Godiva Awakes – 6 metre high puppet will walk through Waltham Abbey on 4 August

If you’re around the area on Saturday afternoon, 4 August, then come to Waltham Abbey and see something pretty unusual and exciting.

A six metre, (20 feet), high marionette of Lady Godiva  –  fully clothed we must add  –  will be arriving outside the Abbey at about 4pm.   And the giant puppet is powered by a team of cyclists.  

She was devised by Coventry carnival company, Imagineer, and is the inspiration of the City of Coventry, and their contribution to the Cultural Olympiad.  

Her “horse” is made of metal, and all sorts of things are part of it including an old car.   She has two modes of transport:  she can sit on her horse, or she can stand on her massive feet which make her much taller of course.   She weighs 5 tonnes, and can smile, stretch out her arms, wave, and blink her great blue eyes.

The puppet is “worked” by four performers with Lady Godiva’s head and eye movements controlled by radio.   The original Lady Godiva rode naked through Coventry in protest against high taxes, but this one will be clothed.   She has a steel corset designed by Zandra Rhodes, and her coat, designed by a number of artists, is flowing golden silk embroidered with symbols of the West Midlands region.   Her shoes are size 72, and she needed two forklifts, one either side of the body, to dress her! 

Godiva is powered by a Cyclopaedia, twenty  linked bicycles that will move her along when she takes to the open road.   100 volunteer cyclists will be pedalling in shifts of 20 at a time.  Her horse is made up of new or reclaimed machine parts including a forklift, bits of a vintage lorry and an old school desk.

Godiva left Coventry last Monday, and her week long journey has brought her down the A5 towards London, with overnight stops at Rugby, Northampton, Luton, Hatfield, and Waltham Abbey.

When Godiva arrives in Waltham Abbey, she will be greeted outside the Abbey by Mayor of Waltham Abbey, Elizabeth Webster, and there will be a welcoming ceremony.

The puppet will then be transferred to her “walking rig”, which will mean she will reach her full height.   And then she will walk along Church Street, through the Market Square, and along Sun Street to the Museum.   She can’t go in, though, she’s too big!

Kathryn Richmond, the Town Clerk of Waltham Abbey, has been up to Coventry to see Godiva.  Kathryn said, “an adult comes about up to Godiva’s knee.   She is massive.”

The real Lady Godiva was the wife of Leofric, Earl of Mercia, one of the most powerful noblemen in 11th century England, who in 1043 founded a monastery at Coventry.   Leofric died in 1057.   Godiva is mentioned in the Domesday Book.   And in a link to Waltham Abbey, King Harold’s legal wife, who he married for political reasons after he had come to the throne, was the granddaughter of Lady Godiva.