The Giants

This weekend was gloriously sunny and Perth was captivated by Giants: a 6-metre tall Little Girl and her uncle, an 11-metre tall Diver walked our streets from 13 to 15 February as part of the 2015 Perth International Arts Festival.

We’re told the cost to bring the Giants to Perth was $5 million dollars. I’m glad the Perth International Arts Festival, sponsors, supporting partners and volunteers had the heart and guts to make it happen.

I know some people find puppets creepy, but I find them fascinating (yes, I know Royal de Luxe, the French street theatre company behind the Giants, warned against calling The Giants ‘puppets’). The Giants were destined to be a spectacle because of their colossal size, but I found their facial expressions compelling to watch and was mesmerised by the hard-working and courageous Lilliputians who operated the pulleys and cranes to control the Giants’ movements.

Besides his imposing height, the most amazing part about watching the Diver was witnessing the nimble athleticism of the Lilliputians swinging on ropes to keep him moving down the street.

Over the three days the Little Girl ate a lollipop, sat in her giant deckchair and read a storybook (made by WA school children), donned a helmet and goggles to ride her scooter, snored as she slept in her bed at Langley Park, exercised/danced, and wore a bright yellow raincoat to keep her dry as she rode a boat. The Giants’ price tag wasn’t the only controversy; more than once during her journey, the Little Girl stopped and squatted delicately to urinate on the street, to the shock, disgust and delight of the spellbound crowd.

I don’t like being stuck in slow-moving, sweaty swarms of people and usually stay right away from our largest public events like the annual Christmas Pageant, Australia Day fireworks and so on. You have to get in so early to secure and defend a good viewing spot and it takes ages to get home afterwards. But there was something unique and magical about the Giants and I’m glad I made the effort. Oh, of course there were ignorant and inconsiderate spectators, such as a group of four who rocked up at the last minute to see the Diver, nonchalantly pushed in and stood in front of us. But no one could stop me enjoying the Giants.

Approximately 1.4 million people turned up to see the Giants over the three days. I thought the event information and maps were very good, although if you weren’t on Twitter you may have missed the announcement of the Diver’s delayed awakening (by 45 minutes) on Saturday morning. If you went to see the Giants, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. Feel free to share your favourite snaps too – you can upload pictures with your comments. And if you’re not from Perth, are you lucky enough to have seen the Giants in your home town?

The Little Girl's arrival at Wellington Square, Friday. The Little Girl’s arrival at Wellington Square, Friday. Luckily for me, this is near my place of work, so my workmates and I had a very memorable lunch time that day.

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The Little Girl walks into Wellington Square, Friday. The Little Girl walks into Wellington Square, Friday. Special areas (probably the best viewing positions) were reserved for school kids.

A crane lifts the Little Girl into her deckchair in Wellington Square on Friday. A crane lifts the Little Girl into her deckchair in Wellington Square on Friday.

Having woken from her sleep, it's time for the Little Girl to walk to Langley Park, Friday. I came back to Wellington Square after work just in time to see the Little Girl wake up and begin her walk to Langley Park.

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The crowd follows the Little Girl as she walks up Hill Street on Friday. The crowd follows the Little Girl as she walks up Hill Street on Friday.

The crowd on Hill Street, Friday. The crowd on Hill Street, Friday.

The diver giant sleeping at Perth Railway Station on Friday. I caught the train into the city to see the Diver Giant sleeping at Perth Railway Station on Friday.

The diver giant sleeping at Perth Railway Station on Friday. The Diver Giant sleeping at Perth Railway Station on Friday.

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Jac and I woke up early on Saturday so we could catch the train to Subiaco to grab breakfast at Hawkers Delight at the Station Street Markets, then jump back on the train to Perth to see the Giants. Our timing worked out very well – eating breakfast by 8.15am, back in Perth and on Hay Street by 9.30am. The crowds were already building and we were glad we got there well ahead of time. Jac bought herself a magazine to read while we waited for the Little Girl, then the Diver.

Nasi lemak and chee cheong fun. Nasi lemak and chee cheong fun, Hawkers Delight, Station Street Markets, Subiaco.

Chai tow kway (radish cake)  - only available on weekends. Chai tow kway (radish cake) – only available on weekends. A good crust on the radish cake, fried with little nuggets of pork fat.

Thank goodness we’d eaten a decent breakfast – all around us on Hay Street people were eating: fresh fruit, salad, fries, doughnuts, bacon and cheese rolls.

Hay Street crowd on Saturday. Hay Street crowd on Saturday. We were between Barrack and Pier Streets. At most, it was about six-deep on our side of the street – the crowd here nowhere as huge as on Wellington Street and Langley Park.

Another Giants Perth smoko on Hay Street, Saturday. Waiting to see the Little Girl on Hay Street, Saturday.

The Little Girl giant arrives dressed in a yellow sou'wester, sitting in a boat. Hay Street, Saturday. The Little Girl giant arrives dressed in a yellow sou’wester, sitting in a boat adorned with Noongar art. Hay Street, Saturday. We spotted her yellow hat from quite a distance away and tapped our toes to the live soundtrack played by a band on the back of a truck that led each leg of her journey.

We were warned to stay on the footpath while the Giants passed. Motorcycle cops came down the street first. Giants volunteers, security staff and red-and-white tape kept most of the crowd at bay.

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Best smoko ever! Hay Street, Saturday. Best smoko ever! Hay Street, Saturday.

The Diver giant walks down Hay Street on Saturday. The Diver giant walks down Hay Street on Saturday.

I didn’t go with a formal shot list, but I had certain shots in mind and a very limited time and challenging conditions in which to try and capture what I had visualised.

It’s terribly frustrating to have shots spoiled by people sticking phones and tablets right in front of your camera lens at precisely the wrong moment – but I know it’s an unavoidable part of standing in a crowd (doesn’t help if you’re a shortie like me). I’m sure I was guilty of unintentionally spoiling other people’s pictures too.

I’m certain I won’t see the Giants back in Perth in my lifetime, but next time I attend a public event involving a spectacle worth photographing, I’m going to try and find a vantage point well above ground level. It was only later I thought about the possibility of photographing the event from the upper levels of a multi-level car park…

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DSCF1966The Lilliputians’ antics were impressive and a joy to watch.

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The morning session over, we decided to avoid the crowded trains and grab a bite instead. Restaurants and cafes were busy as expected, the malls bursting at the seams. We went to Koko Black on William Street and although we were seated straight away, we waited ages for a waiter to appear at our table. Just as I uttered the words ‘Raspberry Chocolate Dome’, the waiter cut me off to advise there would be a 40-minute wait for orders. I’m not sure how they usually cope during busy times but we weren’t prepared to wait that long. We went instead to Northbridge for drinks and a couple of share plates at The Standard on Roe Street.

Giant chips on a giant weekend! I’d eat fava chips again if I craved crispy carbs but I think I prefer the old pedestrian potato. I found the mushroom ketchup mild and not particularly mushroomy; the tangy aioli was much more satisfying and led to shamelessly bad mannered finger dipping. I liked the lamb as soon as I laid eyes on the stripey layers of flesh and fat, though it was notably salty. Partnered with the spicy eggplant and grapefruit salad, you had two robustly flavoured yet not necessarily complementary dishes – I enjoyed everything on the plate, especially my lamby slab of meat – but didn’t think they belonged together. Service was as good as our previous visit. I’m sure we will be back again.

Fava chips, mushroom ketchup and aioli (AU$9). Jac's Custard and Co Vintage Dry Apple Cider (AU$15)Fava chips, mushroom ketchup and aioli (AU$9), Jac’s Custard and Co Vintage Dry Apple Cider (AU$15).

Lamb belly, sweet and sour eggplant, grapefruit (AU$24) Lamb belly, sweet and sour eggplant, grapefruit (AU$24).

There were plenty of punters getting on trains leaving Perth at around quarter to 2pm but not a tinned sardines squish, so our ride home was pretty comfortable. I would’ve loved to have seen everything over the three days – the emotional reunion of the Giants, the Anzac centenary tribute and their farewell voyage down Swan River – but other commitments kept me occupied.

Although I experienced just a fraction of the Giants’ epic journey, I had an extraordinary weekend. How about you?

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  • Scott

    These are some of the best photo I saw this weekend. Fantastic work. I loved seeing the Giants so close up but you have captured them beautifully. Great Blog. Well Done Perth.

    • Thank you, Scott, you’re very kind to say so. So glad I was able to capture some of their journey and share it with fellow Giants fans :)

  • I saw some photos of these giants on the news actually, and was wondering what it was all about! Big investment, but sounds like it was well worth it from a uniqueness perspective!