Witness the world's greatest classical music festival

With just over three weeks left to the start of the London 2012 Olympics, we take a look at some of the highlights of the Cultural Olympiad celebrations around the UK this month designed to celebrate one of the world’s best sporting events.

BBC Proms,  London
13 July - 8 September

This year’s BBC Proms, at the magnificent Royal Albert Hall, aims to celebrate the global focus on the capital this summer with a sizzling line up of internationally renowned musicians. Between 20-27 July, Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra will perform the entire Beethoven symphony cycle, culminating in a performance of the Ninth Symphony on the opening day of the Olympic Games.

Other highlights include the chance for world music fans to enjoy Columbian accordinists, Congolese street musicians fusing African rumba with rhythm and blues, reggae and funk as well as a special celebration of the work of US composer and musician John Cage.

There’ll also be traditional favourites, such as the spectacular first and last night concerts, and the chance to wave your flags in Hyde Park at the popular Proms in the Park celebrations.

Compagnie Carabosse, Fire Garden at Stonehenge
10-12 July

Fire garden flaming potsA beautiful fire graden will illuminate historic Stonehenge
Creative Commons / victoria peckham

Imagine one of Britain’s most iconic world heritage sites being set alight. Stonehenge will be transformed into a fiery fairytale environment as part of the Olympiad festivities. French outdoor alchemists Compagnie Carabosse will create a fire garden around the historic site with magnificent fire sculptures, candle-lit pathways and flaming fire pots.This event promises to be an imaginative, inspiring and a transforming experience for every generation, young or old.

We Face Forward: Art From West Africa Today, Manchester
2 June – 16 September

‘We Face Forward’ is a summer-long series of free exhibitions and events throughout Manchester showcasing some of the most interesting and thought-provoking contemporary art from West Africa. If you love fashion and photography, don’t miss the works of acclaimed Malian photographers at the Gallery of Costume, which are displayed alongside fashion pieces from British-Nigerian designer Duro Olowu.

Entrance to Manchester Art GalleryManchester will celebrate West African art
Creative Commons / Duncan

From 6 July, check out the Moving Into Space exhibition at the National Football Museum for football-inspired art from paintings to sculptures. Other highlights include a music programme curated by Band on the Wall and The Manchester Museum and featuring a host of globally-recognised acts, including AfroCubism, the new international supergroup formed by Buena Vista Social Club’s Eliades Ochoa and Toumani Diabaté.

Big Dance 2012, UK
7–15 July

Cardiff bay at nightCardiff Bay will stage the largest ever Bollywood dance show
iStockphoto / Thinkstock

If the prospect of seeing Olympic athletes inspires you to get fit, forget renewing that old gym membership and instead join in the Big Dance 2012, where various dance networks will be collaborating to stage mass performances all over the UK.

Manchester will host Urban Moves, a celebration of dance taking place in unexpected spaces such as swimming pools, underground car parks, and even a scaffold. Or, if you’re in Wales, on 15 July, head down to the Multicultural Mela in Cardiff to see dancers attempt the world record for the largest ever Bollywood dance (currently standing at 1,336!). In London, 14 July is Big Street Dance day, the highlight of which will be a new Olympics-inspired, 1,000-strong performance in Trafalgar Square.

In addition to all that twirling, there’ll be a plethora of activities going on, with workshops, film screenings and photography courses throughout the festival.

Cakebook Britain – The People’s Picnic, Gateshead
15 July

Got a sweet tooth? Head down to Gateshead’s Saltwell Park where you’ll have a chance to take a bite out of a giant edible map of Great Britain. Cakes, baked by over 100 local people, will be made in the shape of iconic landmarks, ranging from Buckingham Palace to Stonehenge and Nelson’s Column.

Other events on the day include food-themed games including the Stockpot Challenge, Tunaversity Challenge, cookery workshops and live music. Now in its third year, Cakebook Britain promises to be a visual and gastronomic feast.

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