The Giants Tour has just finished – after eleven performance bookings, one puncture, one crash (more on this later) and several hundred miles of cycling. The tour was planned around the Easter holidays taking place in the middle and being spent at home- in Huddersfield. Part Two of the tour took in Doncaster, York and Hull.
Easter Monday was a day for cycling as I had a booking for ‘Giant Killers’ in Thorne Library in the far north of Doncaster. Apart from the first five miles and the last eight miles, my route followed the Transpennine Trail. Much of the route in this part of the country passes through the Yorkshire Coalfield with many links to the Giants project. At Harlington I passed a huge pit wheel monument to Barnburgh Colliery. My more detailed reflections on passing nearby on the ‘Boy Who Dreamed Only Ice’ tour can be read here http://meltingice2013.wordpress.com/2013/09/02/lost-in-the-coalfield-day-three-of-the-tour/
At Mexborough I passed what was once the Earth Centre. The Earth Centre was originally a community project built on old coal mines and then became a flagship environmental Millennium project. It was built largely of reclaimed materials, included growing projects and featured Europe’s largest flat-foot photovoltaic installation, a 1,300m2 canopy containing 250 photovoltaic panels – generating 80,000 KW of electricity per year. Sadly, it closed in 2004 and after being briefly occupied by environmentalists, eventually became a children’s activity centre.
The performance of ‘Giant Killers’ at Doncaster Children’s Library went well. The performance of songs accompanied by the ukulele went down particularly well there!
Unfortunately, disaster struck just outside Thorne. It had been raining and I lost control on a railway crossing where the rails had become as slippery as ice. After flying briefly through the air I landed in the road. A passing driver helped me with my bike. I cycled on another twenty miles or so to Snaith with a growing sense of foreboding. The pain in many parts of my body was subsiding, but one particular place- the base of my left hand- was agony. I couldn’t use my thumb at all. Snaith became the end of the ‘Giants’ cycle tour. A lift in a car to York got me to the hospital. An x-ray scan was unable to detect a fractured scaphoid but I was encouraged to return after ten days to be re-x-rayed as scaphoid fractures are frequently invisible until then. The train took me on the last leg of the journey to Hull.
I wanted to arrive early in Hull to do sightseeing- particularly the William Wilberforce Museum which celebrates the life of the man who – with many others- brought about the vote ending the slave trade in 1807. The struggle for a safe climate has often been compared to the struggle against slavery, perhaps most eloquently by Polly Higgins, international barrister who has proposed to the United Nations that Ecocide be the fifth Crime Against Peace.
“Maybe sometimes we need crisis to focus our minds and recognise that what we’re doing is ultimately unsustainable and untenable morally. We’ve done it before in history and we’ll do it again. The abolition of slavery was really the recognition of the moral imperative trumping the economic imperative. When William Wilberforce came along and fought for the abolition of the slave trade, his big thing was that it’s not about closing down companies; it’s about giving them the legislative framework so that they can reinvent themselves in the other direction.
One of the key people in this was Charles Grant, who was one of the biggest businessmen of the day. He agreed with Wilberforce and spoke out and said, ‘morally this is wrong, full stop’. When he did that from a business perspective, two things happened. Government didn’t just listen, it took action, because hearing it from business is very important. But he also gave permission for other business leaders to stand up and demonstrate that same bold moral courage and leadership. This is what we’re lacking today – the ability to dare to be great – to stand up and say this has to stop, it’s not working”
My first performance in Hull was at Pearson Park Wildlife Garden. The Wildlife Garden is run by the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and is an attractive corner of Pearson Park in Hull. They grow vegetables and wildflowers, keep bees and run educational activities. There is an amphitheatre where I performed. This was the only performance of the tour where I performed outside. I tried to make use of the environment, space and natural features, as I had in Sprint Mill near Kendal. For one story, ‘The Two Headed Giant of Rotuma’ we went on a tour of the garden, following the route of the brother and the sister into their garden and through the forest. The sun set during the performance and tea lights were lit to create atmosphere.
After a pleasant night’s sleep in Inglehome http://inglehome.co.uk/, a low carbon home, all the more impressive because it is an ordinary terrace house, I prepared for the final performance: the children’s show ‘Giant Killers’. Here there was a large and lively audience who had waited patiently after a fire alarm delayed the event. The children were good fun and enjoyed acting out moments from the stories although the songs- due to the hand injury- had to be sung acapella.
And then it was home! Thank you to all the partners, funders, hosts, audiences, parents (including mine) and helpers! Who knows where Giants will be performed next?