By Megan Stringer
It was 2006 when Culture Liverpool began talks with French street theatre company Royal de Luxe to bring the Giants Spectacular Showcase to Liverpool. Finally, in 2012, their wish came true. Since then, they have been prominent figures in Liverpool since 2012, and have held exceptional performances around the city three times.
Last October, we finally said goodbye to the showcase as founder, Jean-Luc Courcoult, explained that he was ending the saga of the giants in a heartfelt press conference.
Mersey Mash reporter Megan Stringer explores more about why the Giants impacted Liverpool so much, and whether any other event could top it.
The history of Royal de Luxe and the Giants
Founded in 1979 by Jean-Luc Courcoult, Royal de Luxe are a French street theatre company specialising in mechanical marionettes. The giants were created in 1993, and are the companies most successful performance.
They have visited Liverpool three times, with numbers growing stronger and stronger everytime they visited.
- 2012: Sea Odyssey
- 2014: Memories of August 1914
- 2018: Liverpool’s Dream
The announcement and farewell
“I have made a firm decision to end this saga of the giants. If we carry on doing the same thing it wouldn’t churn up the same emotion in people but, at the same time, I am very sad.
“It must be 25 years since we did the first show but, just like Monty Python, the comedy must move on.” – Jean-Luc Courcoult, founder and creative director of Royal de Luxe
This was the statement Jean-Luc released last year during a press conference where he was announcing which giants were coming to visit Liverpool and the Wirral. Although many events have being held in Liverpool over the years, such as the ‘Tall Ships Event‘ in 1992, and the ‘On The Waterfront’ programme in 2009, the giants are the biggest free event Liverpool has ever held, with many speculating whether Liverpool will be able to top the event in the future.
What impact did the giants have on Liverpool?
Despite the event not being ticketed, it didn’t stop people choosing to spend their money in the city, and since 2012, the economic benefit for Liverpool was phenomenal.
Figures have risen each year the giants have performed in the city, with many travelling to spend the weekend here to catch the full event. The economic impact compared to any other event Liverpool had hosted was through the roof, and it went on record as the biggest event the city has seen, and is yet to be beaten.
An independent report into 2018’s Liverpool’s Dream revealed that it was the biggest out of all three events. The report stated:
- 75% of visitors were from the Liverpool City Region and the wider North West, with 22% travelling from elsewhere around the UK and 3% were overseas tourists.
- The average length of stay in the city region was 2.7 nights.
- Visitors staying over spent on average £138.99 per person, with day visitors spending £30 per person.
- Of the non-residents interviewed, 97% were likely to return to Liverpool in the future.
- When asked how they found out about the event, 75% found out from coverage in the media.
Culture Liverpool host a number of events around the city, and also assisted Royal de Luxe in all three giants performances. Mersey Mash spoke to Jen Falding, host city manager for Culture Liverpool, and project manager for all three giants to explore how the city was impacted by the visits. She said: “It is on record as been the biggest event the city has ever seen, we grew from 800,000 people in 2012, to a million in 2014, and 1.3 million in 2018.
“The economic impact is done independently, we employ people to research for us, and the research figures showed 32 million pounds were spent in the city over the giants weekend in 2012. That grew to 46 million in 2014 and then it was up to 60 million in 2018. From an economic impact point of view, it has probably been one of the most profitable events for the city, but from the amount of people that visited over the giants weekend its definitely the biggest event we’ve ever done.”
It is on record as been the biggest event the city has ever seen, we grew from 800,000 people in 2012, to a million in 2014, and then 1.3 million in 2018. – Jen Falding, Culture Liverpool
Explaining why she thinks people love the giants so much, Jen replied: “It’s about the storytelling of Royal de Luxe. People of Liverpool love stories, and they love to make up their own stories and they can see the emotion in the storytelling of the giants, and they just fell in love with them.
“In 2012, it was a very difficult event to promote, people didn’t really know what they were. By the time 2014 and 2018 came around, we didn’t really have to spend much on marketing because all we had to say was the giants were coming back, and everyone just went mad. I think the numbers were even bigger in 2018 due to Royal De Luxe announcing a few weeks beforehand that it was going to be the last ever show with the giants. Also, we also picked up quite a lot of people from being featured on BBC national news. People saw it and drove from places like Southampton, or London to come here to see the giants as it was going to be their last opportunity.
She continued saying: “It’s grown an audience, people were desperate to see them. This year, we also went to Wirral for the first time, and that meant the audience didn’t have to come to Liverpool, and some people wanted to go to Wirral as they’ve never been seen there before. We were very lucky with the weather too which obviously helped with numbers! I think it just grew as people fell in love with them.”
“…all we had to say was the giants were coming back, and everyone just went mad.”
Although many events have been held in the North West, with many proving popular, Jean-Luc made the decision to bring the giants to Liverpool instead of any other UK city.
Do you think events like the giants compare to any other events in the North West?
“I don’t think they compare to anywhere else in the world! We were very lucky, Royal de Luxe wrote a story for Liverpool, which was the story of the Titanic. They love Liverpool because they really identify with the people, they like the city and they have a very good relationship with the mayor.”
With Liverpool previously being named Capital of Culture in 2008, I asked Jen whether that could be the reason Jean-Luc decided to bring the giants to Liverpool.
She replied: “I don’t think that affected Jean-Luc, he wrote the story because he saw a letter from May McMuarray in the Maritime Museum that was written to her father who was on the Titanic and he obviously didn’t get it. The letter was returned to her and she kept it all her life, and when she died the family donated it to the museum and Jean-Luc saw it and that’s why he wrote the story. I think it was peoples warmth and the beauty of the city that attracted him rather than the title.
“They believe in what were trying to do which is about art and culture for everyone, about free public art and showcasing our city. They are invited to go around the world, people offer them money but they’re not interested, they’re interested in the ethos of the city, how they’re embraced by the people, and after 2012, they said they wouldn’t work with any other UK city whilst they were working with us. We didn’t ask them to do that so that’s a real honour.
Continuing, she thinks it could help bring promoters to Liverpool in the future. But it helped other people, other promoters are much more attracted to come to Liverpool now than they were in 2008, as they’ve seen our legacy and they’ve seen we can put on amazing events and our audience is spectacular so they want some of that.
The future for Culture Liverpool, and will Jean-Luc ever return?
With the giants officially named the biggest event Liverpool has ever seen, it is evident it will take a lot for any other event or festival to top it. Jen is hopeful for Culture Liverpool’s future, and gives us a rundown of what events they have planned this year.
“We haven’t got the event as big of the size as the giants. However we do have lots of music this year. We’ve got River Festival and Bordeaux Wine Festival which is the last weekend in May into June, and we also have Liverpool International Music Festival in Sefton Park in July.
“We then have the fireworks display River of Light, which were looking to try expand, and we’re also working with a number of promoters on things like ‘Lets Rock’ and ‘Summer Social’ in Croxteth Park, and ‘The Feis’ on the Pier Head, so lots to do this year.”
Finally, Jen believes that there is a possibility that Jean-Luc and Royal de Luxe will come back to Liverpool to do something, but she doesn’t think it will be with the giants.
Royal de Luxe are currently working on a new show featuring a silverback gorilla, however it is unsure whether the show will be visiting Liverpool when it launches.
Only time will tell whether any other event that Culture Liverpool has planned will top the giants, nevertheless they will go down in history as bringing the city of Liverpool and surrounding areas together to celebrate something so unique.
For full details on Culture Liverpool’s events for this year, click here.