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One Year Ago: Pandemonium Drummers Start Drumming

3 Mills Studios, East London, 22nd to 25th May: Over four days, 1,000 successful auditionees assemble in groups of 250 per day for their very first rehearsal for the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony.

Signs with geometric figures guided the way to the rehearsal venue and became our secret symbol for the London 2012 Ceremonies.

These first sessions were the start of our journey that formed the Pandemonium Drummers.

After signing in, we received pink Performer Oyster Cards pre-loaded with £10, a Ceremonies Pass, and a light green bib with a pre-assigned number, and waited for what was to come.

Danny Boyle introduces Pandemonium

3 Mills
The excitement was palpable when Danny Boyle appeared to introduce himself and a scale model of the stadium with the now famous Green and Pleasant stage.

Danny talked about transforming the stage during the segment Pandemonium, accompanied by a bizarre parade and a thundering soundtrack - to be provided by us.

And Danny then presented a pre-visualisation of the transformation, not before an apologetic remark that the budget did only allow for one fully rendered CGI version of a single chimney, which we would see shoot up seven times.

The visualisation, although crude with lots of sketches and blurry still images, made a few jaws drop and created a tension that had to be released with a roaring applause, including a few tears when overwhelmed people realised the sheer scale of the scene and that they would be part of it.

Danny himself said, "what we are trying to do has never been attempted before, and people told us it was impossible. But I know that you can do it!".

And although we would not be laying our hands on the stage setup itself, we were immensely proud to be involved in turning such an ambitious vision into reality by spurning on the working men and women with a wall of rhythm.

Play the drum

And then we played the...buckets.

At this point, many people thought that the assortment of yet undecorated buckets and bins would just be training devices, and that we would switch to the real instruments at a later point - only weeks later, all of us realised that the buckets were the real thing.


We got to know our drum captains and after some warm-up exercises started rehearsing different rhythmic patters, and broken sticks, especially those with tennis balls at their end, soon started flying around the studio - an indicator that the props team had to go back to the drawing board.

Rehearsal schedule
By the end of the evening, we were told that we would already know all of the building blocks for our performance.

And as we walked out of 3 Mills, we were already looking forward to our next rehearsal just a few days later at the secret 1:1 venue, which turned out to be a disused car park within the Ford grounds in Dagenham, the first ever meeting of all 1,000 Pandemonium Drummers on 26th May 2012.

ABOUTPandemonium Drummers

The Pandemonium Drummers were originally put together by London 2012 Ceremonies for the Pandemonium segment of Danny Boyle's spectacular Olympic Opening Ceremony. Following the Ceremony, the volunteer drummers kept on performing at a variety of events.

Based on their extensive training, they performed at other Opening Ceremonies, including the UEFA Champions League Final 2013, the FA Cup Final 2014, and the Heineken Cup Final 2014, and at a variety of large and small festivals as well as sports and community events. The Pandemonium Drummers are a returning act in London's major parades, including the London New Years' Day Parade, St Patrick's Day Parade, and the Lord Mayor's Show, and they coined Cheer Drumming, supporting runners at major sports events across the capital and beyond. The Pandemonium Drummers have supported the Special Olympics, the Teenage Cancer Trust, and a wide range of other charities.

The Pandemonium Drummers are a constituted association with charitable aims, and are working on a non-profit basis as volunteers.

[ More about the Pandemonium Drummers ]

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