Giant types and emergency procedures.

There are three main types of giant. (if we ignore inflatables and wheeled giants). Lots of variations exist, and more will arise I'm sure.

This is a brief description of each type, together with a summary of it's pro's and con's. There's also a suggested emergency procedure for each type.

The most likely emergencies are imbalance and fire. Imbalance may be due to a sudden violent gust of wind or to an unexpected obstruction ( usually human and squinting through a camera lens ). Fire may be caused by a firework, a smoking accident or a malicious action by an insecure bystander. I've twice seen people make threatening gestures towards a giant with cigarette lighters; in jest I hope, but one day someone may go further.

Pole Giants

The simplest type of Giant to build, a stout pole with a crosspiece for the shoulders and a head on top. A common variation uses three poles, one extra for each giant hand, which is held by a supporter, so that it becomes a three person carry. The supporters act as guides and minders as well as hand wavers.

Simple, quick, easy and cheap to build. They are usually easy to transport with a large car.
They can be very hard work to carry, especially in a wind. As all the forces tend to act at the end of a long lever a great deal of muscle-power is expended. There is a strong temptation to bow the giant, this can be very dangerous for the porter; there is a very real risk of back injury. A standard-bearers harness is essential, and a weight-lifters belt is recommended.
Emergency procedure:
In case of fire or tempest, if your guide and minders can't help. Face downwind. If possible move to a position clear of people, or warn them to get clear. Allow the giant to fall away downwind. Kneel as it drops to allow clothing to pass clear of you, and to shorten the drop. KEEP HOLD OF THE POLE until the giant is down, or it'll bounce up and hit you.
The giant will be smashed.
UK. Pole type Giants include:
Peter ( Wadebridge ),
Franky (Exeter).

Backpack Giants

Giants based on a rucksack style carrying frame, the body is supported on a 'spine', a pole that sticks out above the backpack in such a way that the spine of the giant is in line with the spine of the porter. A backpack type Giant has no legs and cannot stand without a porter. Variations include Giants with hands on poles that can be waved by the porter, and giants with weighted hands on long loose arms that can be swung and spun so that the hands fly out and hit people; common in southern Europe, but not so sensible in the more litigious north. A hand swinging giant could not be covered by B.I.G.G. insurance.

Fairly simple, quick, easy and cheap to build. Usually small enough to transport in a large car. Very manoeuvrable, they handle slopes and steps better than any other type of giant.
You can't put 'em down for a quick rest. Changing porters takes a couple of minutes. There is a temptation to bow the giant, this can be very dangerous to the porter; there is a very real risk of back injury. A curtsey is fine however, and it's quite easy to build a back support into the harness, together with a strong belt, so that there's no need for separate protection. The giant needs to be pretty stiff, a slack or flexible structure will repeatedly sway off balance and give the porter a hard time.
Emergency procedure:
A Backpack giant should be provided with a quick release buckle on the belt, and if possible, a quick release mechanism ( usually concentrically fitting poles: ferrules ) at the backpack-giant-spine connection.
In case of fire or tempest, if your guide and minders can't help. Face downwind. If possible move to a position clear of people, or warn them to get clear. Allow the giant to fall forward, bend with the giant, stepping backwards if you can so that you are partially clear of the clothing. Resist the temptation to release the belt at this point, or you'll have an almighty crack on the head, and your shoulders will be badly wrenched. Go down on hands and knees at the end, there may be a shock as the giant grounds. Reach up and release the backpack-spine connection if you have one, and crawl backwards out of the mess. Failing that, release the belt buckle and shrug out of the shoulder straps, crawling backwards.
The giant will be smashed.
UK. Backpack type giants include:
Bellever ( North Tawton )
Fergus ( Harlow )
Lilbet Large ( Dorchester ).

Standing frame giants

There are several sub-types.

Wooden half-frame 'bar-stool' giants

A very traditional design, especially common in Spain, but found over most of Europe and now becoming common in the north-west of England where they are referred to as 'Catalan Style'. The Giant comes apart at the waist. The upper part of the body is usually in one piece and may be very finely moulded or sculpted. The waist is bolted to a sort of oversized bar-stool made of fairly heavy timber, and the lower clothing is draped around this. The porter stands inside the lower frame, and supports the giant on his head ( if there is a padded rest ), and shoulders. His hands grasp the frame, usually one hand on a vertical member, and one on a horizontal crosspiece, and are used to control the balance. Variations include giants where the lower frame is made of metal, aluminium, or sometimes steel; and giants where the lower frame goes all the way to the shoulder.

Very strong; if you are strong enough, and suitably trained these can jump, dance, spin and jog. Easy to maintain.
Bulky to store and transport. You need a team of very strong, dedicated porters, these are heavy giants, and the frames are very unforgiving. Lower-back protection is important, either a weight-lifters belt, or a Catalan style cummerbund wound tightly a dozen or more turns around the lower back and abdomen.
Emergency procedure:
See below.
UK. Half-frame giants include:
War and Peace ( Sheffield ).

Wicker, woven-lath and sprung-wood giants

Giants formed from basketwork with clothing over. Essentially a textile monocoque, if that's not a contradiction in terms. They are inherently stiff overall, but give a little in a springy manner wherever a force is applied.

Tough as old baskets! Cheap to build and maintain if you have appropriate weaving skills, plenty of time, and a supply of withies. The springiness makes them surprisingly comfortable to carry as long as you don't fight the natural bounce. Quite common in northern Europe, probably once upon a time in Britain, but not recently.
They can get too slack/springy, either way they're tricky to handle. They cannot be disassembled easily, so are a nuisance to store and transport. Many types of carrying harness can be fitted, the worst type of all is the pair of over-springy horizontal shoulder bars fitted to Christopher I in Salisbury Museum; but they're a Victorian refit, and may not reflect the original type.
Emergency procedure:
There's only one example in Britain, he's in the Salisbury museum. Go and tell the museum attendant about it.

Space-frame, and dismantlable metal/plastic framed giants

A modern approach to the storage and transport difficulties of standing-frame giants. The frame usually comprises a collapsible truss of metal, or stiff plastic. Other components are usually GRP or polycarbonate ( much lighter, but expensive ), lightweight foams are often used.

Storage and transport, though you'll probably still need a van. Maintenance is usually easy, the parts can be removed easily for repair or replacement.
Complicated to design and build, a certain amount of engineering skill is required, and you'll need to do some maths in the design stages. They can be expensive, and it can take a while to assemble them before a parade, and to dismantle them afterwards. There can be a temptation to use cheaper narrow bore tubing in the construction, but this is rarely stiff enough, the wider the bore the stiffer the result. Box sections and L shaped members may make better joints, but they won't have the same torsional stiffness. You have to make calculations or trial measurements. Most types of harness can be fitted for the porter, a good backpack with inherent back support is usually best, if the giant is not properly maintained it will become sloppy, and hard to control.
Emergency procedure:
See below.
UK. Space-frame and dismantlable frame giants include:
Caroline Moore and Granfer (Dorchester)
Christopher III ( Salisbury )

The emergency procedure for all standing-frame giants is the same

In case of sudden gust/imbalance
If your guide cannot grab the upwind side and pull ( or use a guy-rope )
DON'T try to lift out of trouble.
PUT THE GIANT DOWN, kneel and pull down hard on the frame. It doesn't matter if this is done pretty roughly, your extra weight at the bottom, within the area of the 'legs' on the ground, should bring the giant into control.
The giant may be a little shaken, or the frame bent.
In case of frame trip.
That is, the front legs are dug into the ground, or crash into an obstruction ( ten to one it's a press photographer )
If you have shoulder straps, hold your hands over your face, relax, stay in the harness until after the crash, then release yourself. If your shoulders can drop free, hit your belt release, allow yourself to slip down inside the giant, grab hold of the front legs to prevent them kicking up and hitting you, and crawl out of the wreck.
The giant will be smashed.
The chance of frame-trip is greatly reduced if small wheels or casters are fitted to the front legs so that they will tend to roll and bounce, rather than digging in.
In case of fire.
PUT THE GIANT DOWN, kneel and pull down if you have to hurry. Hit your release, get as low as you can and crawl out. The giant should be manhandled to the ground if at all possible to reduce risk of spreading the fire, AFTER the porter is out.

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