Final countdown to monumental Man Engine

Wheal Coates Kirstin Prisk


Final touches are being made to the colossal Cornish Mining behemoth, before it is revealed for the very first time on 25th July

The UK’s largest ever mechanical puppet, an epic 10 metre plus Cornish Mining Man Engine, is preparing to ‘awaken’ and undertake his historic journey the entire length of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, some 130 miles, over two weeks of major celebrations.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape being added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership has commissioned an exciting summer-long set of inspirational events and experiential happenings entitled Tinth. The most spectacular event is the two week awe-inspiring journey of the Man Engine – a monumental moving, steaming ‘beast’, the likes of which has never been seen before – who will make his way from Tavistock to the far western tip of Cornwall between 25th July and the 6th August 2016.

The largest mechanical puppet ever made in Britain, the ‘miner’ is a major feat of Cornish engineering. The same height as a double decker bus when in his ‘crawling’ mode, the Man Engine will ‘transform’ to almost three times that height when stood up. Throughout his journey the part man, part machine will be accompanied by animated theatrical shows with music, theatre and storytelling, created by a team of more than a dozen ‘miners’ and ‘bal-maidens’ who will animate the giant throughout his travels.

The in-depth stories of five key historical figures, whose lives and impacts were woven throughout the 18th to early 20th century industrial era of Cornwall and West Devon mining, will unfold as the Man Engine makes his way across west Devon and Cornwall. Over 1,200 schoolchildren have been working on inspirational projects, linking history, science, engineering and creativity, to bring a set of pageant wagons to each key stop, illustrating their new-found understanding of how the Cornish mining culture has shaped their 21st century world.

Golden Tree Productions, the creators of the Man Engine, have been building the behemoth at a top secret location and have purposefully only shared scant details of how the Man Engine will work.

His imposing appearance, and workings, will only be revealed to the world, as it awakens for the first time in Tavistock, West Devon, at 10am on Monday 25th July. In preparation, right across Cornwall and west Devon, the Golden Tree team has been running singing rehearsals, teaching the Cornish Language chant, the ‘Haka Balweyth’ and the ‘Hard Rock Miner’ anthem because the Man Engine will only be coaxed to fully stand up if enough people sing!

From 25th July to 6th August the colossal Man Engine will make his journey through Poldark country from Tavistock to Geevor Tin Mine. The Man Engine will visit each one of the ten World Heritage Site mining areas, opening the storybook of the industrial mining era and its powerful lasting legacy as it goes.

Coming alive in Tavistock’s Bedford Square, the Man Engine’s awakening will witnessed by locals and holidaymakers alike. Street music and historical mining walks and tours around the historic stannary town will be in place for the first lucky observers of the monumental puppet’s inaugural transformation.

In Liskeard, the first Cornish town to receive the Man Engine and his trailblazing cavalcade, thousands will throng the streets with music, dance and the ‘Liskeard Bun.’ A major street mural is also being painted to commemorate the staggering event. Later that day brass bands and performers will greet the Man Engine as he arrives at Minions, high on Bodmin Moor. Further on into Cornwall, Truro will present the Man Engine with an ingot of Tin recovered from a shipwreck.

In a penultimate evening extravaganza, the whole town of Penzance is set to come ablaze with activity with thousands of people taking to the streets in fancy dress in a steampunk crossed with traditional tin mining style. An exhilarating spectacle of engineering ‘Innovation and Invention’, will take place all day long with a mine cart soap box derby in Market Jew Street, heritage hubs, historical walks, food and farmers markets, a Man Engine making competition in street windows and a DJ night at the newly re-opened Jubilee Pool (lido.)

As evening falls, a 25 foot Humphry Davy puppet will appear and parade through town to meet the colossal Man Engine, offering him the gift of a massive Davy Safety Lamp as Penzance’s overall motif to honour locally-born Humphry Davy’s critical role in the invention of the Davy lamp, which safeguarded the lives of millions of miners.

The Man Engine is the brainchild of Will Coleman, founder and director of Golden Tree Productions. He said, “Kernow, our horn-shaped granite kingdom of Cornwall, is a tiny 0.002% of the planet’s surface, yet beneath our rocky shores can be found samples of more than 90% of all mineral species ever identified. Millions of years in the making, the geology of Cornwall is unique. This unbelievable geological treasure (copper, tin, arsenic, lead, zinc, silver, etc) has powered the Cornish people’s endeavour through 4,000 years of mining history: innovation, triumph and heartbreak. I was brought up on the banks of the River Tamar with the stories and the legacy of Cornish mining all around me. The landscape is deeply rooted in the impacts of that industry and in the successes and the struggles of the real people whose lives shaped our Cornish mining story.”

Will continues, “The creation and build of the Man Engine at our top secret location has taken us through a whole set of deep challenges, but we are now adding the final touches as our colossal beast prepares to take centre stage, and make this timely pilgrimage of more than 100 miles throughout our homeland.”

Cllr Julian German, Chairman of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site Partnership says, “The World Heritage Site’s Tinth Anniversary has something for everyone – schoolchildren, the general public, the wider community, visitors to the WHS and also to the Cornish mining diaspora across the globe. Our Cornish mining ancestors were international entrepreneurs, who propelled mining into a new industrial era, on a worldwide scale. It wasn’t an easy journey for anyone then, and in many ways, it is a difficult history. However, this year Tinth is bringing alive the past, showing its meaning and significance in the present – and for the future.”

Cllr German continues, “Special projects like the towering Man Engine show we still share this same gritty ambition and ingenuity with our ancestors. Alongside our other Tinth events, the Man Engine will quite literally elevate Cornish Mining on a massive scale, highlighting its distinctiveness and importance through rich stories and spectacle. We will be taking people right across the peninsula on a series of adventures and experiences that help them to learn, understand and ultimately feel great about their own and their community’s heritage.”

To find out exactly what’s happening at each of the twenty stops and learn where you can see this truly amazing visual spectacle, visit and immerse yourself in the Man Engine world with a bespoke interactive map.

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