Preview: Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular

Kenn Taylor looks at the forthcoming Sea Odyssey event in Liverpool and discovers how new and innovative events bolster local pride

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This year marks 100 years since the Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage and Liverpool’s key event to commemorate its links with the ship involves a huge street procession called Sea Odyssey. On 20-22 April, various city spaces will become focal points in a story about love, family and communication.

Sea Odyssey will be delivered by renowned French street theatre and marionette company Royal De Luxe (RDL), which was responsible for the hugely popular Sultan’s Elephant event in London in 2006. There’s no doubt that Sea Odyssey will be one of the most complex events Liverpool has ever staged, involving hundreds of people in its planning and execution, with the hope that around 250,000 people will attend over the course of the weekend.

Development has been happening since 2006, when RDL’s artistic director Jean-Luc Courcoult saw a letter in the Merseyside Maritime Museum that had been written by a young girl called May to her father, William, a steward aboard the Titanic. It was their communication that inspired the Sea Odyssey story.

Much will be kept under wraps until the event, as Alicia Smith, head of participation and engagement at Liverpool City Council explains. “We’ve already revealed that there will be two giants visiting Liverpool: the Little Girl Giant standing 30ft high and her uncle at a whopping 50ft. There will definitely be a lot of surprises to come. It’s very much part of the Royal de Luxe mystique to keep parts of the action completely secret until the big day.”

In the past criticism has been levelled at the fact that the city centre or South Liverpool have been the focus of much of the city’s cultural programme. However, this event, though beginning in town, will very much focus on North Liverpool, incorporating Stanley Park, Everton Park and Anfield.

“Liverpool has experienced an incredible resurgence in the last few years and culture has played a big part in this,” says Smith. “But North Liverpool in particular still faces some very real challenges. Sea Odyssey will be a crucial chance for the north of the city to kickstart a new phase of regeneration by showcasing investment opportunities, demonstrating the drive and ambition of the area and by empowering local communities to take a central role in future regeneration plans.”

Local business is also positive about the possibilities of the event. Gemma McGowan is also the operator of Stanley Park’s newly restored Isla Gladstone Conservatory. She is organising one of the many fringe events connected to Sea Odyssey, the Stanley Park Festival, featuring, amongst other things, a family active zone and a food and drink festival. McGowan hopes that Sea Odyssey could be a turning point for the area.

“Opportunities like this don’t come along often. We will be attracting people from all over the country and

I was determined to highlight just what an amazing place Stanley Park is. When this Sea Odyssey success has been recognised, we intend to organise several events over the calendar year that will bring the park to life.”

Ruth Little, Manager of Anfield Breckside Community Council, has been encouraging local people to get involved with the event and generate civic pride.

“Everyone’s starting to get a bit of giant fever now. Given that we’re top of the indices of deprivation, it gives us the opportunity to show that people here are very close knit and very willing and very supportive of each other. For local people as well, it’s nice to have something joyful to look forward to that involves the Anfield area.”

Overall, Smith has high hopes for the legacy of Sea Odyssey for North Liverpool. “Like the Capital Culture did for the city centre, major events can be catalyst for change and, if two giants can come to the north, then anything can happen.”

Sea Odyssey Giant Spectacular, 20-22 April, Liverpool,

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