A relay race of memories

Simon Pope filming Memory Marathon

Simon Pope filming Memory Marathon

First published in Memories

FROM the afternoon sun streaming through the window, to jumping up and down with my mother in front of the TV screen as Linford Christie crossed the finishing line to claim gold in the 100m final of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics is as vivid in my mind as if it were yesterday.

It is memories such as this, that Simon Pope collected for his new film, Memory Marathon, which records the artist walking a 26-mile route through the five London Olympic boroughs, Waltham Forest, Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney alongside 104 volunteers regaling their tales of the games.

Speaking about the project, a collaboration with Film and Video Umbrella, and commissioned by the Olympic Delivery Authority, the 44-year-old Hackney resident says: “I acted as a sort of baton being passed on from one person to another to activate memories.”

The volunteers, who each walked a 400-metre section of the route, came from all backgrounds and ages. “There were people who remembered being taken as a child to the ceremony last time the Olympics were in London, in 1948, who spoke about the blaze of colour when the world was a dark and grim place,” the Exeter-born art lecturer says.

“Then there was a woman who grew up in Sarajevo and remembers going back to the Olympic site in her home town where she used to go as a child, and seeing the place blown apart by war.

“There were celebratory things and some that were tragic, but all were personal experiences.”

Mapping the route, Simon turned to cinematography for inspiration, referencing films made during times of radical change, from The Blitz to the Thatcher years.

“Looking at London’s history of development, there are these massive waves of change. By passing through as many of these film locations as possible, we wanted to acknowledge that the city is entering another one of those phases, where it is imagining the next phase of its life and a new future.”

Finally, after months of careful planning, workshops and outreach work, Simon and his team set off from Thamesmead in south-east London at 7am on November 7 last year, arriving 12 hours later at the entrance to the Olympic Park in Stratford, with all 104 volunteers accounted for.

“It was tiring, but the people kept me going, and it confirmed that a range of diverse people had the good will to be part of the project. I got a lot from it, my life was transformed by meeting these people, people I would not normally meet, people on my doorstep, and I hope they got an equally rich experience.”

Memory Marathon will be screened at Rio Cinema on Saturday, March 6, 1.30pm, Stratford East Picturehouse on Sunday, March 7, 3pm, and Greewich Picturehouse on Sunday, March 7, 7pm. Followed by a Q&A. An exhibition of portraits will be on display at Dray Walk Gallery, Old Truman Brewery, off Brick Lane, from March 5-14.

Visit www.memorymarathon.info

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