A Giant’s Tale, Liverpool

A sleeping Grandmother Giant travelled through space, between two clouds of the Milky Way, waking in the city of Liverpool to tell stories of a war that will never be forgotten…

Giant Grandmother, Liverpool
The Grandmother Giant in Liverpool, grandma stands 25ft tall when not in her wheelchair!

Memories of August 1914

August 2014 marks the centenary of the start of World War I, commemorated in Liverpool by a cultural event of giant proportions. The conflict saw 5,000 Liverpool men sign up to serve King and country. They had answered a call from Lord Derby to form a Pals battalion, “a battalion in which friends from the same office will fight shoulder to shoulder for the honour of Britain and the credit of Liverpool.” These men were not regular soldiers and by the end of the war 2,800 Liverpool Pals had lost their lives. Huge casualties meant whole communities and workplaces were changed forever.

St George's Hall, Liverpool
Giant posters draped from St George’s Hall, where the Liverpool Pals signed up for war

3 days, 3 giants, 1.5 million spectators

Thousands were gathered outside St George’s Hall on Friday 27 July – all waiting and watching in awe as a Giant Grandmother marionette stirred from her sleep. Over the next three days she would travel the city, pausing to read out stories of wartime soldiers. A loud bang and a cloud of sooty smoke announced each reading as a ‘cosmic safe’ – containing letters from Liverpool’s past, present and future – was opened.

In one poignant moment, a letter was read tearfully by an elderly man, written by his grandfather the night before he went ‘over the top’ and was killed. Writing to his mother, the young soldier said: “My own darling mother, I’m just on the eve of going into the greatest battle the world has ever known. I’m writing this and asking someone to post it (if I don’t return). I never realised how little I’ve done for you and in return how much you have done for me until I joined the army.”

 

Little Girl and Giant Dog, Liverpool
Grandmother was helped around the city by the Little Girl Giant and her dog, Xolo – after their siesta in the Liverpool sunshine!
Xolo the Giant Dog
Meet the mischievous Xolo, a 9ft puppet dog!
Little Girl and Giant Grandmother, Liverpool
Xolo and the Lilliputians join Little Girl Giant and Grandmother for a dance in the docks

Memories of August 1914 was an amazing spectacle of public art that people will be talking about for years to come. I used to live on Merseyside so have an affinity for the city. I feel proud for the people of Liverpool, and I’m thankful for the genius and generosity of Royal de Luxe for sharing their spectacular creations.

Social media, including the Giant Spectacular Facebook page, has been flooded with positive comments, one of my favourites being: “One of the very best experiences of my entire life – every minute was fantastic – even the waiting, the heat, the queues, BUT nothing could spoil the good nature of the crowds (and I mean EVERONE), the beautiful creations, the atmosphere of joy and surprise… It was all superb!!!”

Jean-Luc Courcoult, Royal de Luxe
Jean-Luc Courcoult: the colourful creator of giants and founder of French street theatre company, Royal de Luxe
The Three Graces, Liverpool
The parade passed many of Liverpool’s famous landmarks including the Three Graces: Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building…
Liverpool Giants leave by boat on the River Mersey
…before the Liverpool Giants left by boat, disappearing in clouds of dry ice down the River Mersey

This wasn’t the first time giant puppets have visited Liverpool (not to mention the size of the spiders!) – and I have a feeling it won’t be the last!

See more pictures of the Liverpool Giants on itchyfeetphotography.com and watch highlights of their farewell in this short video produced by Liverpool Live TV:

 

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Sea Odyssey – Giant Spectacular, Liverpool 20-22 April 2012

Giant Uncle and Little Girl, Sea Odyssey, Liverpool, UK

Waking with Giants
ZZZzzzzzzzz Giant snores reverberated around Kings Dock before two huge marionnetes were brought to life by the Lilluputian crew of Royal de Luxe, a French street theatre company here to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Dated 13th April 1912, a letter by 10 year old May McMurray from Liverpool was written to her father, William, on the ill-fated cruise liner. A century after it was posted it became the inspiration for the UK’s largest street theatre event held over 3 days in the city of Liverpool.

May’s letter, now in Liverpool’s Maritime Museum, reads: “Dear Father, It seems ages since I last seen you. I wish we where in Southampton with you, it is very lonely without you.”

William would never see the letter; it reached White Star’s offices after the Titanic had embarked, and was returned to sender. He died when the ship sank, despite having had the opportunity to board a lifeboat.

Alan McMurray, William’s grandson, said: “An officer sent him back to look for water and biscuits and he never returned. They couldn’t wait any longer and the officer said to a gentleman standing alongside the lifeboat ‘You get in the lifeboat’. The lifeboat was picked up by the Carpathia and they all ended up in Newfoundland where the gentleman who got into the lifeboat in place of my grandfather asked about him. He eventually came back from New York to Liverpool and went straight to the White Star office. He checked on William’s details and found out his address and went there. He met my grandmother and told her the tale of what had happened on board the ship.”

May’s letter ends with a goodbye message from William’s three children; “Love from all dada hoping to see you soon with love from Ivy and May and Ernie xxxxxxxxxx kisses for dada x”

Little Girl Giant, Sea Odyssey, Liverpool, UK

Walking with Giants
Faces pressed against the windows of tall buildings came eye-to-eye with giants as the Uncle and ‘Little Girl’ took to the streets.  Sea Odyssey tells the story of a young girl giant whose father, a 30 foot giant, stowed away on the Titanic and died when it sank. His brother, the second giant puppet, took a century to learn to dive and having found the wreck of the Titanic returned to Liverpool to meet his niece and distribute letters from the ship around the city.

This spectacular 3 day event is not the first for Liverpool. Another giant has roamed the streets…

La Machine, a giant spide in Liverpool, European Capital of Culture 2008

In 2008, as part of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations,  a 50ft mechanical spider known as La Princesse went walkabout! Water cannons shot jets of spray over unsuspecting crowds and a myriad of special effects brought flames and snow to the occasion.

The Sultan's Elephant, London

London has also witnessed street theatre on a giant stage. Back in 2006, the Little Girl made an appearance accompanying a 50-ton elephant. Towering over famous landmarks – and shooting water from it’s trunk – the Sultan’s Elephant was an extraordinary and magical production.

Visit Itchy Feet Photography for more pictures of Sea Odyssey – Giant Spectacular and discover videos of the event on YouTube.