Dancing giants are an ancient tradition and can be found in many parts of the world. In Europe they are found especially in Catalonia, Flanders and Navarre, where they are a prominent feature of traditional, civic and religious celebrations.
In Britain most were destroyed in the reformation, or the Puritan era, but Christopher, Salisbury's traditional giant, can still be seen in the city's museum. The visit of a replica of Christopher to Dorchester in June 1987 occasioned the birth of Lilbet Large, the first of the modern Dorchester Giants.
In 1989 she was joined by a Dorset shepherd known only as Granfer. He is possibly the fattest giant of his type in Europe. In 1992 the sartorially elegant Caroline Moore joined the group, allowing Lilbet to retire soon after. Caroline usually leads her older and poorer relative, Granfer, perhaps as she is slightly ashamed of his rustic appearance. Being younger, and more resilient in windy weather, she also sometimes ventures out on her own.
Giants are gregarious. before the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, 625 from all over the world gathered in the nearby village of Matedepera. The Dorchester Giants travel widely in Britain and Europe, and have been instrumental in the growing revival of giants in this country. They now have friends in London, Manchester, Hastings, Yorkshire, Devon and Cornwall. They are probably also distantly related to hobby horses, Jack in the Green, Mari Llwyd, The Dorset Ooser, and Morris beasts.
They love folk festivals street fairs, fétes, carnivals - anywhere with crowds, processions, and room and height in which to move. Each giant is designed to be carried by one person and to pack down into a small trailer.
Giants literally bring a new dimension to the events they take part in and as the Catalans put it: "We would like to break the daily routine to release the children's soul we all have inside".
The correct etiquette on meeting a giant is to raise your hat, greet him or her respectfully, throw the aforementioned hat into the air and JOIN IN THE FUN!
Additional information for display organisers.
Last modified: Sat, 12 Feb 2000