A Personal Account of the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony, by Kay Instrell

by Dennis on August 5, 2012

Last week, a lady by the name of Kay Instrell wrote in to this site, so I invited to her to tell us more about the part she played in the astonishing opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Kay is pictured in the photo below, on the right, and I’m incredibly grateful to her for taking the time and trouble to compose the account below.

Hi Dennis,

Thank you for your reply, but I’m really quite stunned that you should ask for my account as I was just a very small part of the show. The Green and Pleasant land was the very first segment of the show and started at 20.12 hrs, when a few cast members walked out onto the field of play.

The aim of Danny Boyle and Tony Segwick ( of War Horse fame) was to present a calm, idyllic view of our Land. When we were first shown the model of the scene I was blown away, as we were shown the Tor at one end and the Bell at the other. Each field represented a British county.

I was placed in county Cornwall, but it also contained the east maypole that was to represent Wales. Each maypole was to represent each of the four home countries. On the top of each maypole there were flowers denoting the countries – thistle, rose, flax and daffodil. You can just glimpse the yellow daffodils on the maypole in the photo I’ve sent.

The producers didn’t want us to act, but to be as natural as possible. On the actual night, I picked a cornflower on my journey to my maypole! The wild meadow flowers had been nurtured to be at their best on the night. They looked and smelt wonderful.

I was part of the onlookers for the children who were maypole dancing. Whilst on the set there were ramblers, picnickers and others passing through our area.

To my left facing the audience was a cricket match being played and to my right, a pair of shire horses were ploughing a field. As I walked onto my ‘field’, I was so absorbed in the scene that I wasn’t really aware of the audience, which on reflection sounds weird, but it was as if this really was my land.

We had months of rehearsal, but until we were in the stadium it didn’t really make sense. During rehearsals, we were given direction on how to behave as a group so that by the time we were on the set, it was almost second nature to walk around the area meeting and greeting other people, clapping in rhythm to the dancing and generally enjoying the maypole dancing.

We were aware of the music representing England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but we were told not to respond to it. This was quite hard at first as we all had various connections, (my father is Welsh) but we concentrated on the maypole.

The entry of the carriages and the Brunels was really unnerving for those of us in the ‘fields’. As we stood and heard the speech “Be not afraid….” we were stunned. As we faced the Tor the tree lifted, the drums started to beat and the ‘workers’ emerged like army ants from the Tor. Stadium lights flashed harshly and brightly, like lightning, and we had to move. They had come to take our land…..I wasn’t the only person to shed a tear at the destruction of the beautiful oak!

I feel really lucky to have been a part of this amazing ceremony and I really don’t know how I got in. I had applied to be a games maker and received an email inviting me to audition. I have a fused ankle after an industrial injury many years ago and I walk with a limp. Due to this and the audition being based on following a dance routine, (which I couldn’t do) I never expected to get a part.

There were other people with disabilities ( did you notice Nadia the guide dog?) and I was told that we represented a normal population.

I’m so pleased you enjoyed watching it as I felt that this opening ceremony was representative of everything that is within us, as if these are the memories that flow through our very being. From the moment I heard of the idea of the Tor I felt a part of it. Glastonbury is one of my favourite places and I’m not sure why. It just is.

Thank you again for explaining the meaning of so much of the ceremony.

Best wishes,


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

chris johnson August 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Thanks, Kay.
Noting that several details of the event were missed by me. Perhaps the TV coverage should have been within Boyle’s scope?

Frank August 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm

Thanks Kay for taking the time to represent our people, and then afterwards to so generously share your experiences of the Olympic opening ceremony with the readers of Eternal Idol. I for one was fascinated by all that you had to say and am particularly moved by your description of the participants’ natural reaction to the desecration of the Oak.

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