The 12-week arts and culture festival to accompany the London 2012 Olympic Games launched Thursday, promising events as diverse as an inflatable Stonehenge and an opera by Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn.

An open-air pop concert in Derry, hosted by actor Jude Law and featuring local band The Wonder Villains, kicked off the London 2012 Festival.

There will be concerts, film festivals, art exhibits and readings throughout Britain over the next 12 weeks to celebrate the Olympic Games. The festival has £55 million ($88 million Cdn) in government funding.

Stonehenge bouncy castle

A life-size Stonehenge bouncy castle created by former Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller is being unveiled in Wales and then will tour the U.K.

Albarn, frontman of Blur and Gorillaz, has written a work for the English National Opera that tells the story of Dr John Dee, an influential political adviser, mathematician, magician and scientist during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. Dee was the purported inspiration for Shakespeare's magician Prospero in The Tempest.


Gustavo Dudamel is conducting the young musicians of the Simon Bolivar Orchestra in Scotland. (Reuters)

Gustavo Dudamel, the Venezuelan conductor who is the most prominent graduate of the El Sistema music system is to hold the baton as the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra plays at Stirling Castle, formerly one of the most deprived areas of Scotland.

Commitment of children

"This is beautiful," said Dudamel. "How music has changed this community, with the commitment of the children, the passion that they have, the discipline?

"We are so proud to be here, so happy and so honoured. It's really something big."

Other events planned for the London Olympiad:

  • The U.K. premiere of Einstein on the Beach at the Barbican in London.
  • A retrospective of portraits of Lucian Freud at the National Portrait Gallery.
  •  An exhibit of work by pop artist Damien Hirst at the Tate in London.
  • A pyrotechnic show to accompany the torch relay by France’s Les Commandos Percu.
  • Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will perform all nine Beethoven symphonies at the BBC Proms.
  •  A Poetry Parnassus inviting poets from every Olympic nation.

More than 130 events are planned in the first weekend alone, including a free London concert headlined by Jay-Z and Rihanna and expected to attract 100,000 people.