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Big man cometh

Pauline McLean | 21:53 UK time, Monday, 21 September 2009

Some works of art are capable of stopping traffic in its tracks.

And in the case of the Big Man, it happens literally minutes after I arrive at a huge warehouse on an industrial estate in Leith.

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The team behind the 25ft puppet - local companies Puppet Animation and the Puppet Lab - are testing its abilities in the strong wind and the sight of the blue giant striding across the forecourt is too much for one van driver, who promptly drives into a ditch.

"It happens all the time," says artistic director Simon McIntyre.

"If they're not driving off the road, they're driving past for another look, hooting their horns and hanging out the windows to take photographs."

A photocall on nearby Portobello Beach is just as much of a draw, the 12 puppeteers and handful of photographers soon overwhelmed by more than 100 children.

At least it's proof the team have managed to create a friendly giant - and that, says designer Kim Bersagal, is why he's blue.

"He's clearly not a human," she says,"so flesh tones were out and so many other colours came with associations.

"Red would have been too angry, green and orange too many other associations, blue just seemed right and appropriate too since he looks like he's just fallen out of the sky."


The one and a half tonne creation is the centrepiece of a £600,000 Arts Council funded project which will see the Big Man Walking into communities around the country, from the Isle of Bute this weekend, to Kirkcaldy, Invergordon, Buckie and Inverclyde.

"The idea is that the giant has been asleep for thousands of years," says Simon, "and now that he's awoken he's being invited into these communities where they will welcome him and show him the best things about their town.

"That's quite important in many towns, where they're not often asked about the good things and we've had some great responses.

"The thing about the Big Man is that he simply walks and looks and watches and then leaves again. He doesn't make any comment on what he sees."

If you look closely at the Big Man's eyes, you'll also see he is taking in more than your average puppet, with a remote-controlled camera recording what happens in each community.

The results will be streamed on the web.

But the question remains, what will happen to the Big Man after his latest expedition is over?

"Who knows," says Simon, "we're just a small puppet company who've got to make this amazing project.

"Maybe we'll be back to what we did. Or maybe he'll find more places to travel - with friends.

"I've always wanted to create a giant baby, that wandered around the country.

"Maybe that's what we'll do next."



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