On Friday 20 April 2012 the Giant Spectacular came to Liverpool and I was one of hundreds of volunteers to help them on their way.
I can’t even begin to fathom the vast amount of organisation that has gone into this event. As well as the people from Royale De Luxe, the French company that put on the spectacular, there were people like me acting as Benevols (no, I don’t know what it means either), the Red Cross, Liverpool City Council’s Highways people, United Utilities, kids from the Liverpool Academy, and event stewards, to name just a few.
The day started bright and early at Stanley Park. I’d watched Colin Paterson’s fantastic report on BBC Breakfast before I left the house and left feeling jolly excited. At Stanley Park, I was soon part of a great sea (‘scuse the pun) of volunteers ready to see the Little Girl Giant and her dog Xolo wake up and get ready for the day.
It was all very sedate until a large crowd of French Benevols turned up and completely livened up the place, taking pictures with all the kids form nearby schools who’d dressed up brilliantly as Titanic passengers and crew. The kids were chuffed and practiced their very best “Bonjours” and “Ça vas?” while the French people asked us how to say, “Move back please” in a polite manner. We managed to communicate, us in pidgin schoolboy French and they with broken English and lots of Gallic shrugging.
At 8:40 the Lilliputians arrived and the excitement really began. The Lilliputians are the guys and girls in red who operate the Giants, although if you ask them, they serve the Giants like servants to their masters.
The little girl showered and dressed while Xolo scampered round to the delight of everyone and then they were off for a trip round North Liverpool. I’d been assigned to the boat that carried the little girl out of the park and up past Anfield, wearing a blue and red scarf – a nice touch, that. They’d given us plastic rain hoods and earplugs and, man, did we need them! Walking right underneath the boat, with water splashing everywhere, we were soaked right through, but dried off pretty quickly thanks to the glorious sunshine.
One of the reasons for us being Cultural Champions is to see ordinary people experience ‘Culture’ in the widest sense, and it was a great joy to see the masses of people from North Liverpool turn out to see the spectacular. Every single one of them, man woman and child, did the City proud.
After a snatched lunch in Everton Park, a small group of us were put on a mini bus and transferred to the Albert Dock to accompany The Diver through the city centre and back to Stanley Park. The crowd at the dock was enormous when we got there and the streets were heaving with people. A particular highlight was when the Giant got to the end of Castle Street and was spoken to by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Joe Anderson, the Leader of the Council, who looked like a particularly delighted child.
It was now about 4pm and I was starting to flag. I was lucky to be part of a great group and we managed to concoct a half decent system of communication to make sure we got through the packed crowds in some kind of order. As we made the long, uphill journey through Vauxhall Road and back up Walton Road, I and my fellow Benevols, Jan and Jo, danced as we trailed behind the Giant with our team leader Joyce shouting cheerful encouragement from up ahead.
What made the whole thing quite thrilling was the sight of the Lilliputians. They were for the most part devastatingly sexy French men who looked like a dashing gang of pirates with exotic looks, earrings and steam-punk sunglasses. They ran and jumped and hauled the machinery to work the Giants and then sat like something from a Jean Luc Goddard film casually smoking Gauloises on the back of the trucks. They were like some exotic birds of paradise transplanted to the streets of Liverpool. But I digress.
As were were next to the rather deafening music truck, we were treated to the sight of the wonderfully eccentric Royale De Luxe creator Jean-Luc Courcoult astride the truck doing a kind of hybrid Robot dance. It was a sight to behold.
By the time we got to Stanley Park, I was aching all over and my head was banging. I went home, took and handful of migraine tablets and lay down with a heat pack on my head.
So that was it for me. I’ll be going back on Saturday with my children to watch the spectacular, while Jan, Jo, Joyce, Sally and the the other hundreds of volunteers, including my fellow Champion Ray, have got more to come. I’m a little bit jealous. The camaraderie on the day was absolutely brilliant.
So I’ll go and watch the spectacular, but a little bit of me will wish I was back in my plastic poncho getting soaked, tired and headachey. Because it really was a day to remember.
Follow the Giants at http://www.giantspectacular.com/
Colin Paterson’s report for BBC Breakfast http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-17781876