diamond geezer

 Sunday, June 24, 2012

Insectes: Last night, under cover of darkness, a plague of giant insects invaded Bow. They rampaged along Roman Road, scattering the crowds, then targeted a local housing estate forcing residents from their homes. Needless to say, mass joy ensued. These were puppets, part of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, which doesn't normally venture as far north as E3 but always brings something spectacular when it does. In this case that's Spanish men on dressed-up bikes, using serious pedal power to bring a lot of flapping plastic to life. At the front of the procession is a giant ant, lit red from within, whose driver controls the raising of limbs and the occasional burst of pressurised steam. You have to be fit to keep this up, spinning and reversing and provoking the crowd, who laugh with delight as another burst of gas fires onto the pavement. Behind is a tandem dressed with a circular ring of blades of grass, pumping out house music, followed by a bright green megabeast. The operator revels in swooping its head down, then lifting it to terrorise the owners of flats above the shops, peering down at the spectacle from their grandstand windows. The spider probably looks like binbags in daylight, but is far more convincing after dark. But it's the final praying mantis that's most impressive, again breathing steam, and this takes control of the entire road as it passes [photo]. The crowd are loving it, smiling broadly and waving their cameras at approaching mandibles. Small children gawp in awe from the pavement, outwardly scared they might be picked on, but inside hoping that's precisely what happens. And as the insects crawl east, towards the floodlit Olympic Stadium, so the crowd surges behind them. [photos]

The company's arrival in Lefevre Park is, without doubt, the most exciting thing ever to happen here. A hundred or so families are milling around on the grass, waiting, and the area's youths have gathered in tribal clumps. One young man in a grey hoodie eyes me suspiciously, laughs with his mates and then they all turn to look at me. "You with the police?" he asks, with a glinting grin. I protest, but he's having none of it. "Nah, you must be police! White man, single..." (he sneers disapprovingly at my footwear) "...running shoes." And there was me thinking my streetwear might vaguely fit in on the estates of Bow, whereas instead I've got all the labels wrong and look like a copper who's tried too hard. "Don't worry," says the ringleader, "we ain't gonna do you." He smiles a smile as sharp as a blade and adds "We'll see you later." I use the arrival of the leading ant to slink away, trying very hard not to end up standing next to any of the genuine hi-vis coppers on duty here tonight. When the praying mantis arrives, it towers over the two sculpted red flowers in the centre of the park, like some sort of Godzilla come to devour the neighbourhood [photo]. Five minutes of fireworks explode to end the performance, a diversionary measure which allows the various insects to be to de-illuminated while nobody's looking. It's been a lively hour, bringing art to an appreciative community who'd rarely think of going to see art for themselves. I nip off fairly sharpish afterwards, before the drizzle worsens.

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