I DECIDED to tell the whole world about the Giants’ arrival. It only seemed fair.
I had Facebooked the event, telling all my friends about their arrival, but it didn’t seem to generate much of a response. I told friends as I passed them in the street, but found it really disappointing that no one seemed to even know about it – “Oh is it tomorrow? Already??”
I started to worry that no one was going to show up, and what promised to be such a massive event was going to pass people by.
It wasn’t until the big day, as I’d packed my bag with practical clothes, flask, torch, blanket and other essentials for a geeky Giant-hunt around the city, that my flatmate text me saying I had in fact got the wrong date, and they weren’t due to arrive for another two weeks.
Cagoule off, map folded, and flask drained- I think that’s what is affectionately known as an epic (or even a Giant) fail.
I waited, impatiently, for another two weeks.
It’s fair to say, not everyone was as excited by this event as me, and I doubt it was everyone’s cup of tea.
I could already predict a variety of responses in the build-up and subsequent aftermath from some parties. The phone-in fodder who often have very little to say other than the horrendous state of bin collections or the number of public toilets in town, and (rightly) from the many people who are having a real hard time with work, money and the mundane, general day to day life- all saying a version of “the last thing we need is a massive and expensive Punch and Judy show to distract us from the state of affairs in these ‘difficult economic times’”.
They could have been right. However, those three days did every one of us in this city a lot of good.
After my false start two weeks earlier, I was determined to be ready for the real big day.
I overslept. Typical.
So for the first few hours, I had to settle for a running commentary from good old Twitter.
The Everyman Playhouse Artistic Director, Gemma Bodinetz, quickly became roving reporter number one. She had made the journey to Stanley Park to see the ‘little girl’ wake up. Tweets such as “a frenzy of excitement” “Liverpool is the centre of the cultural universe” “moved by all the people lining the streets” “love the dog” “she is about to fly!” etc were all enough to force me out of my bed, dust off the already-packed geeky bag, and head off in search of the Giants I had waited to see for so long.
Reading Twitter felt like a cross between rolling news and a fairy tale.
As I got changed, prepared for any weather eventuality, I turned on Radio Merseyside.
They had just gone ‘live’ to the Giants and a group of young girls were being interviewed. When asked “did you ever expect to see anything like this in Liverpool?” one of the girls replied without a hint of sarcasm or irony, “Not in my lifetime!”
It was brilliant. It was clearly a direct quote from her Mum or Nan. We weren’t talking about Man landing on the Moon, or ending all wars – but a giant puppet walking around Liverpool.
Still, it did sum up a lot of people’s reactions. She’s right, or at least her Mum is, it’s not the average thing you expect to see in your life. And weren’t we the lucky ones. These girls were all made up. And so was I.
Radio off, sensible shoes on and I was out – heading towards the music in the distance.
I was on Twitter most the time, spreading news of what others could see. People were re-tweeting exciting images of the giant wooden girl sitting on a giant boat, wearing a giant yellow Mac.
Pictures of a huge salivating dog running past landmarks such as The Butty Shop captured both the mundane and the beauty of the day in one shot. I was receiving images of a 50ft sleeping man up to his waist in the water down the dock, wearing a huge diving helmet, while tiny men and women (Liliputians as we would later call them) crawled like ants all over him.
It was surreal. And the event was getting bigger.
Other tweets included those from frustrated office workers – people (unlike me) with lives, I suppose – desperate to get out and start the weekend with a glimpse of a giant.
I had a meeting in the afternoon and hadn’t managed to catch sight of the giants as of yet. After my meeting I met up with a mate, (another local actor, Liam Tobin), and did what any sane human being would do while waiting for a giant to walk past – I headed to Doctor Duncan’s for a pint. It would be rude not to.
Rumour was spreading that they were running, or strolling, late because she’d over-slept around Everton Brow. Fair enough. Another pint and a bag of nuts became the perfect tea.
A few other bright sparks had the same idea, and we were all stocking up before she arrived.
The atmosphere felt almost like a party too. Town was chocker block. Kids were everywhere – on lampposts, telephone boxes, and on shoulders.
The Royal Court was a prime location from where I was, and the theatre staff, currently renovating the interior, took a break and stood on the canopy outside to get a good view over the crowd below.
The great and the good, those wearing Mr-T style chains, ‘him off the telly’, ‘that one who works at..’ etc were on the steps of St George’s Hall having a free glass of wine and a savoury snack, and the rest of us below were already planning which pub to head to next.
Then, from far off in the distance, you could hear the beat of the music heading our way. She was here. The crowd were becoming more animated. Two lads walked past “eeee yaa, it’s that puppet”. Both dressed as North Face catalogue models, complete with compulsory angry dog on a lead, and wormed their way through the crowd to get a good view. Later I heard one say to the other – “that was boss, that!” And it really was.
She appeared from behind the pillars of St George’s Hall and headed towards the station. As she came closer, the crowd seemed to almost grow taller, too. Cameras and iPhones and babies were held in the air, and no sooner as she strolled past, looking down and directly into my eyes (only my eyes, of course, no one else’s!) she was gone, and heading towards town. It made the giant spider look like the starter to this amazing main course. This was something else.
As you were swept along, it was great to hear so many different parts of conversations.
Later, by Liverpool One John Lewis’, the girl passed by, sitting on her car. I heard an old voice behind me say “Isn’t she beautiful?” I looked up to see a Nan and her two grandkids, stood on an electric storage box on the side of the street- high above everyone else. One of the kids said “she’s lovely, Nanny” and her Nan squeezed them tightly to her. Goose pimples over, I was carried along by the crowd. It was like a conveyor belt, in a way. You had no choice but to move with it. And still no rain!
I got off the conveyor belt, found a good spot, and waited for the giant to pass by again. One woman nearby took it upon herself to act as a kind of local tour guide. It was brilliant – she was loving it.
She looked like a cross between Miss Piggy and a model – with a full face of make up on, and her hands full of shopping bags- her head was probably “chocker”, put it that way!
She said she’d just stopped for a break to look at “the little girl”. Strangers gathered around her like some sort of human roundabout, while she asked them all where they were from and how they were getting home, and do they know about how the little girl is falling asleep down at the arena- “You know the Echo arena?” A sea of blank and cagouled faces peered back at her, followed by a deep northern “No” to which she responded with “Right. If you head to the big wheel, you’ll see it. She’s falling asleep down there with her dog, apparently.”
Slightly clearer, one lady answered, nudging her mute husband “Oh, right. We’ll have to have a look won’t we?!” It was great. Everyone was chatting and laughing, and smiling. The smiles got me the most, actually. People looked like they were little kids- their mouths slightly open, eyes wide, necks craning for a better view, and then alongside them were Inspector Gadget types, making use of their cameras AND iPads AND iPhones. People couldn’t believe their eyes.
I’d made my way to the large clearing towards the back of the arena, having taken my tour guide’s advice, and making sure I was ahead of the crowds. I looked out for the photographers and people with lanyards round their necks- they always get the best view at these things- and positioned myself behind them. I was right. It was the perfect place. She walked into the special enclosure and what followed was completely amazing.
As she took her first step into the enclosure, the music swelled on cue- switching from the mobile speakers that had been following her around town, to the huge PA system hanging above the crowd, dangling from massive cranes. The bright sun broke through the clouds, hitting her face. The wind blew across the crowd and swept her hair from off her face and really high into the air. It looked as though it had taken her breath away, and almost on cue, she closed her eyes to enjoy it. It was like a TV special effect, but was a complete accident.
The final part of day one took place with the backdrop of the Anglican Cathedral- dwarfed by the little girl. She was dressed for bed, found time for a dance, played with her dog, and eventually lay down to sleep. The whole thing was magical.
What stays with me is how the littlest and most simple things somehow became the biggest and most amazing. The simple action of a blink or a hand movement, or the eventual and highly-anticipated reunion and embrace between the girl and her giant Uncle became so important. We loved it.
We loved how clever and how simple it was at the same time. It might have just been me, though I doubt it, but I started to think about how many of these simple things we do take for granted, and how important they are to us without even realising. We walk, we hug, we blink, we have family we don’t speak to or see, we feel lost at times, and we all need a laugh. It forced us to look at the simple things and enjoy them for what they are.
On top of all of this, it was simply gobsmackingly, breathtakingly brilliant.
Since the giants have sailed away (and don’t hate me for being a bit pretentious here), the city feels taller. It’s true.
Rather than walking with your head down, or straight ahead to get somewhere, we were forced to look up, and raise our eye line. By looking 30 or 50 feet in the air, the buildings and views around came into focus. The architecture, the sky, the sun, the clouds, all of it added to the picture in front of us.
I will struggle to look at the Strand or the Chinese Arch, without planting a 50 foot deep-sea diver walking down it, or flying overhead. The giants made us look at this beautiful city in a brand new way. And we should keep our eyes up!
Thank you Royal de Luxe! And thank you Liverpool City Council for allowing such an event to take place. But please let it not be the end. Let this be the start of something amazing in Liverpool, and where we allow our home-grown creative brains to create just as much magic in this city and on such a giant scale as our special guests were able to.
Onto the next!
But if it’s a Giant Lambanana, I’m reaching for a giant gun.
Stephen is an actor from Liverpool. He has worked on a number of productions in nearly all Liverpool’s theatres, including The Liverpool Playhouse, Everyman, and the popular Christmas comedies at The Royal Court. Most recently he appeared in Life in the Theatre at The Actor’s Studio with Andrew Schofield. He is also a LIPA graduate.
You can follow Stephen on Twitter by clicking the following link @SteFletcher1
The unified Ahhh when the little girl and uncle where reunited is something I won’t ever forget, grown men with tears in their eyes, it was amazing, Stephen Has brought it all back in this article thanks
Great article Stephen of a great event. The fact that I was hitting the motorway out of Liverpool just as the Girl woke up in Stanley park is a regret I’ll always have. I should have stuck around for a couple of days.
Excellent piece, I travelled over from Scarborough just to see it. Wonderful memories and I agree.. You can’t look at certain buildings now without thinking of a little girl, an uncle and a friendly dog that captured a city’s heart.
Really enjoyed that and gutted that I missed it.
I’m just gutted that I wasn’t able to get there.Threre’s so much going on in this City now that is just amazing and a far cry from the doom and gloom of the 80’s and 90’s.
I’m not a politician or politically minded but we took a break in the last 20 years and I’ve no idea why that was or who was to blame.
The Matthew Street Festival was just one example of an outstanding event destroyed by petty arguments and bickering.
Anyway,I’m really proud of what we’re doing now and it’s about time! So all credit to whoever is responsible for showing the World that THIS is LIVERPOOL!
Nice piece Stephen. I’m not from Liverpool and wasn’t there but you managed to convey the giddy excitment of the event for those who couldn’t be there.
It’s these events that make a place. They often make no sense on paper to the bean counters in whatever your bureacracy might be, but they add a little bit to what makes a place and life special. So congrats to thecity council on that score.