Sparks Will Fly: Uttlesford’s build up to the Olympic Games begins on Saturday (May 19)

A HUGE community event takes place in Saffron Walden this weekend to mark the start of the build up to the Olympic Games.

Sparks Will Fly on Saturday (May 19) will see dozens of performers from schools and community groups come together for a massive parade and other events as part of the Essex Cultural Olympiad.

On the day that the Torch Relay starts its 8,000-mile journey from Land’s End, this not-to-be-missed afternoon and evening of entertainment will capture the minds of young and old alike in the Uttlesford district.

The day centres on the visit of a giant champion called Marina Mightier – one of two champions visiting between them every Essex district to collect a Glass Bead. They will finally compete in the Glass Bead Game at a grand finale in Hylands Park, Chelmsford, on Friday July 6.

On Saturday, the bells of St Mary’s Church will ring out to start off the proceedings in the grounds of Saffron Walden Castle at 1.30pm. Here, the tune will be picked up by members of the Grand Union Street Band (jazz/world music) with Essex Association Change Ringers and Saffron Walden Society of Change Ringers joining in.

Following this, there will be a dance performance by pupils from Radwinter, Clavering, Dunmow St Mary’s and Elsenham primary schools. There will also be a range of fun and exciting activities for all, including handbells, a ‘Build the Uttlesford Giant’ event, painting characters, shaker-making workshops, fun with Circus Berzercus, storytelling and tennis trials.

And the day doesn’t end there. At 3.30pm the action switches to the council offices in London Road, from where performers will parade through town. It starts with Thaxted Morris Men, skateboarders, traditional Nepalese dancers from Tang Ting Twinning Association and the Grand Union Street Band, who will lead the 120 primary school dancers.

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Following on will be Marina Mightier, the giant champion, on a chariot with her attendants. Forty dancers from Saffron Walden County High School in elaborate costumes will be bringing up the rear.

The Parade route goes down the High Street, along George Street and up Common Hill before turning left onto Church Street, right on to Bridge Street and back along Church Street, before finally turning on Museum Street and ending up at the museum and castle grounds.

The main event finishes at 5.30pm, when Marina Mightier will go to the Saffron Walden Skatepark to participate in the SKOPERA, a Skateboarding Opera, which finishes at 9.00pm. The SKOPERA promises to be street theatre at its best - fusing dance, live music, fire and water displays, skateboarding, rap and drama including a close-up and personal experience with Marina Mightier. The audience will be asked to choose their tribe - are you going to support the water tribe Aquas or fire tribe Fuegos?

Also in the evening, from 6-10pm, Saffron Walden Museum will open for a visit by torchlight to provide a very atmospheric tour of the exhibits. It is suitable for all ages, but children MUST bring an adult. As well as Wallace the Lion, the Egyptian mummy and other family favourites, visitors can also catch up with the ‘Sporting Heroes’ exhibition. This celebrates the achievements of past and present sportsmen and women of Uttlesford and Essex and also the local sporting unsung heroes who make it all possible: the coaches, the scorers, the groundsmen and all those good folk who wash the kit, drive the players and provide the fortifying teas.

Cllr Howard Rolfe, Olympics Champion for Uttlesford District Council, said: “This will be a fantastic event and we are looking forward to welcoming hundreds of people to Saffron Walden. Make sure you take your place in good time along the route of the parade, welcoming Marina Mightier to our district.”

Cllr Mark Lemon, Chairman of Uttlesford District Council’s Olympic Working Group, said: “This will be a day to remember and I am sure it will leave everyone very much looking forward to the Olympic Games.

“There will be something for all the family throughout this fun-packed, exciting day, including lots of goodies, such as Saffron ice cream, cakes, crepes and much, much more. Make sure that you don’t miss this event.”

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