The bear is angry. She is protesting against Shell and other companies wanting to potentially further destroy her habitat through drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic. She led a Greenpeace UK ‘Save the Arctic’ march in London yesterday, from Parliament to Shell’s headquarters on the South Bank, as part of a global day of action.
Aurora, the giant mechanical polar bear puppet, 41 foot long and weighing 3 tons, was designed for Greenpeace by Christopher Kelly and is made from recycled materials, with a roar created by Beth Gibbons of the band Portishead, part of an Arctic soundtrack accompanying the march. The ‘fur’ under her chin contains the signatures of 3 million supporters who have already signed up to the Save the Arctic campaign.
Aurora was aided by a brilliant and encouraging team of volunteers and supporters as well as an array of protesters, young and old. I particularly liked the Ice Maiden/Snow Queens.
This was the perfect political protest, imaginative, captivating, exciting and inclusive. Tuning in to my personal obsessions with polar bears and the Arctic (I am obviously one of many!) this visual spectacle also made me think of other cultural references: the armoured polar bear in Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials; the Sultan’s Elephant of a few years ago; religious parades of statues; the theatre productions of the radical Welfare State Company in the 1970’s; steampunk; puppets used for political statements as in Spitting Image. Another recent favourite of mine with an environmental message is the piece by the Puppet State Theatre Company based on the story The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono.
To end the day we heard from representatives of Canada’s First Nations in word and song, a moving conclusion. “My land is NOT for sale” said Arctic resident and First Nation woman Keira Dawn-Kolson.
As a final protest we left our mark outside the Shell building, our footprints leaving a memory.
- Aurora the super-sized polar bear (creativereview.co.uk)
- The Radicality of the Puppet Theatre – Aurora’s Ice Walk (vosleska.wordpress.com)