Memory Marathon is an 80-minute film of a large-scale participative event in which artist Simon Pope walked a specially planned 26-mile marathon route through the five London boroughs that hosted the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Continuing a series of trademark walking and memory projects by this innovative artist, Memory Marathon is a unique collective undertaking that celebrates the enduring importance of personal memories.
Starting out just after dawn from Thamesmead in South-East London, and arriving twelve hours later at the entrance to the Olympic Park in Stratford, Pope completed his marathon journey in the company of more than a hundred local residents of Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney and Waltham Forest.
Moving forward in an unbroken relay, in which each participant walked a 400-metre section of the route alongside Pope, each individual was asked to contribute a recollection of what is, for them, a stand-out moment from Olympic history, before passing the ‘baton’ of the microphone to the next person in line. Recruited from the East London boroughs adjoining the Olympic site, and reflecting the diverse make-up of those communities and the inclusive, international spirit of the Games themselves, the participants’ collective act of commemoration draws from a huge reservoir of sporting and cultural memory, encompassing both triumph and disaster, and highlighting both the intimate and the everyday.
The marathon route itself similarly eschews obvious London landmarks in favour of hidden and forgotten corners of the capital, and takes its lead from places and streets in east London that have been represented previously on film, concentrating in particular on times in its history when London, as now, experienced moments of upheaval and transition. A snapshot of a city whose architectural face, in the lead-up to the Olympics, was changing with extraordinary rapidity, Memory Marathon is an equally vivid portrait of the people that make London what it is today.