Secrets of the Chester Giants: a look behind the scenes

THE GIANTS of Chester have made quite an impression over the years, but the way they are made, where they are stored and how much preparation goes into making them seems to be unknown. Alexandra Murdey visited Giants Headquarters to uncover the mystery.

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The giants last made an appearance on the streets of Chester at this year’s Christmas light switch on, which saw Aladdin, Father Yule and the Snow Queen. Project director Kristine Szulik and general manager Lucy Jones said they were well received by the public, especially children who were keen to get involved and have their photo taken, but these events can take weeks of preparation for those few moments of enjoyment.

Staff from Giants Headquarters work alongside a team of volunteers for different events. There were seven volunteers involved in the Christmas lights, with six pushing the giants and one photographer. Normally a team of at least three people is needed to operate a giant. Lucy said: ‘‘It is teamwork in all different aspects.’’

The aim is to get as many people from the community involved in the projects as possible to give them the opportunity to learn new skills.

Preparation time for this event was about two weeks to allow for repairs to be done to the giants. Kristine said: ‘‘Every time a giant goes out it will come back damaged, it doesn’t matter how well you look after it, so every time you put a giant up again in preparation for it to go out, something will always have to be done to it.’’

They said funding is an important aspect in the planning of events and the type of giants that can be made, because it depends on the budget.

At Giants Headquarters they have about 100 giants and another 30 or 40 off the premises with some belonging to communities. They are linked to 190 countries that make giants as part of an international organisation. Giants from Barcelona, France, Germany and Belgium have all visited Chester.

Perhaps the biggest mystery to uncover was what the giants are made of and how they are made.

They are hollow, flat pack and weigh 190lbs. A basic giant has a wheel base, a wooden A-Frame, and a fibre glass head, all held together by four nuts and bolts. They also have a blank giant with a blank structure ready to be redesigned into different characters. Kristine said: ‘‘With our queens we can’t do this because…they have been sculpted, but the other giants have no features so you can create anything.’’ Lucy added: ‘‘We are about to start creating the future style of giants. They are always progressing and they have been progressing for years.’’

The giants normally appear once or twice a month in Chester with up to three giants used on average in each event, but for carnivals they can use up to 40. Kristine said: ‘‘Although we are not out that often there is still all the preparation needed for an event like that.’’

She added: ‘‘Our major event is when the university has their Work Based Learning programme, so we organise our major carnival to coincide with when we have got those students…we do it just so the students get that opportunity to have that kind of experience.’’ In this case they have about 23 students, the staff in the giants, between 20 and 30 regular volunteers and all the community groups.

Part of the next project is to create a UK client centre so people can see the giants standing tall.

This Saturday December 7 Father Yule will be appearing at the Christmas fair at St Thomas and St Oswald Church on Cheyney Road so do not miss your opportunity to see this giant Father Christmas.

If you would like to know more about the Chester Giants please visit http://www.thegiants.org.uk/

Chester Intelligencer reporter, Alexandra Murdey

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