The city of Liverpool, this weekend, was transformed into a climbframing of epic proportions as locals mixed with visitors from far and wide in honour of the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular, paying tribute to the 100th anniversary of the Titanic tragedy. I was fortunate enough to be involved in this once-in-a-lifetime event and became a part of the City Star team, which you will find out more about in the next chapter of my volunteer ventures. (See the first installment here, documenting my time working on the Abandon Normal Devices festival).
First for a little background information on the highly-anticipated, Sea Odyssey event to set the scene…
The sizeable installment was born following a visit to Liverpool in 2006 by Artistic Director Jean-Luc Courcoult who also founded French street theatre company, Royal De Luxe to whom we can direct our gratitude for this unforgettable production. Perfectly timed to coincide with the centenary of the Titanic sinking, the concept for the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular draws inspiration from a letter Courcoult saw in the Merseyside Maritime Museum, composed by a 10-year-old girl (‘Little Girl Giant‘) for the father she lost on the great maiden voyage. The young girl’s Uncle finds the letter on the seabed and commences his journey to reunification with his long lost niece. Here we are, six years on, watching the sparkle of an idea epxlode into reality, leaving an entire city in complete and utter awe, right infront of the very museum Courcoult found his inspiration.
Bright and early, in the crisp breeze of Friday 20th April 2012, the cobbles of Liverpool’s famous Albert Dock became rapidly awash with figures from all over the globe The visitors flooded in, in all shapes and sizes but none quite comparible to the astonishing dimensions of the 50-foot diver who was to rise from the dancing waters that morning. Occupying radio coverage and television primetime, the opening showcase of the Sea Odyssey spectacular exploded across screens and pages, leaving the crowds gasping for more (right after they picked their jaws up from the floor, of course). I was unfortunately unable to attend this episode due, nor was I able to witness the Little Girl Giant make her way from Stanley Park into the buzzing epicentre of the action. However I managed to catch a glimpse of the Little Girl Giant being ‘put to bed’ with her trusty canine companion, Xolo at the Kings Dock that evening and I was truely hooked! A sight I had most definitely never seen before, one which the most vivid of imaginations would find difficult to conjure and one that I will never, ever forget.
Day 2 of the event and Day 1 of my Volunteer role…
After various meetings, greetings and briefings, they volunteer team, which was over 200 people strong, was split into two main groups: the Benevols who were to follow all three giants, forming a security ‘bubble’ around them and the City Stars who were to manage Press and the public. I was assigned to the latter and got handed my ‘wheelie bin purple’ t-shirt and my schedule. Day 2 of the Sea Odyssey event and Day 1 of my volunteering required me to first hand out press passes to Media bodies at the Liverpool Town Hall. The entire weekend seemed to transpire as our very own series of fortunate events, being in the right place at the right time and my work at the Town Hall was merely the beginning of this fantastic adventure. Finishing our shift just as the Little Girl Giant was to pass the Town Hall, we hurried up the stairs onto the balcony where we most definitely had the best seat in the house! Below is just one shot of our amazing view (left) but you can see much, much more on my Flickr site here.
I was then to dive into the deep end of the hustle and bustle and staff the press area as the Little Girl Giant made her way to the Pier Head. With the Pier housing such iconic Liverpool architecture including the Liver Building, it was incredible to see the production unfolding here and watch the crowds flood in off the Mersey Ferry to catch a glimpse of the Little Girl and her dog, Xolo. Here is the dynamic duo taking a well-earned break, tuning in to Radio Merseyside, while us volunteers hotfoot it to St. Georges Hall to meet Uncle Giant, also known as ‘The Diver‘.
One of the perks of being a volunteer for the Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular, as well as the extra sparkle on my CV and invaluable experience, was having access to the ‘other side’ of the barrier. This allowed us to get up close and personal with the Giants, their outstanding team of operators and their fabulous band, who maintained an electric hype throughout the entire three days. I think I most appreciated these advantages during the Giants’ ‘Reunification Moment’, during the evening of this day. Before I share that experience with you, here are few shots of the Uncle/Diver Giant as he performed his ‘Mission Impossible’, leaping over the Chinese Arch in Liverpool’s China Town and some audience reaction shots. With all eyes and lenses on the Giants, I found that when I actually turned around to observe the crowds, their facial expressions, verbal reactions and physical responses were as entertaining as the spectacle itself.
As I mentioned above, one of the highlights of the event for me as both spectator and volunteer was the Reunification Moment, which functioned to conclude Day 2 of the production and the moment where all three Giants were united. The atmosphere at Kings Dock during this section of the Spectacular was quite literally indescribable, from when each Giant entered to the emotional embrace between the Little Girl and previously estranged Uncle. For a street performance to sweep an excess of 250,000 people into loaded silence and reduce many to tears is true talent, in my opinion. It is genuinely difficult to find the words to express and project the atmosphere during what I would consider the peak of the event and a stunning piece of artwork which I feel incredibly lucky to have been even a small part of.
Another favourite moment of mine had to be the penultimate showcase, where the Liverpool Docks were once again saturated with excitable spectators who had come to wave the three Giants off. The Little Girl, her Uncle and Xolo boarded a ship and continued to sail away down the River Mersey in a moving finale, so successfull that Jean-Luc Courcoult actually jumped for joy…right into the Docks! I was fortunate enough to witness the happenings from a stationary Press Boat, whilst directing media bodies onto the ship.
So, many thanks to the Sea Odyssey team for an unforgettable experience and Royal De Luxe for showcasing one of the best events Liverpool has ever seen. If only the Little Girl, her Uncle and Xolo were a permenant fixture! I will be keeping my press pass as a souvenir but also this letter, peeled from the rain-drenched pavement, which had been exploded from a canon during the closing parade. What ann outstanding, unforgettable tribute to a historical tragedy.
If you would like to see more images from the event, feel free to check out my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wefxxxx/sets/72157629874711943/