28/29 May 1994
Once upon a time a man called Jeremy Shine from Manchester International Arts saw a performance by a Catalonian theatre group. The group was Els Comediants, and the show was Al (Breath). Your correspondent and a number of other guisers and gianters also saw this show and it stirred us mightily.
Four years later and Jeremy had arranged a Catalan Festival in Manchester, and what do you need for a Catalan Festival? why GIANTS of course. Having investigated various possibilities, MIA came up with a great idea, they invited two Catalan Giant makers to come to Manchester and run a two week Giant making course.
This course ran in February this year and was attended by puppeteers, artists-in-residence, and like minded people. During the course they made 6 Giants and 2 Fish.
DIABLO - a red devil with trident, horns, and a wicked grin.
GANESH - an Indian elephant God with four arms.
BIRD WOMAN - with arms(wings) upraised and a silver torso and face.
GREEK GODDESS - a blue maternal type with babe in arms and laurel wreath
BARBARA CARTON - a pink dame with handbag and fag.
THE SPIDERMAN - a human/spider hybrid in the style of 'The Fly'.
FISH 1 - sits on head and shoulders horizontally.
FISH 2 - sits on two people horizontally.
The Giants are all of the traditional Catalan 'Bar Stool' design, with most of the weight being carried on head and shoulders, they are approx 12-14 feet high and weigh 50-70 lbs.
The weekend was the culmination of the festival, and I arrived in Manchester in time to see the aforesaid Commediants latest show 'Mediterrania'. This fine piece depicts the ascent of life in the Mediterranean area from the start of life to the present day, with references to Gods, Sirens, Mermaids, Humans, the Minautor, et al - oh and some wonderfully priapic Green Men.
After some drinking games and brain teasers with Commediants it was time to don a mask or two and make our way to the Demons Masquerade in Manchester Town Hall. Three Giants were standing in the entrance hall as the guests arrived and set the scene nicely.
A strict 'no mask - no entry' policy was in force, and the three music rooms and various bars were soon full of people having a good time. Six hours, Nine bands, Dozens of conversations and a bottle of beer (or maybe it was two) later and it's three in the morning. Diablo has come upstairs and danced in the main hall while the wearer of the best mask has won a trip to Barcelona in the autumn. Brendan and Boyd, my new Giant porter friends remember that they have to build and carry Giants later that morning, so we all disperse and get some kip.
Sunday late morning and it's raining - not hard, but raining. The porters, constructors and crew gradually arrive, the wind gets stronger, the rain gets heavier and we decide to move the Giants under cover of a railway arch, we look around, and, not enough porters. Ho hum, here we go again. Two hundred yards later through lashing rain and strong wind I get the BirdWoman under the arch where the wind is gusting through, and she wants to fly. After a struggle we get her feet on the ground and bundle up her skirts to cut the sail area. It rains some more. Luckily the arch is big enough for Five Giants, Two fish, one group of Catalan musicians and about sixty public.
So the music begins and we can just dance three Giants with a squeeze. After a while we decide in the best British tradition that we need some tea and so decamp to the YMCA leaving the Giants with their minder (Brendan). Over tea a new organization 'GIGANTERS NORTH-WEST' is born to operate the Giants after the festival ends. They have many skilled and artistic people and I think they will produce some excellent figures and shows.
About three o'clock the rain stops and the wind subsides at last. The full band sets up on the stage, a team of Catalonian stilt-walkers appear and we're on!. I'm carrying the Greek Goddess this time and soon get the feel of her, nicely balanced and about the right weight. After fifteen minutes of dancing around to Graillers and drums we're all knackered and conclude the show.
David Mason and all the other people on the course are to be congratulated on building a set of Giants that while Catalonian under the skin, look and feel undeniably British.
Later that same afternoon: Arrive at Chippenham as the Dorchester crew are just finishing packing up after running a Giant building workshop. Have heap bigg pow-wow with Derek and Ben and then back to Carshalton and SLEEP.
By: A Staff Reporter. Oh all right then, it's R M-R
(No pictures - camera bust! )
BIGGNews front page