Manager at Fenland property company performs as drummer in London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony

AN African drum bought as a holiday souvenir led to a manager at a Fenland company performing in the opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Andrew Verney bought the drum, known as a Djembe, from Gambia and set it in his lounge at home for several years, before learning to play it in autumn 2008.

But that hobby led to him performing as a drummer in Friday’s opening ceremony.

Mr Verney, head of assurance and sustainability at Wisbech-based Foster Property Maintenance, will also perform in the closing ceremony as part of a 1,000-piece drumming group.

He said: “I had absolutely no experience of playing any musical instrument but got so sick and tired of being asked if I played it that I decided to get up and do it.

“My day job involves being sat at a desk so I wanted to get into a hobby that used a different part of my brain... and that’s where the drumming began.”

Mr Verney, from Blofield, near Norwich, was looking for tickets for the Games in January when he saw an advert for male drummers. Two auditions at a London-based dance studio ensued and, after a competitive recruitment process, Mr Verney was chosen to be in both the opening and closing ceremonies.

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He said, “They were looking for a colourful cross-section of the Great British society to form the group, all from different walks of life, race, colour, creed, and I fitted the bill.

“Several professional drummers were turned away as they weren’t team players – another prerequisite of being recruited.”

Mr Verney regularly rubbed shoulders with director of the ceremony, Danny Boyle, and said: “It was great seeing him and working alongside him, he’s a genius.

“He made sure everyone knew what they were doing, when and how. He’s a fantastic director with great communication skills.”

Mr Verney also said: “It’s an experience I’ll never forget, you’re only here once and now and again you have to grasp the opportunities that come your way, I feel very lucky to have been given this opportunity.

“How many people can say they performed in front of a billion of people around the world? Not many.”