It’s Liverpool, in August 1914 and there are giants on the streets. Not giants in terms of stature because many of them are just boys really. But giant hearts, giant dreams and giant love. For and from the boys and their sweethearts and their sisters and their brothers. Most of whom are laughing and cheering like they’re setting off on some giant outing. But also for and from their mothers and fathers and the older ones. Who’ve seen wars before and have seen this one coming for a while now, and so are quieter. More thoughtful, more worried.
And it’s not just the streets of Liverpool where there are giants. There are giants on the streets of Blackburn and Accrington, Glasgow and Bruges, Vienna and Paris and Berlin. Sons of everyone’s sons, marching to war.
Because this is how it is. If the call comes from your country you go, you don’t question it. It’s your duty. This time though, there has been just the hint of the edge of the question being raised. The question ‘Why?’ And so volunteers have been encouraged to volunteer together. Assured they will be kept together. Whatever happens they will be Pals together, in their own battalions.
So as they march together through the streets of Liverpool, first to their training barracks, later off to war there is the steady rhythm of marching giants. And just beneath the rhythm this steady and silent song, The Song of the Giants:
“If you walk to your work in the mornings in peace, know that we did this for you;
If you hold your babies up to sunlight in springtimes, know that we did this for you;
If you laugh together in pubs by sweet riverbanks, know that we did this for you;
If you change the country so that everyone’s cared for, know that we did this for you;
If the country has joy and plenty for all, know that we did this for you.
But if we come home shattered and maimed, still know that we did this for you;
Our bodies and minds to be never the same, still know that we did this for you;
And if we never come home at all, oh what if we never come home?
Then know that we did this because of you all,
And that we never walked through it alone.”
Dedicated in love and remembrance to Thomas Joseph Hughes, my grandfather, and all the other Liverpool Pals and Great War service men and women.
This weekend in Liverpool, 100 years later, we will remember all of them. Because there will be Giants on the streets.
And in the end? Well, they were remembered but not much. While an estimated million people enjoyed the creativity and spectacle of Giants once again roving the streets of Liverpool I was noticing very little of an element of Remembrance. So I asked my friend Sarah Jones if this impression seemed right to her. She said:
“The World War One connection to the Giant’s story isn’t as strong as it could have been. The little mention there’s been feels bolted on. There have been short enactments of the recruitment of Pals and the Pals and the widows. But it hasn’t run through the weekend as a central theme. You could easily miss what part of history this event was about.”
Such a shame then, A great success as a public spectacle, as art and for Liverpool as a host city. But as and act of Remembrance, a lost opportunity.
Schedule and routes for the Giants in Liverpool this week ‘Memories of August 1914’ available from their website here.
My report from 2 years ago’s Giants here.