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Corn Exchange Newbury’s Berkshire Giant comes to life this June

  • Date: 6 June 2012
  • Area: South East

A new outdoor arts project inspired by a local legend will run a week of giant-related arts events across West Berkshire as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme.

From 17 to 23 June, the story of John Ever Afraid, a gentle giant who has been hiding from the Devil in the walls of Aldworth Church, will unfold with the help of giant puppetry, carnival parade, art installations, music and performance in the Berkshire Giant Project. Other events include a village fair, a night time carnival in Newbury and a dusk-time invocation and ritual ceremony at the ancient Snelsmore Common.

The Berkshire Giant Project is Corn Exchange Newbury's first large-scale project that they are producing in-house, creating it along with local people and schoolchildren from seven primary schools, as well as Irish outdoor theatre company, Macnas and Creative Producer Simon Chatterton.

It is part of the Newbury’s two-year programme of ambitious, high quality, free outdoor arts, which is supported with a £198,237 Arts Council England Grants for the arts award. Grants for the arts invests National Lottery money to support activities that engage people in the arts and helps artists and arts organisations with their work.

The local legend of Aldworth Giants is based on 600-year-old stone effigies that lie in the village Church of Aldworth, just outside Newbury.

The village will host the first launch event, the Aldworth Giant Fair, on Sunday 17 June, with music, food and entertainment including tall tales and Giant Games for all the family.

The Berkshire Giant project has been rolled out into schools, inspiring over 1100 pupils, teachers, parents, and members of the local community alike, with ‘sightings’ of the giant and producing an incredible array of giant-sized gifts to help welcome the giant. Gifts include a giant chair, giant plate of food (which is the size of a small car), community giant quilt, giant book of giant stories, Giant Wanted posters, guide to modern life for an old giant, songs, stories and letters of friendship - and even a giant dream catch catcher. Some schools have embraced the giant theme so much that they are proposing that the Giant Week becomes an annual event.

The programme includes poetry workshops for adults led by performance poet Steve Larkin, a creative writing competition and a young film-makers project. During and after the production week, some of the work produced will be exhibited in the foyer and gallery areas of the Corn Exchange from 17 to 28 June. Local people are also being recruited to be performers, form part of the production crew or to steward at the Berkshire Giant events.

Katy Griffiths, Corn Exchange Director said: ‘We’re really excited about unleashing our Giant on Newbury this month. We’ve been presenting spectacular large-scale outdoor performances for three years now, but this is the first time that the Corn Exchange have been involved in creating and producing a piece from scratch.’

Jon Linstrum, Combined Arts Relationship Manager, South East, Arts Council England, says: ‘It’s very exciting to see the Corn Exchange developing their outdoor programme into this large scale participatory project and continuing to bring high quality international companies, in this case Macnas from Ireland, to audiences in Berkshire – thanks to support from Arts Council’s Grants for the arts scheme. This latest project will surely add to the reputation the Corn Exchange has quickly built for presenting visually spectacular outdoor arts performances.’

The Berkshire Giant project has also been supported by Greenham Common Trust and West Berkshire Council.

The Berkshire Giant events will run from 17 to 23 June across Berkshire – see http://www.theberkshiregiant.co.uk/ for more information.