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Building a 20ft man for summer solstice at Stonehenge
By Sarah Jones
BBC Wiltshire

The Ancestor at Solstice Park, Amesbury
The massive steel Ancestor is over 20 feet tall and weighs in at an impressive six tonnes

For the last six months, like Dr Frankenstein, a married couple have been building a man - a 20-feet man in a barn a stone's throw from Stonehenge.

Reaching to the rafters, of a massive hangar, and weighing in just shy of an African bull elephant - he's a monument in the making and the creation of Andy and Michelle Rawlings.

"He's very big," admits Andy. "He's as big as a double-decker bus and at least 20 feet on his knees.

The Ancestor at Solstice Park, Amesbury
Shaped by eye the giant not only has a four-pack but a pot belly as well

"And he's going to weigh about six tonnes, when he's finished. So, yeah he's quite a chunk of metal."

'Quite a chunk of metal', needless to say, is a bit of an understatement.

Not only will this giant steel man dwarf a double-decker bus, by at least six feet, but his glittering mosaic of steel plates is a far cry from a hunk of a metal.

Wielding plasma cutters and welders - Andy and Michelle, who found herself metal working after a 'spectacular mid-life crises', have not only cut their way through miles of steel plate.

More miles then either say they'd liked to have actually walked.

But painstakingly welded thousands of randomly cut steel pieces on to a super-sized steel frame in a colossus of a jigsaw.

'Thierry Henry goal celebration'

"I've had to remove his crotch to give me access through there," admits Andy, "it will be a removable panel.

"It's not the best entry point in the world but it's got to be done."

Working with their heads, where even the solstice sun doesn't shine, both Michelle and Andy have spent nine months creating their giant.

An ancient-looking man who, both hope, will represent everyone's ancestor on his knees in praise of the sun.

"What we tried to do with his position," says Michelle, "is to actually capture the very moment the sun comes up and he's dropped to his knees in thanks.

The Ancestor at Solstice Park, Amesbury
Andy is hoping that they'll be able to fly him in by helicopter

"One lad saw him and immediately said: 'Thierry Henri goal celebration' - it's that moment that we've tried to create with him and hopefully we've pulled it off."

Created and shaped by eye, 'in the old fashioned way', without a computer or a CAD programme in sight - the Ancestor has, according to Michelle, had to evolve.

And he's evolved with slightly less then a six-pack.

"Well he's got a four pack and a little bit of a pot belly," laughs Michelle, "in honour of the Great British pot belly.

"We think the way he's been built and where he's been built really is a salute to the Great British shed heads - that do these mad projects in their sheds and pull it of. We salute them."

For Sale

And like the Great British shed heads, Michelle and Andy have had to dig deep into their own pockets to create him.

But with just weeks to go, before sun-up on the longest day, and just two gargantuan arms and hands to finish, the couple are hoping that they've found a buyer in Amesbury.

"Hopefully the owner of the Holiday Inn will like him," says Andy. "He's been good enough to allow us to put him in front of his hotel for sale - with an option for him to buy.

The Ancestor at Solstice Park, Amesbury
For Sale: the Ancestor is up for sale for an undisclosed amount

"And he's going to be in a very prominent position so that most people will be able to view him down the A303. So hopefully he'll become our Angel of the South."

But with transportation arrangements having to include chopping him in half, a giant crane and a gang - Andy is hoping his 'Angel of the South' might actually take to the wing.

"I would like to think we could fly him in by helicopter" says Andy. "but we've got to speak nicely to the Army for that.

"But it would be nice and I would be very happy for him to be 100 foot up in the air."

But before the giant ancestor heads to Solstice park, or is spotted in the skies over Amesbury, he's making a stop-off at Stonehenge just in time for sun-up on the longest day.

But how will Stonehenge's largest sarsen stone measure up to the 20ft steel man? And, despite the traditional lack of actual sun at solstice, will the massive sculpture overshadow the ancient monument?

"No," says Michelle. "We're hoping to enhance. We're not trying to compete.

"We want to enhance the Stonehenge experience and just give people the opportunity to think about where we've actually come from and what a proud race we are."




SEE ALSO
In Pictures: Stonehenge Solstice 2010
21 Jun 10 |  Wiltshire
In Pictures: Solstice Giant
21 Jun 10 |  People & Places


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