World’s largest polar bear puppet to lead Arctic mass parade to Westminster and Shell’s HQ

For immediate release



The
sight of a double-decker-bus-size polar bear marionette lumbering past the
Houses of Parliament and unleashing a glacial roar at oil giant Shell’s HQ is
going to be among the highlights of a street parade which will stream through
central London on 15 September calling for the fragile Arctic to be protected.

The
family-friendly event organised by Greenpeace will see hundreds of people in
polar bear and other Arctic-themed costumes walk and cycle over Westminster
Bridge and past the London Eye on their way to the Shell Centre, in protest
against the oil giant’s plans to drill in the Arctic. The London parade will be
the spectacular highlight of Ice Ride, a global day of action to protect the
Arctic marked by mass cycling events happening in 75 cities worldwide, from
Bangkok to Johannesburg, Toronto to Mexico City.

The
event will happen around the time of the Arctic sea ice minimum, the moment in
late summer when the ice sheet around the North Pole shrinks to its smallest
size. Last year the extent of the sea ice plunged to a historic low, and this
year is expected to be among the five lowest ever recorded. As the ice edge
retreats, oil companies are pushing their rigs further north to extract oil and
gas from areas of the ocean previously covered by frozen water.

Oil companies see the disappearing ice as just another
opportunity to drill for more of the oil and other fossil fuels which are
causing the melting in the first place,”
explains Greenpeace Arctic
campaigner Sara Ayech. “For
all those who were inspired by the six activists who climbed the Shard back in
July, this is a chance to take action and tell Shell and other oil giants that
we don’t want their drilling rigs anywhere near the pristine Arctic.”

Leading
the Ice Ride parade past some of London’s most iconic landmarks will be Aurora,
a 41-foot long and 16-foot tall polar bear puppet specially commissioned for
the event as a manifestation of the movement to save the Arctic. A team of 15
puppeteers, including artists who worked on West End blockbuster War Horse, will operate
the giant marionette from the inside through pulleys and ropes, giving her
highly realistic movements. As well as having a bear’s characteristic curved
gait, the three-tonne puppet is fully articulated and can move her head and
jaws, while the fabric-covered sides billow in the wind, creating a
breathing-like motion.

The
puppeteers will be directed by Mark Jefferis, a master of this art form who starred
in the award-winning satirical puppet show Spitting
Image
, and film legend Peter Elliot, who has portrayed apes and
other animals in Hollywood blockbusters including Gorillas in the Mist and Congo, and choreographed
the fictional beasts in the film version of Where
the Wild Things Are
.

The
giant bear, which is made of replica and reclaimed ship parts as well as
recycled materials, will be carrying in her fur the names of over 3 and half
million people who have joined the global movement to protect the Arctic from
industrial exploitation. Thanks to a built-in sound system, as she moves Aurora
will create a polar soundscape that incorporates sounds of ice cracking, Arctic
wildlife, guttural rumblings and deafening bellows, including roars ‘donated’
by both children and adults.

The
giant bear also features two seats, one on each shoulder, suspended five metres
above the ground, on which Greenpeace is offering two members of the public a
chance to ride Aurora for part of the parade. People can enter their name in a
draw by visiting www.greenpeace.org.uk/aurora.
Aurora will be followed by hundreds of supporters including Arctic-inspired
carnivalesque performers.

On
the day three separate cycle rides starting from Victoria Park Pavilion,
Alexandra Palace, and Richmond Rail Station will also converge on Westminster
to feed into the main parade.

“By taking the world’s largest polar bear into the heart
of London we want to bring an ‘Arctic uproar’ right to the doorstep of Arctic
villain Shell and make sure our decision-makers in Westminster take notice of
what’s happening to the frozen north,”
commented Sara Ayech.

She
added: “It’s the first time
that this millions-strong global movement has taken to the streets to demand
international protection for one of the most beautiful and fragile parts of our
planet. We hope Aurora will inspire everyone who sees her to stand up to
Shell’s reckless Arctic ambitions and join the movement to save the Arctic.”

“What happens to the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic.
If we allow our addiction to dirty fossil fuel to destroy this region, we’re
all going to pay the price for it. We need to get this message to oil companies
like Shell before it’s too late, and show them that the world is watching,”
she said.

Oil
giant Shell has been at the forefront of a new Arctic ‘gold rush’ which has
seen some of the world’s biggest oil companies move their rigs further north in
a bid to extract oil and gas from areas of the ocean previously covered by ice.
After a botched attempt to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska, Shell has
shifted its ambitions to the Russian Arctic by partnering up with Gazprom, a
company notorious for its chequered environmental and safety records.

ENDS

Pictures
of the bear’s ‘making of’ are available.

People
can sign up here to find out more about the event and enter the draw to ride
Aurora: www.greenpeace.org.uk/aurora

Twitter:
#Iceride

Notes to editors

The route:

The
parade’s starting point will be Victoria Tower Gardens, the green space at the
southern end of the Houses of Parliament. From there, the parade will head to
Parliament Square and cross Westminster Bridge to then turn left towards
Jubilee Garden, where it will stop right in front of Shell’s HQ on the South
bank. The parade will start at about 12pm and is expected to reach the Shell
Centre any time between 3 and 3:30pm.

The bear

Fashion
and props designer Christopher Kelly, winner of the Dazed and Confused Fashion
in Film award, has created the giant bear after taking early consultation with
fashion set designer Simon Costin, who works with the likes of fashion
photographer Tim Walker and fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Aurora has been
manufactured by Factory Settings, whose client list includes Lady Gaga,
Punchdrunk, Royal Opera House, the London 2012 closing ceremony and the opening
ceremony for the Paralympics.

Contact:
Stefano Gelmini, Greenpeace UK press office, 07506 512 442 or 020 7865 8213, stefano.gelmini@greenpeace.org


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