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‘Ello, ‘ello!

I thought I should start doing some Vlogging while I’m out in Mexico as well, so here’s the first of what I hope to be quite a few.

Enjoy!

Monique 🙂

 

warning

The 2011 riots devastated a number of communities around England. News organisations and various forms of social media quickly informed the nation of the unfolding events. However, young people felt that they were all painted with the same brush. People tried to make sense of what was happening themselves, and documented the events. When the damage was done, communities came together to clear the mess away. Once the dust settled, people tried to understand what had happened in an attempt to try and prevent this from happening again.

Believe it or not, some people in the community warned that something like this would happen. Youth leaders in particular warned that cuts in youth services would have a negative impact on young people. I remember reading that the cuts could lead to an increase in crime and gang violence. People were on edge, waiting for something to happen. But I don’t think anyone could have possibly predicted the scale of the riots and how quickly they spread. Some youth leaders said that they weren’t really surprised that the riots took place.

To an extent we were warned that some sort of social unrest would unfold, but these warnings fell on deaf ears.

So the riots have come and gone. Various reports have been published, and a number of recommendations have been made. However, attention has moved away from those events. People have moved on. The euphoria of the Olympics, and now the birth Prince George, has swept all the bad memories away. Other countries are no longer advising their citizens to avoid visiting the UK. We are now looked upon favourably now as a holiday destination. The ‘feel-good’ feeling has taken over – for most people.

The reality for a number of people is that life is still tough. The problems outlined in a number of reports still exist. The recommendations from those reports have simply been set aside to collect dust.

If you listen carefully enough, you can hear that people are warning that the riots could happen again. Not necessarily on the scale that it did two years ago, but something can still kick off, and some believe that this can happen a lot sooner than we think. If social unrest erupts again, this time I really wouldn’t be surprised. We have been warned.

In a recent interview, the ‘Hackney heroine’, Pauline Pearce, said: “People are getting restless. Silent rivers run deep and in the silence you do not know what’s brewing.”

Problems are still definitely simmering under the surface, and those problems can spill over at any moment – all you need is a trigger. Even though it doesn’t feel good to talk about bad experiences, we need to learn our lessons. We can’t allow the memory of the riots to fade away.

I just want to leave you with a story that I covered in 2010. I was writing about a student sit-in at Middlesex University for a local paper and I decided to turn it into a feature for a coursework assignment.

In a tongue-in-cheek kind of way, just from what I saw and heard, I warned that the protests could turn violent. Here’s my article. But little did I really know that it would actually happen.

So what’s my message? Pay attention to the signs.

During the riots two years ago, every man and his dog had an opinion on the events that were unfolding before them.

Most of the time, the loudest arguments (though not necessarily ‘the best’ explanations) were the simplistic ones – the ones that offered only one cause. People were understandably angry, so pretty much the only explanation people heard were that the rioters were a plague of “feral rats” that escaped from the underclass and were let loose into civil society – oh, help us!

Well, after my first, second and third posts on the riots, I thought I would dedicate my fourth post to the various causes of the riots. I’ll then take a look at what has happened since. Do feel free to add anything you feel that I’ve missed out.

So, without further ado, here’s my two pence on the whole furor:

The Causes

Mark Duggan’s death

Mark Duggan

Whatever your beliefs on why people participated in the riots in the first place, you can’t deny the fact that Mark’s death, and everything that surrounded it afterwards, was the spark that lit the fuse in the first place. This is well documented in the film ‘Riot from Wrong’.

His death highlighted the fact that there is a tense relationship between the police and the community.

Police/community relations

– Deaths in custody/following police contact

When Mark was fatally shot, his loss of life represented yet another death following police contact or in police custody. According to an article, which was published on the Guardian’s website in 2012, 1,433 deaths have fallen into this category since 1990.

Mark’s family didn’t even know about his death until they saw it in the media. They wanted answers, so they decided to march peacefully to the police station to get some answers, but nobody bothered to come out to see them.

Sure, after an incident like this, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigates such complaints against police actions. But what is frustrating for many families involved is that first of all, these enquiries can take a while to be completed, but once they are, even though “a number of issues” are raised, more often than not, “no evidence of criminal offence” has been found. Or, if it has and the case is passed on to the criminal justice system, then a jury always finds the police officer ‘not guilty’. This just gives the impression that the police are above the law.

Stop and search

The police’s powers to ‘stop and search’ someone is also something which antagonises certain communities. Fortunately, I’ve only been stopped and questioned once, when I worked as a charity fundraiser. At one event I felt almost embarrassed that when asked if anyone had any problems with the police, I was pretty much the only person that didn’t put my hand up. In fact, I’m the person with an ‘I met the Met’ sticker on my wall after local officers came in to give talks at my primary school.

But imagine having to face this humiliating routine day in, day out, because of the way you look or the number of people you hang out with. Black and mixed raced boys are particularly affected by this, and you can tell from the way that they speak about the police that there is an animosity towards them. (Please do understand your rights if you do get stopped).

I do understand that there are higher rates of crime in certain areas, however the people that are consistently targeted – who have done nothing wrong – have a problem with the way they are being treated by the police.

So with all of this in mind, it’s not really surprising that there are tensions between the police and the community. When word quickly spread that a girl had been beaten up by the police in Tottenham, that’s when things really started to kick off, apparently. This was their chance to take out their aggression on the police and to attack them, showing a reversal in power.

It was also very apparent that a lot of the rioters weren’t protesting about the death of a man by police hands. Even when Mark’s family called for the violence to stop, the riots continued to spread. Quite a few of the rioters didn’t even have a grievance against the police. For a large number of the rioters, it was simply an opportunity to get something for free.

Opportunism/ Materialism

Some of the rioters were motivated by pure greed. They literally grabbed anything they could get their hands on, just because of the fact that it was ‘free’ and there were no apparent consequences for doing so.

People were having a field day walking into a store empty-handed, and walking out with all types of gadgets, clothes and products under the sun. There were stories of people, who were only passing by, but then got caught up in the frenzy and went along with everybody else, because everyone else was getting away with it.

All types of people got involved, and this included a millionaire’s daughter, an Olympic ambassador and an Oxford graduate, although he was later cleared of his role in the riots. Older people were also involved in the riots, and this even included a primary school assistant.

Gangs apparently set aside any differences and rivalries, so that they could take advantage of this golden opportunity.

Some people even had the nerve to attack other people, so that they could take their possessions.

One person took it too far. He attacked a man who confronted him over his actions. That man later died. Other innocent people lost their lives, because of the recklessness of others. All in all, five people lost their lives.

Greed really was the order of the day. But everyday we are bombarded with things that we ‘need’ and ‘must have’, but don’t really have the funds to get. The rioters saw this as their opportunity to get the latest products, and the police pretty much gave them the green light to do so.

Police tactics

I’m not sure why the police didn’t step in to stop the riots in Tottenham. They largely watched on while the rioters ran rampant around the area. But what I do know is that the police’s lack of action in Tottenham encouraged others to do the same.

And as more and more people joined in, it was obvious that the police force was stretched to its limit. There was a lack of police presence in many areas. People were angry that there was no one there to protect them.

Arguments were brought forward for the police to use rubber bullets, but then people said that this would only make the situation worse as some feared that gangs would fire back with real bullets. Others argued for water cannons to be used, but others said it was impractical to use these because of how big they were to move around and the nature of how quickly the riots moved from one place to another.

And since the police appeared powerless, rioters were free to do as they pleased. Maybe they did it because they had nothing better to do.

Cuts/ Lack of Opportunities/ Disengagement

Funding for youth services have been hit hard since the recession. According to an article on the Guardian’s website, cuts to youth services averaged 27% between 2010 and 2012. In the London Borough of Haringey, where Tottenham is based, the council decided in February 2011 to cut the youth budget by 75%. And as Tottenham MP David Lammy rightly predicted, this definitely had a “negative impact on young people”.

So, it’s the summer holidays and many young people have nothing to do. I’m pretty sure that the ‘excitement’ surrounding the riots seemed very appealing to some of them. You pretty much get a sense of this from an interview with two girls who took part in the riots for fun.

With ever-increasing university fees and the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance scheme in England, for some young people, their access to education was shrinking quickly.

Even if you graduated from university, it was, and still is hard to find a job. And the longer you are unemployed, the less employable you are. You are stuck. For black people – and in particular young men – the unemployment rate is quite high.

Or, if you’re fortunate enough to have a job, then more likely than not, you’re underemployed. Imagine the frustration you must feel, to work so hard for so long and to be promised so much, but then these dreams fail to materialise.

So if someone is not working, they are not in education, they feel like politicians don’t represent them and that nobody cares about them, then I’m sure they would feel disengaged. You’ll live by your own rules and norms. You won’t really feel bad about destroying your own community, because you don’t’ respect it – you are not connected to it.

But what made matters worse is that the media and politicians vilified these youths as an “underclass” and “feral rats”. And as one journalist mentioned in the ‘Riot from Wrong’ documentary, if you dehumanise someone, then you there is no need for you to try and understand their actions. The “hug a hoodie” days were long gone.

All of these causes are linked together, and I hope I’ve demonstrated how complex the situation actually was.

But what has happened since?

Data has revealed that although the rioters were largely “poorer, younger, and less educated”, there was a real mixture of ethnicities, which took part in the riots, contrary to what was peddled by racist people in the comments section in news articles. Older people also took part in the riots. It’s also clear that a number of rioters have not yet been caught.

Cases were quickly rushed through courts, and, to act as a ‘deterrent’, hefty jail sentences were handed out to those who were caught. The BBC said that the average sentence was 16.8 months, which is four times the average term handed out for similar offences. It’s some deterrent if new gangs were being formed as a result of the large numbers of rioters being sent to prison.

And how is it that a 17-year-old girl was jailed for eight months for stealing a bottle of Lucozade, but Lord Hanningfield was jailed for nine months in 2011 (but only served nine weeks) after fiddling almost £14,000 in parliamentary expenses? This is justice at its finest.

Another knee-jerk reaction to the riots was the clever idea to evict rioters from local authority housing. Thankfully, a number of councils ignored this directive from the Government. I guess the real reason for this ‘strategy’ is because people were baying for blood.

Speaking of justice, two years on since Mark was shot dead, the IPCC found that there was “no evidence to indicate criminality at this stage”.

Just as a side note about police actions, even up until this week, although the jury found PC Simon Harwood not guilty of manslaughter last year, Scotland Yard apologised to Ian Tomlinson’s family this week for his death in 2009. His family accepted the apology and said that that was “as close as we are going to get to justice”.

On a slightly more optimistic note, Home secretary Theresa May launched a public consultation last month in a bid to try and “get stop and search right”. Only time will tell what will happen next.

Despite the strong counter arguments against using water cannons, the police asked for funding to buy water cannons, just in case the riots the riots were to happen again. I guess the police want to be seen to be taking action.

Regarding reports, it was heart-warming to see that local people cared enough about their community to come together to set up their own inquiry into the riots, which devastated their community.

But with reference to another report, it was disheartening to hear that the ‘official’ findings by the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel has been completely disregarded by the Government.

My final post in this ‘riots special’ series will take a look at what could possibly happen in the future.

fear

FEAR! That nauseating, choking feeling- that niggling sense of dread that you feel in the deepest, darkest corners of your mind. It makes your hairs stand on edge. It causes your heart to palpitate to abnormal proportions, causing you to feel your pulse resonate around your entire body. You are left with shivering with shockwaves of emptiness.

You feel numb, cold and alone.

You feel your blood pumping to your head, while sirens resound around your body. Your muscles stiffen. You feel sick to your stomach. Your pupils dilate to trace the location of your attacker. You can’t see anything- but you KNOW something is there, lurking in the shadows to get you, to bring you to your impending doom.

Your mind breeds these monsters, and the monsters thrive and feast on your fear. It’s claustrophobic, and you can feel yourself free falling into a bottomless pit…

Monique Simpson

FEAR 2

We all suffer from it at some point in our lives. It’s that feeling that you get when you step out of your comfort zone and into ‘the unknown’. We know it’s an irrational feeling, as we’ve all heard Franklin D. Roosevelt’s statement: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

But still, that fear is a beast of a thing, and it stops us from living our lives to the fullest and from experiencing new things. The ‘what ifs’ keep popping into our heads, and as Samah Khan, a poet, aptly states: “The fear of fearing fear is overwhelming.”

How are your New Year’s resolutions coming along? You’ve probably left behind in January, right? Well, ditch the unrealistic fads and try something different, today. Face your fears.

It’s not easy, believe you, me. I’ve actually just realised how much of a scaredy cat I am. You’ve probably realised this in a couple of my blog posts.

Up until a few years ago, for the life of me, I used to veer away from getting contact lenses because I feared anything going anywhere near my eyes. I just couldn’t do it.

I eventually took the plunge to get them, and I kid you not, it took me, and the optician, two whole hours, to put in and take out one pair of lenses. I just couldn’t allow the lady’s finger near my eyeball. I blinked her, and my, efforts away. I had to grip and dig my nails into my hand to stop myself from blocking her with my arm.

I screamed in my head: ‘What are you doing???? Noooooo, stop it. Stop it, right now!’ My eyes were wide open and they blinked furiously, as if I had an eyelid spasm. I’m sure I made a right spectacle of myself, and I’m sure that the optician wasn’t a major fan of me by the end of it. But I did it.

Now I can’t imagine what all the fuss was about, although from time to time my contact lenses do ‘play up’ (e.g. it takes me longer than usual to put them in) and I do make that funny face, because I panic a little. But’s it’s all part of the process, I guess.

I have to say, although I am making progress in some areas in my life, there are some things that still send a shiver down my spine. Bees/wasps are one of them. I can’t stand them, and I really do blame the film My Girl for making me feel like this. I used to be fine when I was a kid until I saw that film. How do I know I’m not allergic to them, and will die a horrible death like the boy in the film? I have no idea how I’ll get over them, apart from maybe being stung, but that’s something I do not deliberately want to happen. Don’t suggest that I go to a bee farm either, thanks.

One thing I am working on at the moment is swimming. I am quite embarrassed to say that I am taking lessons at this stage of my life, when I used to have lessons at school. My excuse why I didn’t learn back then is because my swimming teacher used to scare the life out of me, for stupid reasons I can tell you later if you’re interested. I am noticing an improvement though. For me, progress is swallowing slightly less water than the week before. Well that was until this week’s lesson, when I swam for the whole lesson without floats and was attempting to breathe properly.

Do face your fears, you’ll find out that you won’t regret it, and you’ll feel a lot more liberated. Easier said than done, I know.

space jump

Felix Baumgartner talked about how his spacesuit made him feel claustrophobic

I don’t usually do this, because sometimes I think it’s cheesy, and it makes me cringe, but I thought I’d leave you with some encouraging quotes to spur you into action:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

“Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic.”

Unknown

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”

Dale Carnegie

“Fear is a habit; so is self-pity, defeat, anxiety, despair, hopelessness and resignation. You can eliminate all of these negative habits with two simple resolves: I can!! And I will!!”

Unknown

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

lion

The above video*- it looks quite gross, but it’s funny, right? The seemingly innocent situation, the sweat, their faces.

Well, I have a confession. I am that guy, sometimes. Not that I’m a part-time guy, or that I suffer from sweat patches or premature sweating, or pull frog-like faces in front of guys I’m interested in, I hope. But sometimes, I can get quite nervous when speaking to someone I fancy.

I thought I had left those adolescent days behind me:

  • I shouldn’t avoid eye contact, glaring at the floor with my eyes wide open, like some crazy woman,
  • I can’t laugh hysterically and loudly like I’m on drugs at every-single-thing the person says, to the point where the guy is deafened,
  • I can’t literally runaway and hide behind a bush or a tree to recuperate anymore after having the smallest of small-talk conversations with ‘that guy’,
  • I can no longer ‘playfully’ punch a guy’s arm until he bruises,
  • and despite what some people think, in particular my sister’s ex-lecturer, I can blush, fool, in particular when I have red wine, but I should stop blushing and grinning like a cheshire cat in these types of situations.

I can’t do any of these things anymore because, you know, I’m a BIG woman now, dammit! I am smooth, suave and sophisticated. Well, I’m not really, but I can lie to myself, right? This illusion was dispelled when I went to a spoken word event.

So, I was sitting down in the basement of a pub with the lights dimmed down low, conversing with my cousin, when a particularly handsome guy caught my eye. He’s one of the night’s performers. His words, and his stature, were quite mesmorising as he bared his soul, or someone else’s soul, for all to see. *bites fist and mimics crying*

My cousin said: “He’s alright.” He’s “alright”???!!!

So anyway, the event finished, and I worked the room with my networking skills, as best as I could, anyway. And you know, it was going fine, until I got to ‘him’.

I confidently flagged him down from across the room. Ok, so maybe he was just a few paces away from me.

‘Ok, Monique, think of something deep and meaningful to say,’ I told myself.

“I er… really liked your… er… poems?” I said in what must have been the faintest of voices. I personally thought what I’d said had boomed around the room.

“Sorry?” he replied.

‘Oh. My. Days. He was one of the poets, right?… It was him- he DID recite his poems, just speak a bit louder,’ I said to myself.

“Your poems- I really liked them,” I exclaimed.

“Thank you,” he beamed, but I could tell he was thinking: ‘What is this little girl on?’

Awkward silence.

I struggled to recall a poem- just one of his poems, or even what I liked about his set in general, but the rush of blood to my head prevented me from thinking clearly.

For networking purposes, I usually ask for some sort of contact details. But I decided to ask for this instead:

“Do you have a website?” I said, with a bit more confidence now.

“Yes it’s blah, blah, blah”, and he proceeded to write it in my phone, which I had just handed to him.

“Thanks. And your gigs, they’re all listed on there, right?”

“Yes they are.” He said something else, but my mind just went blank, so I can’t recall what was said. The word ‘go’ kept resounding in my head.

“Ok, thanks. Bye,” I said, and I bolted towards my cousin. I spoke to a few more people, and then we left.

Just before we left, another of the night’s poets was particularly popular, and a throng of giggling girls surrounded him in their dozens.

‘Grow a pair, you groupies,’ I said, to myself.

So, to take my own advice, I must grow a pair… of female… balls… That sounded a lot better in my head. Meh.

shy

*I do not endorse the use of Lynx to increase your confidence when speaking to the opposite sex. The ‘Lynx effect’ is just a clever marketing ploy, and is one I wish I had thought of to make me filthy rich.

I’m sitting down, twiddling my thumbs, waiting to get ready. I’m listening to the hubbub of excitement around me.

My stomach is in knots- I honestly don’t know how I feel right now. Am I scared? Excited? Nervous? Sad? Ecstatic? I’m tortured by the niggling fear that I will forget my routine mid-way through the show.

This anxiety is based on a dream I had a couple of weeks ago, where I forgot the dance just at the very moment the camera, with over a billion people watching, focused on me. The whole world witnessed me making my major mistake, and I was forever known as “that girl who flopped”. Oh the shame, the horror, the agony. Fail!

Stepping into the Olympic Park helped to ease my nerves slightly. The atmosphere in the park was celebratory and the Games Makers were fantastic at welcoming everyone. In a few hour’s time, my fellow performers and I would be in the stadium dancing in front of billions. Exciting times.

Before I reached our cast holding area at Eton Manor, which is apparently 1.6 miles from the stadium itself, I cheekily went into the stadium to look for Danny Boyle, the artistic director for the Opening Ceremony.

When he came to see us a couple of rehearsals back, he challenged us, sort of, to visit him at the stadium if we wanted an autograph or a photo. I wanted to talk business. I also wanted to bump into associate director Paulette Randall. So I decided to take up that challenge, literally, but, alas, I could not find him.

I left the stadium feeling dejected. Even so, as I made my way towards Eton Manor, I soaked up the sites of the park, such as the Olympic Village, and the Velodrome. I would only be walking along this route two more times as a “Thanks Tim” performer in a few hour’s time. I also briefly met up with a friend, who was looking after the Madagascan team.

     

       

Once I finally arrived to “check in”, I received a programme, just like everybody else, complete with our names and the photos of some of the volunteers. We also received a personalised signed certificate from Danny.

   

I walked around our manor and nostalgically observed everything that was happening. Everyone was in his or her costume. Many books and bibs were signed, and Facebook friend requests were made.

(This is a cool video a Thanks Tim volunteer put together.)

   

     

     

     

    

   

   

    

Reflection: We’ve come a mighty long way

I remember that I tried to get tickets for one of the ceremonies last year, and failed, but never in a million years would I have imagined that I would actually be a part of it. We came to understand our role piece by piece.

As I sit here in the changing area, I’m reminiscing about how fun my first audition was back in November 2011. We would later discover that the people in pink bibs were the mass movement team.

I’m thinking about how bad I thought my second audition was, where we had to learn a hip hop dance routine. We were being filmed and a lot of people around us were scribbling down notes. We didn’t know it at the time, but this was the first time we were introduced to the dance captains who would teach us the “Thanks Tim” routine, headed by the cool, calm and collected Kendrick H2O Sandy.

I had never really performed a hip hop choreography before. I had always just done my own thing, where I would just “bounce” from side-to-side, swinging my hands in the air, making a “cool” face. In one rehearsal, much later on, one of the dance captains told us not to do the two-step (dance from side-to-side) as if we were dancing at a family wedding. Oh dear.

In the audition they told us to relax and said that they were looking for “potential”, but that didn’t stop me from being tense. I was so nervous, that I forgot parts of the routine when it was my line’s turn to perform it. But what was really gutting was that I remembered the whole thing as soon as I woke up the next day.

I’m chuckling to myself, because I’m thinking about the first time the dance captains taught the 60s section “The Gorilla” (leaning to the right and the left while swinging each fist into the opposite side of your chest) at Three Mills Studios, our first of three rehearsal venues in East London. I was a bit too enthusiastic and nearly knocked my glasses completely off my face. I left it hanging and carried on dancing, because I wanted to show that I was professional *cheesy grin* (I wore contacts during my rehearsals after that incident). Paulette saw me struggling through my routine when we had to dance in front of everyone line-by-line, but she was still encouraging all the same with her signature smile that we would come to know.

I’m thinking about the first time Danny himself filmed us, when we first started putting the routine together. The whole thing fell apart at a certain point and the face Danny had, as he frantically tried to find someone, anyone, who was still dancing, was priceless.

And the journey I had to make from Zone 5 West London to East London, especially Dagenham, was a mission! Well, at least I thought it was until someone told me that they travelled from Scotland to attend each rehearsal.

We danced a lot at Three Mills, and I thought it would be my weekly form of exercise. Little did I know that at Dagenham we wouldn’t really be dancing. Instead, we would be working on “blocking” (coordinates we needed to stand on to form the shapes) and on our exits from “the field of play” (the stage area), and “cleaning our chorry (choreography)”. Then at the stadium, we would be waiting around while we took part in various technical rehearsals.

Months of sacrifice, frustration, and hard work in the pouring rain, the bitter cold, the raging winds, and the scotching heat boiled down to the one moment we were about to take. We have all come so far.

Walking to Pandemonium’s beat

As I walk towards the stadium in my costume, it feels as though I’m in a film. I had warned a few people a couple of rehearsals ago that I might get teary at this stage. My sister just told me to “man the hell up”. You have to understand that I’m an emotional person. I cried when Simba in The Lion King found out that Mufasa died- not necessarily when Mufasa died. There is a difference, think about it.

     

The stadium slowly comes into sight and the dramatic music from the Pandemonium/ Industrial Revolution section is blasting through our in-ear headphones. It feels as though we are building up to something amazingly historic, rousing ourselves up for an epic battle scene in a war movie, but it also strangely feels like we are winding everything up.

We can hear the echo of the drums coming from the stadium, and this feeling of a theatrical entrance is made a bit more dramatic as Rick Smith of Underworld directs the drummers.

He keeps us all entertained on our long journey to the stadium with phrases such as: “Everybody grooving in, 1, 2, 3, 4. 1- keep it going!” “Booooosh! Hoyyyy!” “I-am-in-need-of-a-drink.” “You guys are absolutely amazing. Come on, give me a scream- ‘yeeeeaaaaahhhhhhh’ (he “screams” in the croakiest voice).” Everyone currently listening to Channel 2 on their FM radios are “grooving” along to the beat towards the stadium.

Pandemonium with Steve and Rick (If you want to listen to how epic Rick sounds, then listen, now!!!! The audio was provided by a cast volunteer. It kicks in from about 2 minutes in.)

Once we finally arrive at the stadium, I have to admit, I have a lump in my throat, and my eyes begin to well up (but I’m not crying), because for the first time ever we’re catching a glimpse of the Industrial Revolution action in all its glory on a large screen. I’ve always noticed the rings move in from the roof, but we’ve never been able to see how it all pans out, until now. It is an incredibly moving sight.

I’m not just getting emotional because of the fantastic performance and the story that’s being told. It’s the journey these guys took to get to where they are now. The transformation from the sneaky peek I had of their rehearsal at Dagenham till now is amazing; it involved a lot of vision.

As per every full rehearsal we’ve had, we cheer the Green and Pleasant cast and the Industrial Revolution people as they exit the stadium and make their way back to Eton Manor after a stunning performance. I really love the comradeship that we’ve all seemed to develop.

We dance along to the NHS section’s music as we slowly make our way to our voms (our entrances/ exits on to the field of play). Once we get inside our assigned voms, last minute photos are being taken. We cheer, we scream, we hug each other. We do the old hands-in-a-huddle malarkey.

    

We catch glimpses of the guys doing their thing, but again we’ve never really seen their full section. We can tell that the audience love them though! We see the lights from the detachable pixels by the seats moving from side-to-side to the beat of the music.

“Alright guys, quickly exit, quickly, run! Run, run, run, good job! Beds on the M25 need to hurry up! Beds on the east side need to exit straight after! Vom 3, speed it up!” Nathan Wright, one of the NHS’ mass movement choreographers, frantically directs the nurses towards their exits as if he’s a commentator in a race. This sets my heart aflutter.

I know it’s cheesy, but I feel like a bit like an athlete as the “Chariots of Fire” song plays in the background, preparing to step into the stadium, as we watch the house move into position. We have no idea what else is happening right now.

“Ok, so what you’s lot need to do is this,” says Kendrick as he proceeds to reel off a list of things each section should remember for our performance.

Gina Martinez, our legendary mass movement choreographer, also gives us a set of instructions, and then says what we have adopted as our very own good luck phrase: “Let’s kick this pig!”

Our section music starts. Some people panic slightly, because the inflatable house hasn’t blown up properly, but it does in the nick of time. We, Tube A, are given our cue to enter the stadium. A quick squeeze of each other’s hands, and then we’re off, running out of our vom and onto the ramp to get onto the field of play, shrieking with excitement.

But as I’m running my legs feel like lead and my heart feels as though it’s beating out of my throat. But I recover quickly, and once I stop running I soak up my surroundings, and what I see amazes me.

The thousands of flashes of light around the stadium dazzle me. I can’t really hear much cheering, because I turned my FM radio up to the highest level, and my headphones are taped tightly around my ears to prevent them from falling out of my ears for when I do “The Watusi” (bending your body forward to the ground and then stretching up to the sky while bouncing on your left leg). Even so, the atmosphere is absolutely electric. But I’m aware that the camera is right next to me, so I focus on what I have to do.

“Contract,” Gina shouts out, which basically means that we have to start with our backward movement hop-bounce thing (ok, so I’m really bad with the dance move names). Once our train starts moving, I begin to just relax and I promise myself to enjoy every single moment.

Our 60s section begins and everyone is really just going for it. I love the interaction I’m having with the people in a different line to me as we “travel” around the horseshoe position to move into the peace sign. I didn’t even have time to think about the moves. My “muscle memory” of the routine we have been practicing for months has definitely kicked in, just as our dance instructors promised.

It all seems to go by so quickly. Our hands are stretched into the sky soaking up the moment. The sequence seamlessly rolls in to the 70s section, and Gina tells us to crouch down.

Although I am a bit gutted that we don’t get to dance along with the other sections as we have done in our earlier rehearsals, I’m very grateful for this opportunity to catch my breath and to take in some of the other spectacles.

Everyone suddenly goes wild as soon as The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” plays. The song’s beat, and the heat from the flames around us send us into a frenzy. I do my little jump-in-the-air-kick thing. ‘Yeeeeaaaaahhhhh,’ I’m thinking, ‘this is AWESOME!!!!!!!’

Then, when the music changes, we party/run into position. I look for the Union Jack, which is situated next to the Greek flag at the top of the stadium, to find my position. Then we pause.

I have to admit, I’m finding it extremely difficult to sing along to West Ham’s “I’m forever blowing bubbles”. After every couple of words I’m having to gasp for breath.

And then we’re off again, completing our formation and partying into the Dizzee Rascal mash-up. I quickly think about the very first time we learnt this routine, and how fast and difficult it was, but now look at us doing it effortlessly- go Team Tim!

After running/partying off the field of play, I am now standing on the (Glastonbury) tor, busting a few moves behind the power skip guys with the giant heads. We then stand still to watch the professionals form a gangway towards the house. I still can’t hear any cheering from the audience, because the music is still loud. I take in the sight in the stadium again. It’s incredible.

The house lifts to reveal Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the World Wide Web, to whom our section is dedicated. “This is for everyone” is the message, which flashes across the stadium amid interconnecting light paths. We bounce up and down with our arms up in the air to mimic a heartbeat during Emeli Sandé’s “Heaven”.

We slowly move our hands down to our sides, just as Gina is instructing us to do. And this is the end of our section.

We do our power salute, we take a bow, we wave, we leave. As we make our way towards our exits, I can now hear the rapturous applause and cheers from the audience in the stadium. I also notice someone take a sneaky photo of the stadium.

We did it, we actually just performed our dance routine live, the one which we’ve been practicing for over 120 hours, to 80,000 people in the stadium, and to well over a billion viewers globally. Wow!

“You guys were absolutely amaze balls,” you’ve probably guessed by now, it’s another Gina-ism.

It’s a wrap

We’re walking back towards our manor and we are all on cloud nine. We’re jubilant. Estatic. No one can quite put into words how they feel, but I conduct a couple of interviews anyway from some of the volunteers for my radio station.

Everyone tries to take photos of the athletes as they slowly make their way towards the stadium. As you’ve probably guessed, there is a big crowd around the Jamaican team as everyone tries to get a picture of Usain Bolt.

The “Thanks Tim” section of Danny Boyle’s vision has just been successfully realised. He said to us, and the media, that he wasn’t trying to outdo China’s Opening Ceremony. Instead, he was looking to evoke the spirit of the people’s Games. He wanted it to be warm and inclusive, just like in Sydney, but with a quirky British twist. Danny, we salute you, Paulette, the mass team, the dance captains, the casting team, the hair/make up/costume teams and tech team. You guys have been brilliant. Thanks for the opportunity to take part in such a momentous occasion.

The people whom I have come to know over this period of time- you guys have made it such an unforgettable experience. Let’s be honest, things haven’t been rosy all the time, but in a strange way, I feel as though we’re a family. For now.

A few of us are hanging around near the “Park Live” area in the Olympic park, watching the rest of the ceremony on any available phone with enough internet data, so that we can watch the fireworks display. We’re in the best spot for the fireworks, and they are amazing.

  

  

When they finish we slowly make our way off into the night to celebrate the coming of the Olympic Games to London. Welcome world!