As someone who is fiercely proud of my Liverpudlian roots, with a terrible weakness for events which unite the city on a grand scale, it’s safe to say I’ve had a pretty good weekend. I’m still smiling now.
On the face of it, thousands of people lining the streets in the searing heat to witness three giant puppets – a nan, a little girl and a dog named Xolo – meandering along does seem a bit strange. But, just like in 2012, Royal De Luxe, the French street theatre company behind the Giant Spectacular which this time was commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, put on an incredible show.
Of course, there were a small number amongst us who found something to complain about. “I don’t ‘get’ the giants.” What’s not to ‘get’ about the city smiling for a whole weekend solid, whilst basking in glorious sunshine? “I got stuck in traffic for hours.” Plan your route better – you can’t say Merseytravel (for once!) didn’t warn you. “Why are our cash-strapped council spending thousands on this event?” Because it will generate millions. Glad we cleared all of that up.
We didn’t let the naysayers bring us down though. There was a tangible air of anticipation and excitement across the city, the type that for some reason always seems to be extra special in Liverpool. I loved that people queued for hours on Wednesday and Thursday just to see the giant nan asleep in St. George’s Hall. I loved how Jean-Luc Courcoult, the founder of Royal De Luxe, basically spent three days dancing on a truck having an absolute ball. I loved it when the nan’s head nearly fell off at one point – “OH MY GOD ME ‘EAD’S FELL OFF!” I loved singing along to Imagine with thousands of others in Newsham Park on Friday evening, against the backdrop of a beautiful sunset as the giants were tucked in for the night.
Most of all I loved the fact that the giants’ route took them through some of the most deprived areas in the entire country and showed that, despite the poverty and depressing statistics and negative reputations, they are rich in community spirit in ways that other, more affluent places can only dream of. I love Sefton Park as much as the next staunch Scouser, but I’m glad they chose to put the giants to bed in Newsham Park instead. And I spent Saturday morning in Kensington eagerly waiting the little girl’s arrival, and it looked vibrant and alive, rather than shabby and disadvantaged, such is the magical effect of the giants. I’ve never been so proud to be from Liverpool.
I can’t imagine another city taking the giants to their hearts in quite the same way as Liverpool did. Indeed, Royal de Luxe seem to have a special affinity with us too; after all, the last time they were here was only two years ago. Let’s hope they return very soon.