Alien in Liverpool, La
AN outbreak of
arachophilia took place in Liverpool over the last week, 3 September
to 7 September 2008, when many thousands flocked into the city to
see a specular alien, which first appeared on the side of the
Concourse House, a block awaiting demolition, near Lime Street
Station on Wednesday, 3 September 2008. A giant spider; it
hung there, unmoving, inviting speculation as to its intentions.
A base camp of scientists was established near the Echo arena to
find out more about the creature. Then, on Thursday, it was
coaxed down and conveyed to the Base, still sleeping, until Friday,
when it was aroused and began marauding. At first, it was
checked by a wall of Chinese fire crackers, then fire and finally
snow subdued it, until 6pm when it re-awoke and paraded round the
back of the Arena, along Gower Street accompanied by musicians on
cherry-pickers playing evocative music as it trundled along.
The public were guarded by an incredibly industrious chain of
stewards, with red and white tape, who kept folk clear of its
colossal legs as it lumbered along. Its arachridan
characteristics were clear to see as it investigated as it moved
along. Amongst its less endearing traits were its tendency to
spit spray, or blow smoke as it passed. It lumbered down the
Strand and re-entered Salthouse Dock, where it took a bath with the
help of a gigantic crane and giant water cannons showered both the
spider and the spectators liberally! What areas the rain had
not soaked, those cannons sought to drench. It was taken in
good part however. After its bath, suitably dried and
perfumed, it continued its ponderous way along until it reached the
Cunard Building where, beguiled by harp music and subdued by snow,
it eventually slept the night to re-awake on the morrow and in the
afternoon made its way past the Town Hall (where it caused some
special measures to be taken for a wedding party!) Then along to
Derby Square, where water was once more liberally sloshed around.
The crowds along this route were quite densely packed and it was
amazing how good humoured it stayed despite the fact that many
parents with young children were naturally feeling very defensive.
At Holy Corner, Church Street, the spider was snowed on again and
slept. (How many of us recognise the name Holy Corner, I
wonder?) When it woke, with some delay, it accompanied Manzimouk, a
small driveable crane and performed manoeuvres, accompanied by loud
bangs and flames. Outside the Adelphi Hotel, it encountered a
tempest then found its way back to Concourse House where it was
hoisted up to spend another night. Its huge size (50 feet, and
37 tonnes) was so apparent as it stretched over four storeys with
its legs touching a 5th! On Sunday, 7 September 2008, its
final day in the City, there was much misinformation abounding and a
large number of people with accompanying children congregated around
St Georgeís Plateau and Lime Street in the expectation of seeing the
Spider wake and react to the music. However nothing happened
which caused considerable disappointment for the waiting youngsters,
especially as no formal information was forthcoming and it was left
to the security staff and the police to answer queries, as best they
could. Most of the crowd dissipated, but appeared again for
the finale, when the spider came down from the wall and marched
relentlessly (at 2 miles an hour) towards the Queensway Tunnel.
Here it met with tremendous opposition from special effects
machines: water cannons, fire, fireworks, smoke and snow all
assaulted it until it made its escape down the tunnel; disappearing
into a cloud of smoke, going who knows where. Where will it
reappear? Will it reappear? Yokohama in Japan is being
mentioned. It was a most exciting ending; music, noise, light
and colour all fed into the fantasy unfolding before us. It
was all thoroughly appreciated. The spider, commissioned by
the Culture Company, was the creation of La Machine, a collaboration
of artists, designers and technicians formed in the early 1900ís and
now based at two locations in France, near to Toulouse and Nantes.
The associated creative company was Artichoke, based in London.
Made from steel and reclaimed poplar, the spider was reassembled in
Cammell Lairdís in Birkenhead. There are 66 people in the
French company, 250 technical and support crew and 20 British
musicians. All involved were warmly applauded at the end of
the performance. This was an highly imaginative, innovative
work of art and brought great enjoyment to many thousands.
There are detractors who feel the money spent could have been more
usefully deployed but those who flocked in obviously appreciated the
stimulation and fantasy afforded by this happening. It was
interesting to note that all ages, people engaged in different ways.
There were those who watched quite passively as the Spider passed
them presumably seeing it merely as a distraction to everyday life.
Others marvelled over the mechanics and to the clearly visible
manipulation by those who sat around the Spiderís middle controlling
its huge legs and movements and others who clung to its limbs en
route. It really was a marvel of construction. Even very
young children seemed to accept that it was a machine. Perhaps
its sheer size and obvious mechanics made it unlikely to be a living
threat, although one little voice did ask, "What does it eat?"
On a different level, however, many people enjoyed the story
line as it evolved, suspending incredulity for the duration of its
stay allowing it to become a real entity. It will certainly
fuel conservation for a while yet and will no doubt live on in the
memories of those who witnessed it and in the Cityís annals for
years to come. It was truly exceptional. Throughout the event,
despite inclement weather at the start, heaving crowds and those
with the urge to climb high places, crowd control (where possible)
was, on the whole, sensitively done, with humour and good nature by
the forest of stewards. The police were friendly and
approachable but high profile enough to deter trouble makers.
The masses were largely co-operative and behaved responsibly with
good humour. Liverpool was enjoying itself once again.
Will we feel bereft when our reign as Capital of Culture comes to an
end or will the momentum continue? So far the estimated number
of people attending events, this 08 year, has passed the 6 Million
mark, not including the Spider visitors. Attendance at
establishments and exhibitions is also well up. Next week sees
the Cycle Race pass through the City. Jose Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission is quoted as saying:-
"Itís turning out to be one of the most successful Capital of
Culture programmes that we have ever had. We are now trying to
create a net work of European Capitals of Culture to build on
Liverpoolís experience." Merseyside certainly knows how to
respond when given the chance. Hereís to a successful future!
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