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CULTURE TRAVEL FOOTBALL HERITAGE LIVERPOOL

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Strange Magic


Wednesday, 25 April 2012


How good was that? My two penneth on the mesmerising Sea Odyssey...

Farewell down the Mersey

On the morning of Sunday 22 April 2012 I was presented with two choices: either stay in to watch the BBC's coverage of the London Marathon with a mild hangover and feeling of inadequacy; or head down to Canning Dock for some fresh air and the Sea Odyssey send-off.

I leapt from the sofa, threw open the window and climbed in (© K Dodd) then changed my mind, put the kettle on and sat back instead to count people dressed as crisp packets hobbling to the Beeb's hip-hop soundtrack past huddles of white middle-class smiley faces. In hindsight I wish I'd gone to town, but at least I'd been there for bits of the big mad paseo on both previous days: seen the Uncle being lifted out of the water and strolling up the Strand on Friday, and the Little Girl woken from her Pier Head deckchair with her pet dog Xolo on Saturday; heard the ambient/driving music and the snores.

The amphibious Uncle emerges

The amphibious Uncle emerges

I'll keep this short because pretty much everything's been said about the three-day, 23-mile journey of what Royal de Luxe creative director Jean-Luc Courcoult called 'imaginary realism' around the streets of Liverpool and its £12m boost to the local economy. I just wanted to say, first, I'm glad the city's North End got some of the gig because Sefton Park is lovely enough to go without for once.

Secondly, I don't think anyone has managed to articulate the hypnotic complicity of the crowds, all 750,000 of us, or how this chimes with the assumption that all we want to do these days is calcify in front of the telly (like me on Sunday morning). Clearly we don't. I like the fact that our participation was crucial to the whole ethereal spectacle, and en masse we blithely partook of something which we didn't quite understand nor needed to.

And the Little Girl gets up

And the Little Girl gets up

In between acts, hours passed quickly in the company of complaisant strangers, like the fella who'd not meant to but ended up walking all the way down to the waterfront from Stanley Park and Everton Brow, armed only with his camera and four cut-price bottles of Lucozade, one of which he'd given to the girl he knew in the shop on London Road. Turns out I'd worked at the same place as him, maybe even peed in the same jigger.

There she goes

There she goes

Visually it might have looked like a football team's triumphal homecoming, but the vibe was more like those scenes from Hollywood sci-fi blockbusters when everyone stares up at the skies in serene wonder. People knew where to stand, bizzies were conspicuous by their absence, everyone behaved and at times it got quite emotional. Monsieur Courcoult explains it thus: "Adults become like children again - they have forgotten how to dream and the giants remind them."

Lastly, simply, thank you Royal de Luxe, and well done Liverpool City Council. C'etait fantastique.

There she goes again

There she goes again

What the papers (and the Beeb) said...

Independent: Helene Sarrazin, an actor and director who controls the girl's eyes, always takes an assistant from the city where the company performs to get a sense of the area and its people. She walks backwards, facing the giant, so she has little contact with the audience. "I don't look at the public, but I feel them," she says. "I feel with the soul. I can tell the people of this town are very nice and they are with us. This morning it was very, very..." She clutches her chest, clearly moved. "I think the town likes it."

Guardian: Some may claim that Royal de Luxe's Sea Odyssey, which saw a 30ft little girl and her playful dog Xolo travelling Liverpool's streets in search of her 50ft diver Uncle who has a letter for her from her father, retrieved from the Titanic where he perished, is mere eye candy. But not anyone who was there to witness it. Look at the faces of the audience and you see wonder... We walk together in their footsteps, and we walk taller because they are with us.

Daily Telegraph: Despite their immense allure, Courcoult maintains that his giants will go only where performances are free to the public and where there is some narrative connection to the place. "A lot of places want me to come but I turn them down unless there is a deep myth that connects the giants to the people," he says. "If that is not there, then it is just a circus."

BBC online: In Anfield, where the spectacular began, local residents said they hoped the legacy of the event would change perceptions of the area. Lynn Tolman, from Anfield Community Bakery, said people should forget old stereotypes. "Walking through Stanley Park and seeing how beautiful it is and the Isla Gladstone Conservatory - a lot of people probably haven't seen Stanley Park since it was done," she said. "The whole of Anfield is a lovely place to be."


'I like the fact that our participation was crucial to the whole ethereal spectacle, and en masse we blithely partook of something which we didn't quite understand nor needed to'


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