Chester Midsummer Watch Parade

Today I had my first meeting with Russell Kirk, the Artistic Director of Chester Midsummer Watch Parade. I will be working on the parade with him and two other volunteers over the next two months.

The Midsummer Watch is a large-scale community parade, which has been running annually every June since it was revived in the 1980’s. the original parades date back to the 15th century and the contemporary artistic interpretation takes its inspiration from the traditional medieval techniques used in the historic parades.
Each year, a team of artists and makers build a new large-scale puppet, repair and maintain the existing puppets and work with local school groups to produce new objects to be used in the parade by the children and community groups involved.
I met Russell and Vicki at the Forum Theatre in Chester early on a Sunday morning and after a quick briefing, we made a plan of the studio shelves to orient ourselves. Child in a sweet shop does not really begin to describe my response to being placed in the expansive work space, I had a great root about and learned that you can get entire rolls of tea bag paper.
the larger puppets hang from the rafters
Having become acquainted with the studio we then moved on to meeting the puppets, intimately. I wore a devil puppet on my back first, it was surprisingly light but rather cumbersome. Whilst I was running about, possessed, Vicki had a go on a bobble-headed raven at the end of a stick. Next I found myself inside a unicorn, that’s another one to tick off the bucket list, and Vicki drove a tricycle bearing three allegorical figures and performed an adroit three-point-turn. 

A stag, of the same design as the unicorn, was Vicki’s next puppet to wear and the pair of us locked horns literally, but accidentally. Honest.

After shouldering a camel complete with three kings, we met an articulated dragon’s head built onto a pram; its jaws open to reveal an unfortunate jingly-jangly skeleton. We were introduced to a larger dragon, who was coiled inside a Romanesque chariot, and had a look at the original giant family which are the cardinal figures of the whole procession.
We then had a look around the rehearsal room, which is in a separate building and went to have a look at the route of the parade.

I am really excited about working on this project, this year we are designing and building two “Green Men”, forest guardian types, who I imagine would look a little like Tolkien’s Ents. I’m looking forward to researching green men and their background in folklore and literature.

Chester’s Midsummer Watch Parade will be on the 23 & 24 June 2012 Starting at 2pm

For more information, check out the site
If you want to get involved on the day, check out the Friends Page

more updates soon!

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