I was surprised when a friend posted a link to my facebook today.
It seems that Locog, Danny Boyle, Heatherwick et al, were stealing ideas with impunity. I still find it difficult to believe that a cultural figure of Danny Boyles’ standing would simply copy an idea by a less well known (and less successful) artist. But the statement made on his behalf by LOCOG that the mound “….was inspired by the very well-known Glastonbury Tor landmark and British history. The vision was Danny Boyle’s and his only”, seems to lay the blame clearly at his door.
As far as I’m concerned this is an admission that Danny Boyle used the concept that this blog documents as his ‘inspiration’.
It would have been so much easier if they just asked and offered some kind of attribution, then everyone would win, and maybe I would have made the Birthday Honours list (Ha ha!)
To me it is looking increasingly like LOCOG/ACE gave a much stronger brief than has been admitted to the design team, perhaps this brief contained images and text cut and pasted from other LOCOG related initiatives. Could it have been a lazy LOCOG / ACE co-ordinator that has instigated this debacle? Perhaps time will tell. Where are the LOCOG whistleblowers when we need them?
I am intrigued to see what happens next!
If you have just picked up on this story please take the time to read some of my previous posts to put this latest news in a larger context.
Some of the commentary by members of the public seems worth preserving here for posterity. Frankly, due to the way this was reported I am surprised that so many were supportive. Probably there are equally as many who are not, and as many again who are just insulting, rude or humorous.
Here is my favourite tweet on the matter:
Here are a selection of comments from the Mail online :
it’s obviously the same basic design, and he doesn’t (seem) to want paying, just recognition – what’s the problem? – Jon Cooper, Cornwall, 15/11/2012 9:33
Locog say it was based on Glastonbury Tor? It looks nothing like Glastonbury Tor !! It does however, look remarkably like Mr Sendalls artwork, funny that, could it be they’re trying to pull a fast one? – logical15, Lancing, 15/11/2012 9:27
Hang on a minute… I’ve got grass in my back garden too!! I’m suing!!!! – Cynic_Al, The Milky Way, 15/11/2012 9:17
It’s almost a premonition as his whole painting looks like the initial sketches for the opening ceremony…. – Everbeenhad, Toytown, United Kingdom, 15/11/2012 9:45
Yep, sue them, they were very aggressive in threatening even little old ladies who dared put five rings of icing on a cup cake without a licence. Hope you win and salt them of a couple of hundred thousand. – Internetcynic, Lincoln, United Kingdom, 15/11/2012 13:56
Why sue…..why can’t you just be flattered by it…..It really is so sad that people in this Country look for any reason to make some money out anything they can – KT1304, Portsmouth, 15/11/2012 9:02
I dunno, it could be a coincidence, but it’s a very close one if it is. Besides, if they’d really been inspired by Glastonbury Tor, would they have referenced the shape of her, not the spiral? – Prinn, Hill Valley, 15/11/2012 13:20
IMO that the hill in the Olympic ceremony could have been a representation of Glastonbury Tor. However, the fact that this appeared in a competition piece with an athlete carrying a torch seems to add reasonable doubt about that claim. Sadly intellectual property theft and copyright infringement happens all the time unless you’re shop owner who wanted to bolster business by using 4 rings or the words Olympic or Olympian when the full weight of the law comes down on you. – dww25, Norwich, 15/11/2012 13:32
Good on you Lee Sendell. Too often do so called famous figures steal the ideas of others and reep the massive financial rewards. This is obviously a steal in every sense of the word as it was submitted for an Olympic based competition. – Phil Osopher, England, United Kingdom, 15/11/2012 9:48
Oh come on! Lee Sendell invented HILLS did he?! Get over it and stop being so greedy! – KAB, Valletta, 15/11/2012 11:44
‘I was lucky enough to be short-listed but wasn¿t selected as the eventual winner. ‘I moved on and put the idea on the shelf………But now i might be able to make money on it, because i’m a litigious, slimey, worm. Why not find out first and get credit for it rather than take it to court you ass. – John, Leeds, United Kingdom, 15/11/2012 12:46
The Communist Party should sue for the opening ceremony’s blatant enactment of the opening chapter of the Communist Manifesto. – John McKay, London, 15/11/2012 8:50
Some Comments from The Sun :i write a lot in this paper but after reading all the comments i realise there is no point…….. one person can make a difference ?? change things ?? try and put across truth and sense fairness…… no…… society is too far gone most of the comments here are filth……. pre judging this guys motives actions…… if what he says is true he has a right to make a point of it……… thanks flouride heads for making me realise to never waste a second after this writing in here….. your all nuts ! – Steveholt
Ok so he says he drew this picture 3 years before the Fiasco games. However when he submitted it to this offical contest for ideas for the opening Ceremony, he is in effect waiving his rights to the picture and it becomes the property of the people who are holding the contest and therefore as such they can do with it what they want. In short they didn’t steal it he gave it to them. Certainly if he can prove he submitted it he should at least be given some credit.. for giving Seb Coe and his cretins the idea on spending the biggest waste of money since the Millionum Dome was thought of.
I would have thought he would have wanted to put as much distance between himself and this odious piece of art as possible, given that as a result of it this country is in serious financial debt. – Lornawanstalloh go on let him have a bit of money..he obviously needs to buy some tweezers. poor man. – imjustmeStuff like this has been going on for years, especially in the music industry. I have to admit though that this mans design is remarkably similar to what we saw at the Olympics opening ceremony. – jumistthere are coincidences `but` this is a copy !!!!! if the kid really sent in that pic he has been ripped off and should sue the shirt of boyles back !!! – steveholtHe might have a case ……. – smugshotSome Comments from Yahoo news:He should be given credit where credit is due. I thought it sucked, but if they used his concept and idea he should at least be recognised. Hard to prove in any case so many things are similar to other things. – KevinI made a sandcastle exactly like that in 1962. Can i sue him as well? – MacbertDid you submit your sandcastle to the olympic comittee for inclusion in the olympics to have the idea rejected and then used anyway? And our audience said…. no. – KezI hope some honest person gives him the proof he needs!. to many people steal others ideas, I am no artist, but many years ago at school we were ask to do a painting and that some visitors were coming to see them, I did a painting of various leaves from trees and seperated them of in a fancy way, it was admired and when I went to take my painting to give to my mother I was told I could’nt as they wanted to use for something, The visitor was a student and related to the headteacher, many years later I saw my painting , now a design in a shop window, I was livid , it was a very expensive shop….. I would have rather my mum had got it. – A Glancey(1) All creators borrow, but the art of creation in the modern, litigous world is to hide your sources. (2) An idea bursts out at a certain time: unknown to each other, several artists can have a similar idea at roughly the same time – so a succesful litigation would have to disprove this claim. – SimonThat’s all hypothetical, and you can’t simply ‘borrow’ from another artist without given approval. It seems to me this idea was ripped off without permission and Boye has made a tidy sum of money from it. – StephenCome on Simon… He submitted the idea to a committee that was directly linked to Danny Boyle… Need to know more? – PedroOh come on! This is hardly a new idea, in fact I saw something similar on Grand Garden Designs a decade ago. But I suppose if you’re a mediocre artist desperate for money, taking Danny Boyle to court might get you a few quid. – Robin the HoodI think everyone is missing the point, the idea was submitted to LOCOG as an idea for the opening ceremony that is why it seems possibly more than just chance that the idea was used. – CephasNo, the “artist” is missing the point. Apart from a hill with a path around it, there is nothing in common with Danny Boyle’s concept. In fact I wopuld suggest that Lee Sendall nicked the idea from a number of sources including an existing hill with paths (as his sketch shows unless he considered building a motorway, coastline and mountain inside Wembley. – Robin the HoodThe resemblances are too close to be coincidence. Litigation is almost undoubtedly unaffordable and equally unnecessary; In the eyes of many Danny Boyle’s name and reputation will be tarnished. What a pity, when a simple acknowledgement was all that was required. Some of the posts here are little short of disgusting! Shame on youse. – Val GaizeLooking at his blog entry the artist seems to have a compelling case against Boyle. – PJLee Sendall’s 2009 competition entry…….ah well….a bit amateurish? <<Sendall – who explains his claims in detail on his blog – told the Daily Telegraph that he had been BOMBARDED WITH MESSAGES from people who had seen his original design, which he had made into a series of postcards with fellow artist Dominic Heffer.>> Poor guy. I hope he survived the bombardment from all these idiots they obviously missed the fact that HE “stole” the idea in the first place. Good luck, Mr Sendall – BarbaraJust another skint artist looking for a quick buck, methinks. – rodthemodyou mean another skint artist being ripped off. – DennisDanny Boyle may not have seen the art submission but perhaps his art assistants did! – Brummie GirlLived at the foot of Glastonbury Tor for years, it is not that shape and it has the tower of a ruined church ,St Michaels, at the top not a tree. But I suppose a church tower would have offended some people. Boyles is really nothing like our Glastonbury Tor – Michael CooperErm, Yahoo! is there something missing in this sentence? “A LOCOG spokesman told The Art Newspaper that Boyle had taken the idea…” Should there be a ‘not’ in there somewhere? Otherwise, it’s looking pretty good for Mr Sendall’s case. – CLideas are not copyrighted, nor copyrightable – but you can have moral rights to an idea. A design though is copyrighted as long as it is put to paper…. – Sirius BiznizIt’s his intellectual property, AND there’s a ton of proof of that. The only thing difficult to prove is whether or not Boyle caught so much as a glimpse of the original artwork – which is why this publicity might help, someone might have shown Boyle some of these postcards or something else with the idea on it, and they might chip in for their pound of flesh. – Kazz‘Danny Boyle said about a year before the olympics that he took his inspiration from the English countryside.’ – Not to say Boyle copied or not, but that sentence is not much of an argument when the image was created and recreated (in the form of a postcard; easily distributed without descrimination as to who sees it) three years prior to the Olympics. – StephenCould be that great minds think alike, I go for a pee now as fools seldom differ too. – Tom McmanusSirius, it WAS brought onto a media. First, it was entered into a competition and short-listed – which means it came to the attention of far more people than the ones which weren’t short-listed – and then it was printed on postcards which were sold on to the general public! You can’t really get much more proof than that of intellectual property, short of publishing it in a national newspaper. Not to say they didn’t come up with the idea independently of course, I’d guess it’ll be impossible to prove either way unless someone states that they sent him one of these postcards or something similar. But at least they’re both getting publicity out of this – KazzInitially i thought B***S*#$%$ just a coincidence, & even liked Russell’s comment below. Then i followed the link in the article & read his blog, & compared the pictures etc. Then i followed the ‘Arts Professional’ link in his blog, then i done little bit of googling……. & now i’m convinced this guy genuinely had his idea & design ripped off!. – OldGot chocked for a second, as I can’t imagine Susan Boyle stealing anything. – Hyp HenIf this idea was ripped off, well it’s a lazy man who did it. Unfortunately for this artist, there is no copyright in ideas. If there was such a law, there would only ever be ‘one’ of anything. After all how many more magic themed TV series are we going to see, as bred from Harry Potter? JKR would spend all her time in Court suing people for God’s sake! Plagiarism is the theft; but not the same thing as taking an idea and developing it. Although, if Boyle did see the guy’s work first, he could have been a little more subtle! – SerpicoThere’s always some muppet like Lee Merrill Sendall trying to make a quick buck out of a genius who had the guts and brain to put it all together so brilliantly. Go Danny Boy – go! FuckOff Sendall !!! – chocol8Somewhere out there is a tree, tirelessly producing oxygen so you can breathe. I think you owe it an apology. – LL…. If I stopped breathing, the tree will have less CO2 to absorb. – chocol8Looks more like he will get sued by the makers of Walnut Whips! – LJNo, none of us knows whether the idea was “borrowed”, but having been ripped off by big companies who just shrugged and said “prove it” when challenged, I tend to side with the non-celebrity on these things. People are always very quick to side with the big names and assume that others are trying to cash in on their creativity, when the opposite is just as commonly the case. I repeat, none of you knows! – FoureyesLet’s put it another way: if someone had shown you the drawing and then said, ‘Ok folks, how close to the original idea did Mr Boyle stick?’, you would say 100%. This looks EXACTLY like the idea used for the ceremony. – RobAnother money making scheme by a failed wannabee – Saxonexilehe coincidence is too obvious to dismiss. I am an artist and it is virtually impossible to come up with a design so similar as this one for the same event. Of course Bowle was influenced by it – but he has not actually plagerised the design, he has used his own version. It is though – suspicious! but very very hard to prove. NOT WORTH THE FUSS! – GilchapHey Sendall, If it was me I’d keep quiet about being behind this rubbish!!! – DavidAnyone who can’t see that’s a rip off must be blind or stupid. – NinefingersWhy now? Why didn’t he raise this the day after the opening ceremony? – D“Why now? Why didn’t he raise this the day after the opening ceremony?” Maybe he did. Maybe it’s only just worked it’s way to the front page of Yahoo! Do you seriously think a little man with no funding can, the day after, have his newsworthy (if it is that) story hit the headlines? It doesn’t work like that. If you feel it does, you try it! – SeanActually, he first wrote about it on the 11th of August. Look at his blog… – BangNext week Lee Merrill Sendal threatens to sue London itself saying “that Thames they’ve got running through it looks exactly like a river I once drew!” It’s a hill man… you can’t copy write a hill, we’re not in America now! – SteveI hope he sues him successfully. This is practically the same idea as the one ‘designed’ by Danny Boyle. Every detail is so similar it beggars belief that he thought he could get away with it. It wasn’t even worth the money anyway !!! – W McormickTypical Cod Head always after something for nothing. Try a no win no fee company like the rest of Hull do – Goolie 75Before you have a go at this artist, remember how the London Olympic Committee themselves persecuted every single shopkeeper, stall-holder, small businesses, and various individuals who used anything that remotely looked like their logo. Be fair-minded. – IdlI suspect this “British artist” is just an unemployed bloke who likes painting trying to supplement his benefits. – JamesMy sympathies are with the artist. This is once in a lifetime opportunity – a bit like guessing all the right lottery numbers and then finding out your card wasn’t entered. He must feel pretty gutted if it’s true. Insurmountable legal fees are always the problem for ordinary plaintiffs. No win no fee anyone!!?? – AmuseGiven how ‘left field’ Boyle’s idea was; it is remarkable that a similar idea was put forward to THE GAMES before Boyle’s plans went firm. We can take it for granted that two artists have exactly the same (leftfield) idea for such an event or otherwise think, do you know what the chances of that are pretty remote…. – Standby
In the last few days this story has appeared in some mainstream media publications both in print and online. It seems that the snowball launched in August has gathered momentum and has become quite a big story.
A couple of weeks ago a journalist from a press agency (BNPS) based in Bournemouth called me after reading about my concerns in a few arts specific news outlets, Arts Professional and Yorkshire Times.
He interviewed me on the telephone and told me if the story was picked up on he’d let me know. He didn’t though and the Daily Mail ran with the story on Thursday.
Meanwhile a Journalist from the Sunday Telegraph called me and conducted another telephone interview and sent a photographer to my house on Friday.
The BBC called and Peter Levy interviewed me but seemed to get frustrated by his lack of understanding of the situation. He decided not to continue the interview or air it.
The Hull Daily Mail also called and conducted a brief telephone interview. They subsequently ran the story on Friday complete with the wrong images and out of date irrelevant ones instead.
Its unfortunate that the media running the story seem to be predominantly the right wing ones. Is this because Danny Boyle has leftist leanings or something? Or perhaps because the Olympic Games was largely a Labour Party production?
The most accurate news story from the mainstream media has been the Sunday Telegraph one so far. The most common inaccuracy is the claim that I am suing Danny Boyle. This is not true. I have sought legal advice on the matter and so far have received one legal opinion about where I stand in relation to the law with my claim. Public comments seem to concentrate on the mound itself and rightly point out that I didn’t invent it. I was in fact predominantly inspired by Silbury Hill, I am well aware of many spiral mounds round the world both ancient and modern. The devil, as they say, is in the detail and it is the details that make this a case of ‘copying’, in my opinion. I make no claim to have invented hills or grass or spirals, that would be silly.
Danny Boyle has also been in the news championing regional theatre with colourful language. I have nothing against Danny Boyle. I agree with him about regional funding etc. I enjoyed watching Slumdog Millionaire! However if it is true that the opening ceremonies introduction and set were entirely his vision then I can only conclude that he personally must have seen my work.
It is only a few weeks since I received an email telling me that Danny was entirely responsible for the visual concept of the opening ceremony, before that I didn’t even know who was responsible for it. I imagined that such large projects would include teams of artists and designers all presenting ideas to him and perhaps he would make suggestions and choose his favourites (whilst stroking a white cat and throwing chunks of fish to his pet sharks?).
Despite seemingly being used as a stick to undermine Danny Boyles social concerns (an unforseen and regrettable coincidence) I am pleased that I have managed to kick up an almighty fuss. The only weapon available to those with no money, power or influence.
I hope that goes some way toward explaining how I feel about this story.
The other aspect to the story which is so far missing from all of the above mainstream outlets relates to the competition I entered to begin with, in 2009. The Artists Taking the Lead competition has been placed under some scrutiny by Carol Lee and she seems to have uncovered evidence that the competition itself was corrupted by vested interest and large ccorporate cultural institutions. Now the Arts Council England Yorkshire regional office is conducting an investigation into itself. This is best read about online at the Arts Professional website it has several articles which discuss this issue in detail.
As you can imagine, not only was the competition possibly a foregone conclusion, but also to see mine and Dominics artwork and concept form part of the opening ceremony three years later, left me no option but to stand up for our work.
I didn’t do it lightly. I had to consider the likelihood that I will be laughed at, scorned and probably never get funded for an art project again! But weighing up these potential consequences with my own conscience left me no choice but to act as I have…… to be continued….
This story has started to gather some momentum. A couple of weeks ago the magazine Arts Professional published a story about Carol Lee and her independent inquiry into what happened during the Artists Taking the Lead competition in Yorkshire, which this proposal was a part of. The article is here Olympian struggle for fair play the article was responded to, rather pointedly we must add, by Cluny Macpherson of ACE here AP does artists a disserviceIn turn Liz Hill of Artspro responded thusly AP stands firm against ACE allegations Lastly Arts Professional were led to this story by its connection with the very same competition and today published this article Artist suspects foul play over Olympic ceremony.
We are very grateful for the work Liz Hill, Arts Professional and Carol Lee have put into uncovering this story and are now in discussions with a legal team. Watch this space.
After the Opening ceremony of the Olympics 2012, I began receiving lots of messages from friends asking if I had contributed to the opening festivities. It seems the central element was a spiral mound surrounded by a pastoral landscape. A cursory look at some stills from the event seemed to show some remarkable similarities, not only conceptually but down to some of the smaller visual details, to my good friend and collaborator Dominic Heffer’s illustrations. For example, see above.
The top image is one of our postcards that showed the mound through the ages.
The image below is a mock up of the opening ceremony.
The little house being in almost the same place seems a little more than coincidental.
As struggling artists in the North of England some recognition of our hard work to bring this concept to light would have been most welcome, if indeed it did inspire the opening ceremony.
Although my proposal was to build an actual mound 40m high in the flat landscape of Holderness, East Yorkshire, it does seem that our imagery and conceptual vision has heavily influenced the theatrical opening ceremonies theme and look.
My proposal to build a neo-neolithic mound was not merely thought of for the Olympic competition, it is an idea that I have wanted to fulfill for many years. The Olympic competition was a potential vehicle to make it happen.
Again, if it inspired the producers of the opening ceremony, some recognition of my bid to create one for real could have made a huge difference in its viability.
It seems there is more to this story concerning the regional judging process of the ‘Artists taking the lead’ competition, which if true makes this situation even more troubling and disturbing to me, however I leave that to September’s issue of Arts Professional to explain.
What do you think?
UPDATE: Also see my latest blog in this matter here : Olympic Opening Ceremony Debacle goes Mainstream Media