Godiva has woken, taken her first cautious steps, blinked her enormous blue eyes, closed them, and gone back to sleep again.Jane Hytch, Imagineer director, steers Godiva as she makes her first tentative steps
The giant puppet of Coventry's most famous resident, is gradually taking towering shape in an industrial estate on its outskirts.
When she stands up she is already an impressive sight – her full appearance will be kept a secret until July – which presented the engineering team, led by John Owen of Coventry University and Roger Medwell of NP Aerospace, with their first major challenge.
The 10m tall puppet will be the centrepiece of a carnival in Coventry, before she sets off down the A5, seated on a horse propelled by 100 cyclists, reaching London and the Olympics a week later.
She will be far too tall to fit under any of the bridges spanning the road, and so her throne and steed have been designed to squash down to a travelling height, and then rise up when she arrives at an overnight stop.
A separate machine takes over, a confection of bits of old cars, bicycles, a school desk, the chrome head lamps from a vintage lorry, and most of a fork lift truck, when she wants to stand up and walk on feet the size of sofas.
Unlike the lady of legend, who rode naked through Coventry covered only by her flowing locks to protest against unjust taxes, this Godiva has short hair and will be spectacularly clothed.
While a river of hand printed gold silk pours across the warehouse floor to be cut into her coat, she is wearing a size 54 dressing gown — so big that the buttons are made from cloth covered beer mats.
The puppet was designed by Imagineer Productions working with local engineers, mechanics, academics, metal workers, fabric printers, and the designer Zandra Rhodes who is working with Coventry University students on creating a hand embroidered dress and iron corset.
Godiva Awakes is part of the Arts Council backed Artists Taking The Lead series of 12 major public arts commissions across the UK to celebrate the Olympics. The project already involves up to 1,000 people, including the cyclists and a choir of 150 rehearsing the music composed by Ilona Sekacz.
Medwell takes a pragmatic view of Godiva's undoubted beauty: he hopes students will look at the lovely rods and gears behind her fibreglass knees, the gorgeous ball joints of her huge wrists, and be inspired to study engineering and revive the Midlands' heritage of design and manufacturing genius.
"We've got to inspire young people to want to make things again," he said fiercely, "real skills, real things — or we're finished."