STORM, a 10 meter high sea goddess arose from the River Clyde last Saturday morning 18 January 2020 in the calmer wake of her big brother Brendan who had battered these shore a few days previously. Made entirely of recycled and natural materials, STORM is said to be the largest puppet in the UK. With her movements guided by a hard-working, rope-hauling crew of fisherfolk in sou’westers and kilts, STORM stood up, raised her head and looked around at the hundreds of mortal folk below her.
This woman giant, the culmination of two years’ work by creators Vision Mechanics, immediately captured the hearts of all gathered by the Clyde to welcome her.
Slowly moving her giant feet and legs, her strolling rhythm soon settled; stately, her head turning this way and that, eyes blinking, she gazed around her, up and down, then, chin raised she proudly processed through the city. In busy Argyll Street, shoppers stopped aghast and children froze mid-bite at their Big Macs. Even some folk with ears blocked by headphones, sensed something and looked up.
While countless mobile phones recorded her every step, in time they were put away as people just gazed in wonder as STORM paraded trailing her own boom-box soundtrack specially composed by Mairi Campbell and Dave Grey.
There were some moving moments when Storm dropped on one knee to honour the singing of the young women of the Dileab Choir from the Western Isles and for the Campbeltown Pipe Group.
The expertise of the puppeteers made us forget the humans in control as we were held in thrall by that same timeless magic of rhymers, guisers and Galoshan who have been entrancing and frightening folk by turns since technologically simpler times. Their skill, and the symbolism of an other-worldly giant in our midst proved that we can all still believe in a bit of magic. STORM’s character began to shine through even as we saw her being worked from the back. STORM led her entourage uptown to the steps of Glasgow Royal Concert Hall just in time to herald the opening of the first weekend of Celtic Connections. Saturday 18 January saw a whole day devoted to our shores: Coast and Waters 2020 – a mini festival within a festival celebrated Scotland’s links with the sea and the unique musical and cultural heritage it has gifted us.
STORM reminded us of how much we owe the sea, that it gives and takes away, how much our lives depend on it and our responsibility to protect it. How timely then that last Saturday, we witnessed STORM finally come home tae the Clyde – Glasgow’s once mighty waterway to the world.
Storm’s debut appearance kicked off the first week of Celtic Connections which runs throughout venues in Glasgow until February 2. The city’s halls and clubs are playing host to events featuring around 2,000 musicians who have travelled from around the world to perform.