Glasgow had dancing Tunnock’s teacakes and real Scottish terriers while the Gold Coast had surfers and a giant inflatable white humpback whale. So what will the opening ceremony of the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham have?
Not dancing bread puddings, joked Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight on being told of the teacakes. Precisely what the content will include is under wraps but he vowed: “It is going to be mind-blowing, that’s all I can say.”
Knight, who also wrote the film Dirty Pretty Things and the TV drama Taboo, has been announced as executive producer of the opening and closing ceremonies of Birmingham 2022.
He will be part of a creative team that also includes the theatre director Iqbal Khan as artistic director; the novelist Maeve Clarke as writer; and the rapper Joshua ‘RTKal’ Holness as music consultant.
Misty Buckley, the set designer for Stormzy’s 2019 Glastonbury performance, is to be production designer while Hamish Hamilton, who directed the London 2012 Olympics ceremonies, will be broadcast director.
Knight told the Guardian he was keen to grab any opportunity to “bang the drum for Birmingham and to let people know what a fantastic multicultural, welcoming city it has been and continues to be”.
He suggested the city was sometimes guilty of underselling itself. “There is in Birmingham a reluctance to get too big for your boots, a preference for the harsh verdict, if you like. Which is great and it is funny and humorous but it doesn’t help with the marketing of the city.”
Birmingham was heavily bombed during the second world war and rebuilt in a period of austerity. “It has quite a brutal practicality about it. But all of that I like as well … there is something bold about a city that has the bypass running straight through the middle.”
He said Birmingham had “a reluctance to swagger” but the time had come to change that. It is a booming city and the 2022 games were a perfect showcase for that, he added.
Knight said his job was to “admire lots of very talented people who know what they are doing and pass comment on occasion”.
He was loving it. “The idea that you are putting together a show that will be live, in front of a billion and half people, is terrifying but also a great challenge.”
Knight said he was trying not to watch examples of other opening ceremonies, hence his ignorance of Glasgow, a ceremony memorable for its kitsch and knowing cliches. It also featured Susan Boyle performing Mull of Kintyre and John Barrowman singing a song that included lines such as “we come from a land of heather, where men wear kilts and women blether”.
Producers said the ceremony on 28 July will have 1,200 participants and will welcome the return of the Queen’s Baton following a 300-day relay around the Commonwealth.
The team has been brought together by the chief creative officer, Martin Green, who also led the London 2012 ceremonies.
Khan said the opportunity to do something that was a kind of “love letter” and advert for his home city was too good to pass up.
“Artistically, the opportunities are extraordinary … particularly coming out of the last year and a half. It feels like a very important moment to help us move forward.”