring items from the castle’s own collection, as well as several other pieces on loan from other national and historic collections. A new interpretive film featuring world famous historian Dr David Starkey will guide group visitors around parts of the castle never previously seen. Ticketed events will include the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea with Lady Ashcombe and specially invited guests.

3. Lancashire Witch Trials 400th Anniversary (1612 – 2012): A county-wide initiative will take place through 2012 to mark the 400th anniversary of the Lancashire Witch Trials will throw light on the hysteria that swept Lancashire in 1612 and made convicted ‘witches’ of a group of ordinary countrywomen from Pendle. Accusations of deadly spells and witches sabbats, followed by an  exhausting journey across the wilds of rural Lancashire to the gaol of Lancaster Castle and the final gallows; these are tales that locals discuss to this day and the 400th anniversary is sure to rekindle interest in the dramatic landscape, picturesque villages and folklore that surrounds England’s most famous witch hunt. Artworks, touring theatre, the Walking with Witches Trail, castle tours and other events will highlight the anniversary and reintroduce new generations to one of the most talked about and extraordinary episodes in English history.

4. Dickens’ Bicentenary, Nationwide: Dickens 2012 is an international celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens, marking 200 years since his birth. A number of international institutions and organisations are partners of Dickens 2012, working together to deliver a programme of events and activities to commemorate this very special anniversary. Celebrations in Portsmouth include toast and wreath-laying, period entertainment, costume and market stalls, and a performance by Simon Callow in aid of the Charles Dickens Statue Fund. The celebrations start from 7th February.

5. Titanic Remembered, National Maritime Museum, Greenwich: 2012 marks the centenary of many key milestones in RMS Titanic’s construction and maiden sailing, and The National Maritime Museum will commemorate the centenary with an exhibition highlighting the stories of some of those who survived the disaster. On display for the first time will be poignant letters, photographs and personal objects gathered by Walter Lord while researching his definitive 1955 book, A Night to Remember, which was made into the 1958 feature film of the same name. The exhibition runs from 8th March to the 30th September.

6. Jerwood Gallery opens, Hastings, East Sussex: The Jerwood Gallery is an exciting project to create a permanent home for the Jerwood Art Collection, and a new regional venue for the Jerwood Visual Arts programme on the Stade in Hastings. Opening on the 17th March, the building has been purpose-built to create the best possible environment for experiencing art, with a design that responds sensitively and creatively to the unique site on the Stade. It’s engineered to be as environmentally efficient as possible, with CO2 emissions of around 40 per cent compared to a standard gallery design. 

7. The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros Studio, Leavesden: At Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, the home of the Harry Potter film productions for over ten years, this amazing new tour will offer group travel organisers a unique behind-the-scenes tour of the most successful film series of all time. Guests will appreciate the sheer scale and detail of the actual sets, costumes, animatronics, special effects and props used in all eight of the Harry Potter films. Spread over 150,000 square feet including two dedicated sound stages, The Making of Harry Potter opens on 31st March and will showcase the British artistry, technology and talent that went into bringing this beloved film series to life.

8. The World Shakespeare Festival, Various locations: The World Shakespeare Festival is an unprecedented nationwide celebration of the much-loved Tudor playwright. Part of the London 2012 Festival, the year-long event will showcase England’s greatest bard through a variety of art forms and cultural interpretations. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the festival will run from 23rd April to 9th September, celebrating how the world performs, teaches and engages with Shakespeare. In collaboration with many partners, including the Roundhouse, the Barbican, the National Theatre, and the BBC, the event will celebrate Shakespeare as the world’s playwright, showcasing the best of UK and international creative talent.

9. London 2012 Torch Relay, Nationwide: Lit in Greece, the Olympic flame arrives in Cornwall on 18th May and from here begins its 70-day journey around the UK, passing within ten miles of 95 per cent of the population. Representing peace, unity and friendship, Torch Relay will see the flame will be carried by 8,000 inspirational torchbearers. This momentous spectacle promises to be one of many unforgettable celebrations for the London 2012 games.

10. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations, Various locations country-wide: Celebrate 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign with an array of spectacular royal events over the Diamond Jubilee weekend in June and throughout the rest of the year. Buckingham Palace will be co-ordinating a programme of events centred around an extended weekend from 2nd to 5th June. This will include a Big Jubilee Lunch, a Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the Thames, a concert at Buckingham Palace and the lighting of 2012 beacons throughout the United Kingdom. The Queen and other members of the royal family will also attend a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. Additionally, see the royal barge lead a 1,000-boat flotilla down the river Thames, travelling from Battersea to HMS President.

11. Wenlock Olympic Society Games, Much Wenlock, Shropshire: It was in 1850 that the first ever Wenlock Olympian Games took place in Much Wenlock, Shropshire - now recognised as the inspiration behind the modern international Olympic Games. They are still held there annually to this day and give group travel organisers something a little different. 2012 will see the 126th Games take place in Much Wenlock and other sites across Shropshire on 8th, 9th, 13th, 14th and 15th July. Entry forms for the next games will be added to the Wenlock Olympian Society's website this month. Anyone can enter the road race, and will even get their own Olympic medal for finishing.

12. Pride Festival Celebrates 20 Years, Brighton & Hove: Since its fledging beginning in 1992 with a very modest afternoon event on The Level, Brighton Pride has evolved into the biggest free Pride festival in the UK. Culminating in a spectacular carnival parade and party in Preston Park, Brighton Pride endorses and celebrates the diversity of the gay community in the city and the contribution they have made to making Brighton and Hove the open, free spirited and diverse city it is today.

For more information about getting the most from group travel and leisure in England this year, visit www.enjoyengland.com/2012.

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