Robert Hampton

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28th July 2014

Giants among us
Posted by at 9.34pm | No responses | Liverpool

Back in April 2012, Royal De Luxe staged a Giant Spectacular. It was, by accounts, a resounding success, and it was inevitable that the city would invite the team back for a second try.

Last Friday, the giants returned to the city’s streets, this time to tell a story themed around the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. The Little Girl and her dog, Xolo, returned from 2012. They were joined by a new giant – the Grandmother, with her wheelchair.

On Friday morning, all was quiet, but crowds were already building up at St George’s Hall, where the Grandmother Giant was sleeping soundly. Nearby, at the Queensway Tunnel entrance, the Little Girl and Xolo dozed in the sunshine.

Grandmother St George's Hall Little Girl Queensway Tunnel

It was early, but a crowd had already built up, from people who wanted to get a good vantage point for later on. In the meantime, they were content to watch as the giants slept (and snored!)

By lunchtime, the streets around the Town Hall were heaving with people. Estimates state that the numbers in the city over the weekend may have topped one million. The good weather certainly helped, but

Crowds near Town Hall

It was a universally good-natured crowd. There was no pushing or jostling – really, when the thing you’re waiting to see is a 25ft giant, you don’t need to worry about getting a good view. There was a definite sense of anticipation as the crowd awaited the spectacle to come.

And here it is:-

Grandmother at Castle Street

The giant puppet, manipulated by a team of “Lilliputians” pulling and tugging at numerous ropes and pulleys, made sedate progress down Castle Street, crowds parting ahead of her to let her through.

After a brief pause at the Town Hall to greet dignitaries on the balcony, she turned down Water Street towards the waterfront. The eager crowd followed her. I took a shortcut through the side streets, emerging onto The Strand ahead of her. The Liver Building formed an imposing backdrop:-

Grandmother Liver Building

Still pictures can’t quite do justice to the experience of seeing these puppets “live” (I have some video footage which I will edit together at some point). The grandmother’s facial features move, she turns and waves to the adoring crowds. She is almost alive.

Approaching Mann Island, she stopped to acknowledge her adoring fans, before stopping to read a story to the crowd.

grandmother-mann-island

Later, after work, I headed up to the other side of the city, where the Little Girl was roaming from the Chinese Arch up to Newsham Park. It was a very hot day and I had to dash across town to catch up with the Girl Giant on Grove Street.

Little Girl

Like a baker who exercises too much, I was sweating cobs by the time I got there. I was rather jealous of the Little Girl giant who had found a way to cool down. What do you mean, it’s not real?

Little Girl with Lollyice

She also stopped for a, ahem… “comfort break”. Depending on your particular prejudices, you could say “typical Scouse girl” or “typically French”. But I embrace all cultures and creeds, so I won’t say anything.

Little Girl Canning Street

Despite these stops, she was making better progress than the Grandmother, who suffered an unfortunate incident. As the BBC put it: “Her departure was delayed by about an hour after her head came loose when she broke wind.” As I headed back to Central Station, I saw her stuck on Hanover Street. She was there for over an hour, but the audience waited patiently for her journey to continue.

On Saturday, I headed up to Islington, on the edge of the city centre, to catch another glimpse of the Grandmother. I arrived over an hour early, because I was keen to enjoy the atmosphere, and not because I misread the schedule at all.

There were already a lot of other people waiting. There hasn’t been this much excitement on a grassy knoll since Dallas, 1963.

Islington Grass Verge

Eventually, the crowds were rewarded for their patience by another appearance of the giants. First came the Grandmother’s wheelchair.

Wheelchair

Then, the Grandmother herself, out for a stroll in the sunshine.

Grandmother on Islington

Following the Grandmother was the float carrying the band, Les Balayeurs du d├ęsert, providing musical accompaniment to the journey. Also on board was Jean-Luc Courcoult, the bespectacled mastermind behind Royal de Luxe. “We love Liverpoooool!” he yelled, to a roar from the crowd.

Jean-Luc Courcoult

Later that evening, the Giants met on the waterfront. It was a great moment, witnessed by a huge crowd.

Giants Meet

It was a glorious three days, which showcased Liverpool at its absolute best, with news coverage coming in from around the world. I think SevenStreets summed it up best on Twitter:-

Same again in 2016 then?

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