Page last updated at 20:25 GMT, Friday, 5 September 2008 21:25 UK

Thousands watch spider 'wake up'


La Princesse performs a ballet before moving on again

Thousands of people braved the rain to watch a 50ft (15m) high mechanical spider come to life in Liverpool.

About 5,000 people watched La Princesse come out of "hibernation" outside the city's arena at King's Dock on Friday.

An estimated 20,000 more were in the city on Friday evening to see her crawl down The Strand before heading for a resting place at the Cunard building.

The 1.5m street theatre production, operated by French company La Machine, is a Capital of Culture event.

La Princesse was unveiled to the public on Wednesday morning, hanging from a redundant office block next to Lime Street railway station.

She was woken in a hail of fireworks and smoke at 1130 BST on Friday, before striding up and down in front of the arena in front of the cheering crowd.

La Princesse spider
At 1.5m I think it's actually cheaper than Macca and it has got us on the front of the South China Morning Post
Phil Redmond, Liverpool Culture Company

French "scientists" - La Machine's street theatre artists - attempted to subdue her with water and snow against a backdrop of music from musicians on top of 16 cherry pickers.

Liverpool Culture Company artistic director Phil Redmond hailed the opening part of the show as "fantastic".

"When you are planning this - and 350 people have been working for a year on this thing - you expect it to go well but you still keep your fingers crossed."

Mr Redmond also dismissed criticism of the cost of the five-day spectacle, which he said was in the region of 1.5m.

"At 1.5m I think it's actually cheaper than Macca and it has got us on the front of the South China Morning Post. So it's good value for money."

Helen Marriage, of show producers Artichoke, said the money spent on the production was generating far more cash for the city as a whole.

'Enormous benefit'

"We ourselves have hotel bills of over 100,000, which is money going straight back into the local economy.

"We're employing lots of local people as crane drivers, cherry picker drivers - the benefit back to the city is enormous."

After entertaining crowds at King's Dock, the 37-tonne beast explored Liverpool on Friday evening.

She will continue popping up at various landmarks around the city over the weekend, culminating in what organisers say will be a spectacular finish on Sunday evening.

On Saturday, she will again parade through the city centre and later climb up the Concourse Tower in Lime Street.

On Sunday evening, the spider will move towards the Queensway Tunnel.

Travel warning

Anyone travelling to Liverpool to catch a glimpse of La Princesse is urged to use public transport.

Merseytravel said more ferries would be running and Merseyrail trains would be "strengthened" with extra carriages.

The Queensway Tunnel will also be closed to traffic from 0600 BST on Sunday until 0630 BST on Monday.

The spider is made out of steel and poplar wood and is operated by up to 12 people strapped to her frame.

The creature was built in Nantes before being shipped to Merseyside to be assembled in a secret location.

In May 2006, the company's Sultan's Elephant drew an estimated one million people to the streets of London.


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