Little Amal’s trans-European journey begins its final phase on Tuesday when the giant puppet of a nine-year-old Syrian girl reaches the UK.
Little Amal – 3.5 meters tall – will arrive in Folkestone, Kent, as part of an initiative to raise awareness of the problems faced by young migrants.
The project, called The Walk, is by the team that reproduced the refugee camp of Calais The Jungle on stage.
David Lan, a producer, said it was “challenging” but “incredible”.
In Folkestone, Little Amal will appear on the beach to the sound of bells, before moving onto a disused railway where local choirs and singers will perform a new work by Anil Sebastian of London Contemporary Voices.
Little Amal was built by the Handspring Puppet Company, which previously made the equine stars of the stage version of War Horse.
Director Stephen Daldry, another producer, previously said Little Amal was “possibly the most ambitious public art project ever attempted”.
It takes three puppeteers to operate the puppet; a wader that also gives life to his face and one on each of his arms.
There is a total team of 11 puppeteers, including two from refugee backgrounds. The puppet is made of shaped cane and carbon fiber.
Little Amal, whose name means “hope” in Arabic, began her 5,000km journey in Gaziantep, Turkey, on July 27 and traveled through Greece, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and France.
The aim was to shed light on the stories of the millions of displaced refugee children he represents.
On the final leg of her journey, Little Amal will visit Canterbury, London, Oxford, Coventry, Birmingham, Sheffield and Barnsley before the 14-week traveling street theater complex concludes in Manchester on 3 November.
Since leaving Gaziantep, Little Amal and her entourage of around 25 people have had to contend with Covid’s border requirements to cross to cross to the next country on their itinerary.
Along the way they took part in concerts, parties and workshops. And in Rome, little Amal was welcomed by Pope Francis.
Thousands of locals walked with her through their town or village. Only in one place has hostility been found: Kalambaka, in northern Greece.
The village council said it did not want to welcome a “Muslim doll from Syria”.
In London, Little Amal will celebrate its 10th birthday, with a cake designed by chef Yotam Ottolenghi, on Sunday 24 October on the occasion of a party at the V&A, to which children from all over the capital have been invited.
Art director Amir Nizar Zuabi said the visit to London was “a new adventure”.
“This is a bittersweet moment of meeting a city he has heard a lot about, but also coming of age as he celebrates his first birthday away from his parents.”
There will also be events throughout the city, including St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Cathedral, Royal Opera House, V&A, Southbank Center, Roundhouse, National Theater and Trafalgar Square.
And while The Walk will culminate in Manchester, there will be a free large-scale outdoor event titled When the Birds Land, produced by the Manchester International Festival.
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