The picture is familiar in many ways, but the setting is not.
Beyond the Walls – Echoes in a different country, by Mat Dowsett
Spanish Language version (here)
Pamplona. Home of the running of the bulls and the fiesta to end all fiestas. San Fermín draws a varied and international following, but very few foreign visitors are aware that Pamplona is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to fiestas and bulls. Across Spain and beyond there are many hundreds of fiestas and thousands of encierros every year. Within the old walls of Pamplona a local drama is played out on an international stage, but beyond the walls are the unseen and untold tales of the people, the bulls and the streets of these other fiestas.
I have a wonderful book that describes all of the giants of Navarra with histories and pictures. The “gigantes” have become one of the features of Navarran fiestas that we love the most and that we look forward to seeing the most. Now that we have a young daughter we are looking forward to taking her to see these incredible creations in towns up and down the ancient kingdom.
But look closely at the picture and you will see that the background is a little less familiar. In fact this is not Navarra, not even Spain. This is England. In Chester, an ancient Roman city in the North West of England, close to Liverpool, at Midsummer every year they have a parade of many different kinds of animals, figures and mythical creatures. Included in this parade is a family of Tudor giants – a father, mother and two daughters. They proudly take their place and parade through the streets with the rest of the characters and it is a scene that reminds me distinctly of Navarra.
You might think that Chester has taken inspiration from Northern Spain but incredibly the history of this period is no less than 500 years old. The Midsummer parade was very popular in Tudor England and was first recorded in 1498 when Chester was unique in England for having an entire family of giants. Sadly the parade was abandoned in the 1670s but was revived 25 years ago in 1989 and has found a place in the hearts of the people of Chester once again being a colourful parade accompanied by music, drums, dancers and led by dignitaries of the city.
It is also interesting to note that there is also a parade of giants in Chester on a number of occasions through the year with many other giants (many much more modern in conception) joining the more traditional. So that it can truly be said that Chester in Cheshire is the spiritual home of English giants.