Festival of Giants – a ‘Giant’ party for #MK50

On 25th June, Festive Road invited the community to help us celebrate #MK50 at their free, Festival of Giants, in Campbell Park, Milton Keynes

Despite winds in excess of 14mph, over 4,500 visitors, including the Mayor and Mayoress of Milton Keynes, attended the event; where they enjoyed incredible displays of giant puppetry, dancing and music; and relished the opportunity to get involved in exciting workshops throughout the day.

On arrival, visitors received maps from helpful volunteers, which detailed the four main puppetry zones, of ‘The Garden,’ ‘The Aviary’, ‘The Land of Myths’, and ‘The Creatures’. People of all ages explored these zones in wonder, marvelling at the creativity and impressive feats of giant engineering, including Harminder the cycle-powered elephant who was offering rides. Shanti, the beautiful Garuda bird of peace, the latest addition to Festive Road’s growing menagerie, was particularly popular with visitors; one attendee said, “Stunning! The work gone into her is beyond amazing”.

Fourteen local schools and community groups took part, many getting involved in the puppetry fun. Children from Stantonbury Brownies, plus pupils from Stantonbury Campus and Long Meadow School helped to create displays in advance, as well as perambulate mechanical creatures on the day. Pupils from Giles Brook Primary School took great pride in recreating their school emblem, the damsel fly, on a ‘Giant’ scale, at a workshop led by Festive Road artists ahead of the event; the children then paraded it around Campbell Park’s plateau on the day, with massive smiles on their faces.

Moving beyond the puppetry zones, visitors reached the dance stage, which consistently attracted large audiences throughout the day, and saw inspiring performances in a number of styles from local dance and theatre groups, including Tina’s School of Dance, Leanne Hughes Theatre School, and Dance Code; and the bandstand, which showcased local community musicians like Starlight Samba, Moribayassa African Drumming Groups and Phoenix Rising: MK, who played rousing sets. Special thanks are due to Milton Keynes Festival Fringe, and Motus Dance for helping to organise and run these elements of the event.

Milton Keynes based Collar & Cuffs Co also performed their show Little Meerkat’s Big Panic, which helps very young children learn to understand and manage anxiety. Julia Collar said, “We had a lovely time! We received two emails from parents following the show - this is the first time it has happened!”

As well as admiring the work and talent of over 40 professional artists and performers, visitors were encouraged to actively get involved and exercise their creativity through workshops. Attendees particularly praised the child-centred focus of these; and the wide variety of activities on offer, including African drumming, circus skills and painting, meant that there was something for everyone.

With so much to see and do, many visitors needed to refuel during the day, and a variety of food vendors to suit all tastes and dietary requirements were on hand to ensure that all tummies ceased to rumble. Penelope’s Vintage Ice Cream, served up 447 indulgent ice creams and lollies, which several people ate whilst enjoying the unique and original art installations by local artists Alice Boland-Rhodes, and Ewan Hutcheson with his ‘Paint Jam’ crew.

Festive Road extends great thanks to generous funding from Milton Keynes Community Foundation, The Big Lottery, Milton Keynes Council, and CMK Town Council; plus support & sponsorship from Events Managed, The Regal Group, Practical Car & Van Hire, and The Parks Trust, without whom the event would not have been possible.

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