The Giant Puppet Project

What we say: 3.5 stars

Fancy a night of joy, madness, music, dance and ginormous puppetry (no, that is not a euphemism)? Then keep an eye out for The Giant Puppet Parade, the culmination of the Giant Puppet Project and one the biggest nights of the year in Siem Reap. It’s an occasion to let the kids from the many children’s organisations around town to stand out and really shine. The whole event is a wonder to behold, and you definitely mustn’t miss it if you’re here.

Fun, fabulous and fantastical

Fun, fabulous and fantastical.

Before the parade, over three weeks of workshops with a gang of mad artists from England and the Phare Ponleu Selpak arts school in Battambang, the kids will have created the most enormous rattan and tissue illuminated puppets, some as long as 30 metres. Yes, you read that right.

Then on Saturday 25 February at 19:00, they unleash them on the world in a magical whirl of colour and sound with a street parade that starts beside Old Market, then around town and up the river, coming to an end in the Raffles Riverside Gardens. Thousands of people throng the streets to see them, dancing and singing with them, and throwing themselves into the atmosphere of happiness and laughter.

Proud, and loud. Dance, music, light and colour, all the ingredients for wonderful

Proud, and loud.

It is, without a doubt, one of the highlights of the year here in Siem Reap. For the kids, it’s a massive confidence building exercise. They learn not only that the seemingly impossible can be possible, through construction of something they never knew how to make before, but the positive feedback and public appreciation of their efforts is massively important for children who’ve been brought up to expect little. For the crowds, the chance to participate in such an event is unforgettable.

Crowds are enthralled, and it can be just as entertaining watching the local kids watching, jaws dropped

Crowds are enthralled, and it can be just as entertaining to watch local kids watching, jaws dropped.

The subjects for the puppets are not selected randomly by the organisers either. Each of them has a particular message or theme related to issues such as road safety, hygiene, the environment and the value of education. In the course of building them, the organisers (Bina Hanley from the McDermott Gallery and architect Stuart Cochlin) bring in representatives from different organisations to talk to the kids about the subject matter, such as the Angkor Centre for Conservation and Biodiversity, or the Sam Veasna Centre.

Don’t miss the Giant Puppet Project; it’s one of the most uplifting events you may ever see.

Photos courtesy of the Giant Puppet Project.

Last updated: 11th October, 2014

About the author:
Nicky Sullivan is an Irish freelance writer (and aspiring photographer). She has lived in England, Ireland, France, Spain and India, but decided that her tribe and heart are in Cambodia, where she has lived since 2007 despite repeated attempts to leave. She dreams of being as tough as Dervla Murphy, but fears there may be a long way to go. She can’t stand whisky for starters. She was a researcher, writer and coordinator for The Angkor Guidebook: Your Essential Companion to the Temples, now one of the best-selling guidebooks to the temples.
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