After a visit from the 50ft Spider La Princesse during their 2008 City of Culture year giants wandering the streets of Liverpool have become a familiar sight over the years. This year they were invited back for Memories of August 1914 to commemorate the outbreak of the Frist World War. Accompanied by parades and musical floats the Little Girl Giant, Grandmother and Xolo the Dog journeyed through the streets of Liverpool as around apparently half a million people a day followed them as they slept, showered, read and indeed urinated (well it’s a natural thing) across Liverpool.
There was a narrative throughout the 3 day event of the Little Girl Giant learning about WWI and her Grandmother’s memories of Liverpool. The Grandmother was often accompanied by a ‘memory chest’ containing letters from soldiers in the trenches that she would read to the spectators. In addition there were also relatives of real life soldiers from WWI sharing their own stories in touching recordings and live readings. Xolo the Dog was a popular character, who interacted more with the audience often running over to be patted. By happy accident I ended up stuck in what turned out to be a prime position for the finale on Sunday, were the giants bid their farewells, got into their beds and sailed out of the docks.
The driving force behind the giants were just as interesting as the giants themselves, like a huge puppet the figures are powered by small teams of 4-6 people dubbed the ‘Lilliputians’, some of which use their whole body weight to ensure arms, legs and eyeballs are moving. Smartly adorned in red velvet the entire weekend, these guys were as much the stars of the show made even more so by the fact they did so in the sweltering summer heat.
The giants are run by the French theatre company Royal De Luxe whose human and animal mannequins have travelled all over the world. They are fascinating to watch up close and look a lot of fun for those luckily enough to work on them. As I couldn’t get round to see the whole weekend and with it being difficult to navigate through thousands of people without getting penned in somewhere I mostly missed out on the storytelling element of the event. However the weather was nice, the atmosphere buzzing and as a literally larger than life bit of street theatre, it was pretty impressive. Overall I have to say it was good to see a more arty, cultural event bring a community together on such a scale.