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  • ursulaburns2

Waking a 50ft Giant, with a harp....

It's Monday morning.

I lie in bed nursing a sprained ankle. There is always a pressure when you are performing to stay well, healthy and get onstage. The bigger the show, the more pressure.

This weekend I was performing at the Wake the Giant Festival in Warrenpoint.

Firstly let me say that Frankie Morgan is a Genius and a master at his craft.

I first came across his work when I toured with Watercress the band. Frankie designed their first album artwork in the 90s. It was an iconic starfish. Then, I bought my son his beautiful masterpiece book, A beautiful illustrated hardback book of Dragons.

When Frankie and his wife Christine approached me to play the FaeryQueen in the Wake the Giant show, I was delighted.

It was quite the challenge for me to learn the script and I was getting plenty of strange looks as I rehearsed on the Beach at Helen's Bay Mostly in the summer rain, pre my daily swim. laughing like an evil queen and hexing the wind and the waves.

When I was wee, I wanted to act. With severe dyslexia my sight-reading skills were poor. I never survived an audition, so I gave up. Now, trying to learn the scripts, I cursed and spluttered and sweated the small stuff wondering how my actor friends cope.

I asked Frankie to take some of the words out but when I got updated scripts for the two shows, I swear there were more.

I had many concerns. I was to swirl onto the stage through a portal with 25 local children whilst playing the harp. I told Frankie I needed a throne, for the harp and tech - so he built me one. I told the production manager I needed a soundcheck and so did the local musicians who were joining us for the second show.

Considering there were 4 giant puppets, sound design, 25 children, 3 actors and a harp for the first show that was terrifying.

I had already been booked to do a musical performance in the Bandstand in the park. An hour-long solo set that went well and when I finished my set I jumped into my Feary Queen costume and ran around to meet Giant Finn McCool who was arriving by boat on the tail end of an amber warning storm.

It was a miracle the gig even happened, considering the storm had been fierce.

With this in mind, the thousands of people who lined the streets seemed extra happy to see Finn. A work of living art, with eyes blinking, arms waving, 50-foot Finn McCool rode into town like a boss up Main Street and parked his bike beside the stage.

During the parade, I sprained my ankle. I was finding it really hard to walk but NOTHING would stop me from getting on stage that night. The other Actors Keith Singleton and Roslyn Byrne Sheridan were a treat and I took strength from their brilliance, confidence and professionalism.

Dealing with all the elements of an outdoor large-scale ambitious project we were delighted as we plunged ourselves out of our comfort zone and into the shows. The gasps and faces of the audience made it so worthwhile. The local musicians including Roslyn's Daughter, Brenna, sang and played the harp. The Wake the Giant festival is a spectacle that the willpower of Frankie and Christine Morgan has created.

This is the kind of job I love. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and into pastures new. For all the challenges that come with dragging the harp into and around these things. It really is magic when I get to call a 50-foot Giant to come to life and enchant a whole town. Next time you see Wake the Giant Festival advertised.....take the day off work and GO!

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