Giant crews

I doubt if many people give much thought to the crew needed to operate a giant. Oh I'm sure they realise that someone has to do the carrying, but that's about all.

The porter's job is the easiest to describe, the porter carries.

The porter of a giant, ninny, or beast has a very restricted view, and usually has no way of detecting overhead wires, street furniture, erring children, incontinent dogs and the like, so there must be a giant guide.

The giant guide is the eyes and ears of the giant, the porter MUST obey the guide at all times. A good guide will make the porter aware of any difficulties ( irregular surfaces, kerbs, windy gaps between buildings etc. ) before they arise. A good guide should give the porter rather more information than the porter thinks is necessary! The other main task of the guide is to keep the giant secure. The guide should circle the giant at intervals to ensure that nothing is loose, and the guide must always be alert for a stumble, or a sudden gust of wind that may require a quick steadying hand. If possible the guide should take hold on the upwind side of the giant in emergency. On occasion the guide may need to steady the giant with a guy rope, in this case there may often be a need for a second guide to secure the downwind side of the giant.

It is very tempting to try to double the giant guide's duties with some other musical or character role. Except in ideal circumstances this is a mistake, anything which tends to distract the guide, or occupy his or her hands, is dangerous.

In many gianting situations the crowd are sufficiently close that it will be necessary for someone to walk on the opposite side of the giant from the guide; usually downwind, as the guide will be on the weather side. This secondary minder will be attending to security on the 'blind side' it is often possible to double this role with, for example, drumming or dancing. In very crowded situations a minder will also be needed behind the giant; why do some people delight in pulling at giant's clothing from the rear?

In crowds there will usually be a need for someone to make a path for the giant. The sweeper will lead the giant, and perform miracles of crowd control.... actually the best trick is often to play a VERY LOUD MUSICAL INSTRUMENT in the ears of slow moving spectators, or shout a lot. The sweeper needs to be thick-skinned and imperious! The sweeper must especially guard against intruding press photographers and 'camcorder man' often they can only be shifted by standing immediately in front of the lens.

It's the sweeper's job to know the route, and to clear an appropriate path; in some cases this even includes clearing large or slippery litter. You can never have too many sweepers.. a drum-corps is great!

So what is the minimum crew?

Well, a ninny or very small giant might get away with two people in ideal conditions.

Most giants will require a minimum crew of four, guide, porter, minder and sweeper. In dense crowds each giant may require three sweepers and three minders as well as the guide and porter.

Where there are two or more giants together, a parade captain will have to take overall charge of the group, especially as the second and subsequent guides will have no easy way of communicating with the sweepers, who may be some distance in front. In large processions, as long as there is a good sweeper section at the front, and the last giant is well supplied with extra minders, it is often sufficient for giants in the middle of the parade to have a guide and only one minder, though two is better.

The guide is in charge of the giant, and effectively in charge of the crew. When there is a parade captain, he or she will normally direct the sweepers, and co-ordinate the various crews.

When giants dance. there will usually be a suitable space already cleared, or freshly swept. Musicians, and and non-dancing giants will form up at the rear of the dancing space, and all other minders and sweepers will be involved in crowd control; the larger the space cleared, the longer the perimeter, and the more people can see what is going on without pushing forward...

According to the nature of the dance, the porters involved may or may not need assistance with positioning, and judging turning points, but in any case their guides MUST be close at hand, and able to assist at all times. Usually the guides will shadow the giants on the 'blind' side; the side away from the bulk of the spectators, but they must not hesitate to step forward when needed.

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