Artist Marianne Fox-Ockinga talks about her involvement in the greatest show on Earth – the London 2012 Olympic Games


Cherry Pickers Circling, Olympic StadiumMarianne Fox-Ockinga does not strike you as a natural sports person or indeed a sports enthusiast at all. But walk into her London studio, and if you were a sports or footie fan, a Gunner even, you would be in sporting heaven! On all four walls are her woodcut prints, paintings and drawings of the construction of Wembley, Arsenal’s Highbury and Emirates stadiums, and the new Olympic arena, mixed among prints of London’s Kings Cross, Regents Canal, Kings Place and rural scenes of Italy and the Netherlands.

Marianne is the first to admit she is not a natural sportsperson. “I suppose it was the thick spectacles I wore throughout my school days. I was always last to be picked for the team. Fortunately I could draw, so that put me ahead in the popularity stakes over the other people who were not so good in sports.”

So how did a self-confessed “non-sporty” get involved and gain access to record visually some of the most important and extraordinary work-in-progress sporting moments?

Her sporting story began in 2000 when Marianne was struck with breast cancer. It was when she was recovering from her illness that one day, while driving along Goodsway to the north of King’s Cross, she noticed hoardings being put around the Victorian railway buildings and installations.

“When I saw one of the huge cast iron beam from the top of the gasholder being lifted by a crane to be taken away for demolition, I realised that this was just the beginning of a huge change in the area which would alter the face of this part of London forever. This part of London’s Victorian history would be lost forever and nobody outside the hoardings seemed to be taking any notice. I took it upon myself to document this passage of history.”

Men at Work, Kings Cross, woodcutFor Marianne, who was emerging from her personal battle with illness, documenting the removal of old structures and the building of new ones held certain parallels with her own state of health. The whole process of capturing the regeneration of Kings Cross in art was a source of strength for her mind and body – a sort of cathartic healing process.

Marianne became a fixture at Kings Cross. She would park her car and work from the back, sometimes on double yellow lines. The police didn’t chase her away, the construction workers were chuffed to be documented and she even became friendly with various nefarious locals who were scouring the streets for business. She got to know the site managers, who gave her privileged views and she was allowed to walk across the roof of the mighty Barlow Shed at St. Pancras before this monument of 19th century railway civil engineering was restored to receive the Eurostar. Soon the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Project noticed her work and offered a solo exhibition show at the London and Continental Railways St. Pancras Visitor Centre.

From there, she received a series of commissions from the Sir Robert McAlpine Construction Company and her involvement in documenting major building works snowballed from the Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, to Kings Place art and media centre and the icing on the cake – the 2012 London Olympic Stadium.

Making Space for the Olympics woodcutMarianne arrived at the Stratford site just as the work was starting in earnest and was afforded unprecedented access to the construction site of the Olympic Stadium. The first challenge was the diktats of the new health and safety regulations. She had to take the written and oral tests for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme to be passed fit and secure to go on site. Kitted out with hardhat, fluorescent jacket and steel-capped boots, Marianne would climb the steps to the very top of the rim – though for some time the only route to the top was up the hoist (the construction lift) – some 100 meters off the ground to the little shed McAlpine built especially for her. From her high vantage point, she saw and drew the maelstrom of building activity through all weathers, rain, shine, and occasionally snow.

“It was pretty cold – sometimes the wind chill factor brought freezing temperatures. At other times when my working hours didn’t coincide with the workers, I would be stuck at the top starving and cold, waiting for the workers to get back to operate the hoist so I could go get some food and coffee or go home. Of course it was much tougher for the workers, who just kept going and managed to cross the finishing line well on time!”

Zeus at the Games woodcutMaking full use of her unique opportunities, Marianne’s work brings two seemingly disparate disciplines of art and sport together – to the envy of her Arsenal-supporting sporting friends and family. Asked if Sports and Arts should mix more, she says, “Absolutely. The original Olympic games in ancient Greece was documented in frescos, vases and urns, coins and medals. I see myself as a modern chronicler, carrying on, as it were, what the Greeks started.”

And she does, bearing the torch in true Olympic spirit.



Marianne Fox-Ockinga’s Olympic prints and drawings are on show, along with other works at Kingsgate Gallery until 29 July 2012, 110-116 Kingsgate Road, NW6 2JG Thursday to Sundays 12:00-6:00 pm.


Sadly Marianne does not have tickets to watch the actual Olympics at the stadium live. Seeing and documenting it rising from the ground, surely she deserves to see the fruits of her labour come alive. If you think Marianne deserves a ticket to Olympic events at the Olympic Stadium, “like” and/or tweet this article and pass it around so that it might reach somebody high up who can grant this decree.



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