The journey of Godiva Awakes, the Artists Take the Lead commission for West Midlands began back in May 2009 with 300 words outlining the vision and a visualisation of the ideas for the project by stained glass artist, Frans Wesselman. Having won the commission Imagineer Production’s mission was to turn this incredible, eccentric, cycle powered machine and giant puppet into a reality. On paper it sounded simple – to create a large scale puppet of Godiva who would take the hopes, aspirations and ideas of 220 young people from across the region to London, propelled by cycle power. In practice it was the catalyst for an extraordinary, creative journey where partnerships were forged between artists and engineers, makers and designers, who came together to create two unique prototypes a puppet and a multi seated bike the like of which had never been made before in the UK and possibly not in the world. Once built they would have to stand up to the rigours of high profile, outdoor public performances and a 120 mile journey to London . Over three years the elements of Godiva Awakes evolved and the momentum behind the project snowballed, with an amazing range of companies from diverse sectors supporting the project with people, skills, materials and cash.
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Following an extraordinary weekend of Awakening performances in Coventry at the end of July 2012, Godiva set out on her epic journey to London through Rugby, Northampton, Milton Keynes, Luton, Hatfield, Waltham Abbey and arriving at Waltham Forest Town Hall on Sunday 5th August. Her quest was to deliver the young peoples’ ideas in the form of the Book of Intent to the Olympic host city.
Over the week of the Journey 87 cyclists braved the wind, rain and traffic and through their Herculean efforts cycled the 120 miles to deliver Godiva safely to Waltham Forest for the young people to hand over the Book of Intent. The public response was fantastic with families lining the route across the country, seated on deck chairs along the pavements and grass verges to cheer Godiva on her way.
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Each of the towns en route welcomed Godiva in their own unique way, many offering specially created gifts; a giant rugby ball from Rugby, a bespoke pair of riding boots from Northampton and a beautiful brass sculpture of a pilgrim badge from Milton Keynes. Tens of thousands of people turned out to greet us and hundreds of young people created special performances to welcome Godiva to their town.
This was a three year project which was at times great fun and at times really tough going, but the lasting magic of the project was in the warmth and kindness with which public, local authorities and businesses responded to us on our 120 mile journey. We were bowled over by the reception of the people in the streets and inspired to harness this energy and create new journeys and new challenges for Godiva and Imagineer over the years, building a lasting legacy, using the project as a catalyst to inspire new generations of engineers through the Imagineerium Initiative.