The Olympics coming to London really stoked my passion to get involved in a global event. So I applied online for a role as a Ceremonies Volunteer Performer and soon received an invitation to audition from the London 2012 Ceremonies team.
My first involvement with the London Olympics was in 2008 when, as a Clore Fellow, I was seconded to the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) as the Cultural Olympiad Launch Coordinator. At Locog I gained a valuable insight into the planning behind the largest global sporting event as well as a fantastic view of the Olympic Stadium taking shape from the twenty-second floor offices of the Canary Wharf building.
Along the way I met a number of inspirational cultural leaders including my secondment mentor and boss at Locog Sarah Weir OBE, the CEO of the London Legacy Corporation; Jude Kelly OBE, artistic director at the Southbank Centre; my mentor Janine Irons MBE, the founder and director of Dune Music; life coach and chartered psychologist Dr Kevin Money; and British musicologist Professor John Deathridge who supported my Clore research at Kings College London. All who had a positive life changing influence on my Clore Leadership journey
I also met a glittering array of Olympic gold medal athletes like Lord Sebastian Coe chairman of Locog; British television presenter and wheelchair basketball athlete Ade Adepitan MBE; and former British triple jumper Jonathan Edwards CBE. I met Dame Kelly Holmes in Reading through my involvement on the Reading 2012 Partnership Board, set up to organise local events during the lead up to the Games.
A London 2012 film of behind the scenes rehearsals for the Miranda section of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.
The Olympic ceremonies auditions took place in East London and introduced me, and hundreds of other hopefuls, to the fascinating world of mass movement and orienteering. This involved knowing your right from your left, your east from your west and being able to memorise coordinates so you could move smoothly from one position to the next.
At the first audition we learned a simple, fun dance routine to Beyonce, running, jumping, twisting and twirling around the cavernous film studio space, each of us trying to out leap and out dance each other in the hope of getting a recall, which I did.
For the second audition the routine was a super fast hip hop style dance to Britney Spears that required professional skills that I didn't necessarily possess. Despite this I kept smiling and did my enthusiastic best to keep up. But there were tears and tantrums as more than a few gave up and left in despair.
I don't usually attend auditions although I made an exception for the Olympic Games as, at the very least, I would have a unique experience.
Mary's 2012 Olympic Adventure in pictures with music by the late, great Lord Kitchener singing 'London is the Place for Me'.
Despite my reservations, a girl I met at the first audition encouraged me to keep going and professional dancer Pauline became first my Olympic buddy. Together we shared the anxiety of the auditions and the agony of waiting to hear if we would be selected as Olympic Ceremony Volunteers for a once in a lifetime performance.
We were delighted and excited to be offered roles as dancers, but concerned when we saw the punishing rehearsal schedule. Not for long though, as nothing was going to stop either of us from going for it. Pauline's offer in the Olympics Opening Ceremony came first with mine for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony following a few weeks later.
I met many lovely people during the process and had an amazing and unique experience as a performer. But it is the life changing Clore Leadership and the lasting friendships that help to keep the wonderful Olympic memories alive.
Click the gallery links below for my story in pictures and words...
Eighteen rehearsals took place in three locations for the Paralympics Opening Ceremony. View images and read the story here...
On 29 August the London 2012 Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony took place at the Olympic Stadium in East London.
See the local and national front page press coverage of the umbrella section of the Paralympics Opening Ceremony.
With Pauline and Pixie at the first visit to the Olympic Park. We have free tickets to watch the technical rehearsal of the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony in the Stadium.
Inspired by William Shakespeare's The Tempest Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle spent seven years planning the Isles of Wonder spectacular to launch the Games.
Aysha and I show off our Paralympic Opening Ceremony dance costumes and umbrellas at the Olympic Stadium.