Calling time on a momentous two weeks in the history of London, the Olympics’ came to a triumphant end on Sunday with a closing ceremony that was attended by 80,000 people and watched by 26.3 million people nationally.
Described by the creative director, Kim Gavin as “a mashed-up symphony of British music”, the show boasted a long and illustrious list of the nation’s top musicians and groups. From The Spice Girls and Take That to Queen and The Who, the playlist read like a who’s who of British music through the decades.
Among this talented medley of performers was east London’s very own Hackney Colliery Band. A modern brass band featuring trumpets, trombones, saxes, sousaphone and marching percussion, the 9-piece act are already well known for their unique mix of jazz, pop, rock and ska. Having played together both nationally and internationally since 2008, they admit that this was the possibly the most memorable gig yet.
Frontman Steve Pretty tells EastLondonLines how their moment on the global stage came about.
“We were first approached back in March after David Arnold [the Musical Director] came to one of our rehearsals.” So impressed were Gavin and Arnold with the band’s roof-lifting covers, they were commissioned to create a 30 minute set of British music to get the stadium crowd warmed up for the upcoming spectacle. The band took this as an opportunity to put their own stamp on some British classics, playing tunes from The Beatles, Blur, Amy Winehouse and Adele.
They were also part of the main event, supporting Madness and the London Symphony Orchestra on the main rock n’ roll stage.
It’s been a very busy time for the band who had to balance a full schedule of touring and gigging with hours of rehearsals and several days spent fine tuning their Closing Ceremony performance at a special site in Dagenham.
Despite the many hours of preparation, the band knew little about the show or what their role in the ceremony would be. “We didn’t have much of a clue about what we’d be doing until a week before.” The fact that they were even taking part had to be kept under wraps. “We weren’t able to tell friends and family, or indeed the press that the band were doing it until we were actually on the stage.”
Admitting it was “a pretty high-pressure gig so we were a little more nervous than usual”, Pretty summed up the whole experience as being “really great”.
“It was amazing having 80,000 people applauding us after our set. And being the first act on a stage that was followed by The Who was incredibly exciting.”
It doesn’t seem, however, to be something the band will be rushing to do again. “It was such a big arena to play, it was a bit distancing. With all the amps and lights and everything that was going on around you, you really lose the sense of scale. As a band we really thrive on audience feedback and interaction.”
To watch some of Hackney Colliery Band’s performance on the night, click here.
To find out more about the band and upcoming gigs, click here.