There is a Time and a Place for Stilt Walkers

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Fact is is I’ve always associated stilt walkers with fairgrounds and poorly executed costuming, candy floss and actual clowns who are unhappy about their lives in sludgy unappealing fields. It was quite the shocker to discover that Stilt walkers have a place in the modern events circuit.

As a stage manager at festivals I tend to come across performers of all types and over the many many years as an event professional (Event co-ordinator, stage manager, creative director..the list goes on) I have never really been taken with the art of giant people on giant pegs or whatever it is that is hidden underneath their giant trousers. I actually find it all a bit…well… cheesy.

Cheesy isn’t something we will ever do. Ever. Its not in our remit and boundary pushing cheese just isn’t a thing. So I had to get myself into the mindset of how and why an event professional might want to hire a stilt walker. What is it that makes a stilt walker more bookable and hireable than say a fire performer or fire dancer? For one thing of course insurance is far easier to come by but then all fire breathers are insured for millions of pounds public liability (including ours, just so you are sure). So its not necessarily that.

Fire performers can only work at certain venues. Listed buildings for example are a no go zone and places such as the Tate Gallery or the Arts Club in Mayfair where they have exceptional events and walls covered with priceless art means that bringing fire into the equation even with a considerable amount of insurance just doesn’t weigh up.

So I had to have a good look at what Stilt walkers bring to an event. They are imposing for one thing. They can be seen from a mile off whether inside or outside. Standing sometimes ar seven or eight feet tall it is pretty important that your venue has tall ceilings and no hidden beams, nor steps for that matter.

I noted before adding stilt performers to our repertoire that in fact we would need some personality involved. With such a mighty distance between eye line and soul of the ‘stilt’ the walkers are really high up in comparison to any guests attending an event. It is likely, I surmised, that Stilt walkers are meet’rs and greeters designed to welcome or in some case unnerve guests upon arrival. So personality in stilt performers was hands down a must. As of course was acting ability. They needed to be able to pull off all manner of characters from Lord of the Rings themed events and the requirement for giant Orks to Giant venus fly traps designed to capture passing guests at an event at Kew Gardens, perhaps.

So for stilt walkers here are the criteria or so it would seem ‘Costuming; must be hand tailored and bespoke with a wide selection to fit with a multitude of events, the ability to walk and walk well, a friendly face and personality where required but also the ability to take on other characters and insurance, plenty of insurance.

Once I had discovered the finer points of stilt performance we were able to conjure an interesting ethereal display of stilt walkers for the annual Savitiri charity event at The Arts Club Mayfair. Standing tall were two sensational performers cast and styled as part of a GR Presents creative

collaboration. In between the portico at 40 Dover Street Mayfair they looked sensational. Bentleys were stopping in the street to take a peek from half way up the road and they weren’t even privy to the entertainment we had curated for inside the club itself.

All in all stilt walkers are now my thing and I no longer associate them with fairgrounds but one of the most impressive yet simple tools in taking an event and its personification higher up while remaining personable.

I shall (when I’ve caught my breath) begin to tell you about what they call ‘Bouncy stilts’ because they are quite another ball game.

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