The world has now seen the UK’s largest ever mechanical puppet, an epic 10 metre plus Cornish Mining Man Engine, who awoke on Monday 25 July and set off on his historic summer journey the entire length of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.
Part of the ‘Tinth’ (10th) anniversary of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape being added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership provided the initial funding for the two week awe-inspiring journey of the Man Engine - a monumental moving, smoking, metal-worked, mining ‘behemoth’, the likes of which has never been seen before.
He ‘awoke’ for the first time on Monday 25 July in Bedford Square in Tavistock, West Devon, and over the course of a 50 minute ceremony ‘transformed’ up into the sky, to the height of almost three double decker buses, aided by the singing of local choirs and gathered crowds.
For the first time, the world saw, in full, the scale and spectacle of this Man Engine’s body and face. The brainchild of Will Coleman of Cornwall’s Golden Tree Productions, the Man Engine was designed and overseen by Hal Sylvester, a big puppet specialist, using a talented team of engineers, fabricators, welders, smoke and lighting experts and artists, from right across Cornwall and the South West.
The Man Engine sports a number of ‘motifs’ of Cornish mining with a giant beam engine as a rocking neck, mining ‘head gear’ sheave wheels as shoulders, cast iron flangers and rivets throughout and hands that reflect massive 20th century excavators. A wheel loader, kindly provided by Volvo, acts as the Man Engine’s ‘puppeteer’, aiding the support crew of ‘miners’ who raise him up and animate him whilst he is ‘transformed.’
Volvo Construction Equipment were approached by Golden Tree Productions in November 2015 and agreed to loan an L220G to the project free of charge which has been with the team since January. The L220G Wheel Loader provides the power behind the Man Engine allowing him to stand at his full height and Volvo’s product specialists worked closely with Golden Tree Productions to ensure the machine and puppet would work together effectively and safely. Matt Game, Sales Support Manager at Volvo Construction Equipment comments: “After careful evaluation we felt that the L220G would work best on this project due to it’s lifting capacity and overall stability. We have been working closely with Golden Tree Productions and the HSE since January to make sure all aspects of this project would perform successfully which involved making some minor modifications to the machine.”
The Man Engine will make its way from Tavistock to the far western tip of Cornwall, across the UK’s biggest World Heritage Site, a journey of some 130 miles. Between 25th July and the 6th August 2016, the general public will be able to head to 20 events right across the area where they can witness the immense spectacle whilst learning the stories of the Cornish miners whose endeavour, ingenuity and innovation transformed the industrial world, both in Cornwall and West Devon, and right across the globe.
Will Coleman of Golden Tree Productions said, “Kernow, our horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall, is a tiny 0.002% of the planet’s surface, yet beneath our rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified. Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (copper, tin, arsenic, lead, zinc, silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak. I was brought up on the banks of the River Tamar with the stories and the legacy of Cornish mining all around me. The landscape is deeply rooted in the impacts of that industry and in the successes and the struggles of the real people whose lives shaped our Cornwall and West Devon mining stories.”
Will continues, “With the birth of our ultimate mining machine, we have toiled long and hard to embed into this single huge object, the meaning and feeling of the stories of the real people, and the real lives of those people, their sorrows, their achievements and their journeys, over thousands of years. With 19th century mining vernacular and motifs throughout, we have all worked together to drive a colossal scale and excitement into him, honouring the achievements, the harshness, the beauty and the significance that the work, energy and brainpower that these people brought to our entire world. Now he’s alive and off on the timely pilgrimage, with our team of miners and bal maidens, of more than 100 miles throughout our homeland. I can’t explain how extraordinary the feeling is to see the people on the streets meet him, and be so in awe of him.”
Cllr Julian German, Chairman of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership says, “The project has been an enormous challenge for Golden Tree Productions and their extended team since they won this bid. This time has seen them seek creative solutions for the myriad of challenges such an audacious proposal was always going to generate. We congratulate them, and all those involved in organising the Man Engine, wholeheartedly, for their vision, ambition and tenacity in pursuing such a spectacular project – a fitting tribute to our ancestors’ efforts, ingenuity and entrepreneurialism.”
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