Tuesday 30 June 2015

Madhouse diaries : Land of the Giants

You can't have a sunny Sunday afternoon without a bit of an adventure - well, not if you live at The Madhouse anyway ! - so we headed off to the town centre to see a gathering of the local giants.

Each town around Dunkirk has its own giant who is wheeled out on special occasions, carried along by a porter hidden away inside the wicker frame, who makes him trundle through the streets or even dance.

The mesh grille on the front of each giant is where the carrier's face is so that he can see out and you can sometimes spot their feet and the wheels underneath when they're on the move.

You can see the face panel more clearly here.

Each giant has its own distinct personality. This is Léonard le Pirate from Rosendaël.

Here we have Julienne on the left and Josephine La Peule on the right, from Coudekerque-Branche. I love the way the giants and their names reflect the traditions and history of the region. "Peule" is the nickname that used to be given to female workers, in reference to the flasks of blackcurrant infusion that they carried to help refresh themselves during their labours.

This is Violette La Baigneuse - Violet the Bather - from Malo-les-Bains, Dunkirk's seaside resort. She looks as elegant and refined as the seaside villas that Malo-les-Bains is famous for.

This highly colourful giant, and the costume of his carrier, is 100% recycled, made out of bottle tops.

These two elegant gentlemen giants are more traditional : Coudekerque-Village's Charles le Garde-Champêtre (rural policeman) and Gédéon from Bourbourg on the right.

Also both from Bourbourg, here we have Arthurine on the left and on the right, Florentine Soupe Sans Pain (Florentine Soup Without Bread) with a very fractious looking baby under one arm !

Again representing the heritage and traditions of the region, this is Rogé le Docker from Cappelle-La-Grande.

The meetings of the giants are always fun and festive occurences. Everyone has great fun and we couldn't help but laugh at these pantomime horses.

The star of the show had real horses though, including a very cute but rather intimidated-looking foal.

This is Dunkirk's very own giant, the imposing Reuze Papa.

And all the rest of the Reuze family.

After the static display, the giants and giantesses went for a parade around town.

They were accompanied by marching bands and supporters.

This is one of my favourite giants, Hilaire Patate (or Hilaire Spud) from Rosendaël, where many of the region's vegetables are grown - his group of merry companions always seem to be having a right laugh. They have a bawdy song about the women needing a wee which they do (using a secreted bottle of water) on the front man's big shovel (I just mistyped that as bog shovel which was rather apt - talk about a Freudian slip !) that he then throws all over the crowd, to squeals of horror/amusement !

Again Reuze Papa had pride of place closing the parade. Can you see the man sitting just in front of Reuze Papa on the carriage with a broom? He had the delicate job of lifting the telephone cables up high enough for the cortege to pass through !

If you want to get an idea of the atmosphere (and see that Hilaire Patate wee song that I was telling you about !), have a look at my video !

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 


  1. Great Information for us,Photos are Awesome.

  2. What a splendid event, we are just coming into Carnival season here but our scarecrows look a little tame next to these giants. They really are massive against the people. I love the characters behind the Giants and the whole procession with each one on the video. Thank you for sharing such a fun and unusual event with me on Country Kids.


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