A GIGANTIC outpouring of joy, tinged with emotion, has greeted the arrival of Royal de Luxe’s Grandmother Giant to Limerick.
The massive marionette was welcomed by an estimated crowd of 30,000 people as she walked her way through the city streets this Friday morning.
There was a palpable feeling of joy among the thousands of children - both young and old - that gathered to greet the giant Granny, and for the Limerick City of Culture team, who have worked for more than a year on the huge production, the feeling was an overriding one of emotion.
“It has been an amazing morning, very emotional for, I think, lots of people - especially me and all the crew, all the team,” said Mike Fitzpatrick, director of City of Culture, speaking immediately after the morning performance.
“It has been a huge body of work, but there is something magical, when she pulled in on the train this morning, honestly, it was just the most perfect thing.
“It was like as if it had been all so manufactured and designed beforehand, her walking off and just the reaction of the crowd was fantastic. It is wonderful to have the granny here in Limerick, and I am really overwhelmed. I am ready to take a nap now,” he laughed.
After arriving via a specially constructed train to the Bus Eireann Transport yard on Roxboro Road - to the rear of Colbert Station - the Granny addressed the crowd, speaking through ‘interpreter’ - well known Irish actor - Louis Lovett:
“Dear great noble inhabitants of Limerick, I salute you,” cried the huge giant, which cost the French street theatre company an estimated €2m to assemble and is only visiting this city, Liverpool and Royal De Luxe’s home city of Nantes this year.
“I cam here to prove the attachment I have for your country,” she added, to huge roars of approval from the crowd that had gathered to greet her.
With that, and with the help of some 26 Lilliputians propelling her, the Granny made her move down Roxboro Road, onto William Street and up O’Connell Street.
She paused along the way - outside Brown Thomas to open her ‘safe’ and outside the Chicken Hut to relieve herself - before making her way to Russell Park to have a ‘nap’ for the afternoon.
A huge traffic operation is in place, rendering the city largely pedestrianised for most of the weekend, and early estimates from Henry Street Garda Station was that around 30,000 people had come out to see the Giant’s Journey, which is costing an estimated €1m to produce.
Some 50 people, including riggers and puppeteers, are involved in moving the 7.5m tall giant, while a huge truck carrying French post-rock band Les Balayeurs du désert pumping a beguiling mix of funk, soul, disco out over the heads of the crowd.
Speaking along the route, Limerick council leader Kevin Sheahan said: “My first reaction is the large number of people, young and old - it is fantastic to see so many people on a wonderful day, enjoying a great event.”
Mayor Michael Sheahan walked alongside the Granny and smiled that it was “spectacular to see the crowds.
“I am so happy to be a Limerick person here today and it is so unique. It is a wonderful occasion for our city,” he said.
“I have never seen anything like it, it is a once in a lifetime experience,” he added.
A group of Oxfam volunteers screamed with excitement outside the shop on William Street, as they dressed up for the occasion.
“There are six of us dressed up as grannies and we are loving it,” said Ann McGlynn, 65, from Corbally.
“Oh my goodness, she is just amazing - this is one of the best things that ever happened to Limerick. I have never seen anything like this, absolutely not. Look at the crowds,” she laughed.
Helen O’Donnell, chair of the Limerick City Business Association, watched on from Upper William Street, face beaming with delight.
“It is quite emotional to see people on a Friday morning coming out, it is really special,” she said.
“Limerick has never seen anything like it and I just hope that everybody comes here to see it.”
City of Culture chairman Pat Cox said the Granny’s arrival was “everything we could have hoped for.
“It is going to be a great weekend, the weather forecast is looking good, we couldn’t ask for more,” said Mr Cox, adding that he had “20 members of my family, including nine grandchildren, all down to see this for the whole weekend”.
The show continues until Sunday.