Royal de Luxe, an arts company from Nantes, France which specialises in street theatre, brought back their huge giant puppets to the streets of Liverpool. They first came to the city two years ago, before I moved here, telling a story about a little girl whose father was lost in the Titanic. I was really sorry to have missed them then so was definitely going to make the most of their next visit which this time revolved around a tribute to the First World War and the Liverpool "Pals", the men who volunteered for the city's battalions. The marionettes came to Liverpool for five days and I was able to see glimpses of them over two of those. Here they are with some of the city's great landmarks in the background.
At first, due to work, I could only catch them sleeping. Here is the grandmother, resting in the beautiful St. George's Hall. While they may be stationary, they certainly aren't still. They "breathe" quite loudly.
On the morning of Day Three, the little girl and her dog Xolo were found, also asleep, at the mouth of the Queensway Tunnel (which carries cars under the Mersey over to the Wirral).
I caught up with them again at lunchtime when they were taking a siesta in front of the Chinese Arch. Liverpool has the oldest Chinatown in Europe.
Meanwhile, the Grandmother was taking a nap at Salthouse Docks, in front of the Echo Arena.
We were stationed in a great place for her afternoon walk through the city, just in front of a safe that was going to be opened to allow some letters to be read. As the giants walk through the city, there are several areas with speakers where they stop and talk, unfolding an ongoing story. Unfortunately, before Granny reached us, she had farted (yes, the giants do all sorts of bodily functions including drinking whiskey, belching and urinating) and a mechanical problem had caused her neck to snap. She was delayed by over an hour (so alas, no story) and had to travel the rest of the way in her wheelchair. It was still thrilling to see.
You can see the orchestration of wires and people behind with the use of a crane to activate her movements. It's very physical work making these puppets move. Following this was a float with a full band playing rousing music. It was extremely festive and fun.
The next day, Granny had another nap, this time outside St. George's Hall.
Then she was wheeled through the streets in search of her granddaughter. She's passing in front of Lime Street train station here, and in the next photo you can see the Anglican Cathedral in the background. Aren't the crowds fantastic? They estimate that more than a million people came out to cheer the giants on over the weekend.
The giants move relatively slowly, so with the routes to hand, it was easy to walk a few streets over and catch the little girl and Xolo on the move. There's something very touching and innocent about the little girl's movements, while the dog has fun playing with the crowd.
All three puppets were making their way to the waterfront. Here the little girl stopped to wait for her grandmother. This building behind her was once the headquarters of the White Star Line. In 1912, crowds of people gathered outside it desperate to hear news of any survivors from the Titanic.
We couldn't make it on Sunday when the girl and her grandmother embraced before getting into their respective beds, being transported onto a ship and sailing away down the Mersey. But here's hoping that they'll be back soon - it really was an incredible and unusual spectacle.