The Man Engine is the UK’s largest mechanical puppet, designed to raise public awareness and engagement with Cornwall’s mining history.
The Cornwall and West Devon UNESCO Mining World Heritage site needed a flagship project to celebrate their tenth anniversary. They commissioned Golden Tree Productions to create the Man Engine and associated activities.
- increase awareness, appreciation and understanding of Cornish mining culture and history,
- facilitate public engagement, providing an interpretative legacy for the future,
- show a new generation that Cornwall can be a world class driver for technical innovation.
- The UKs largest ever mechanical puppet, 11 m tall, was built to be the centre of a show for open spaces (e.g. town centres, Geevor Mine Museum) throughout the Cornish mining district. The Man Engine made a 21 date pilgrimage, with a 50 minute ceremony based around storytelling, theatre and song.
- In addition there were associated education activities which worked with Camborne School of Mines (University of Exeter), Geevor Tin Mine and others to hold workshops for school children that used song, Cornish language, art and practical STEM activities to teach about Cornwall’s mining history, showing that Cornwall can be a world class driver of tech innovation, and mentioning the importance of contemporary mining.
- The project worked with local choirs and community groups teaching traditional songs and mining history.
- General public and tourists in Cornwall, Regional authorities, World Heritage site, all the mining-related organisations
The project secured funding of £474,000 and received in-kind support of £416,650. 41 artists were engaged, 50 volunteer ambassadors, 390 volunteer stewards.
Evidence of success
The project reached a direct audience of 149,400 in the region, 112 million by print and broadcast media, and 24.85 million by social media. The education programme reached 1421 pupils and 80 teachers. It is estimated that the project had an economic impact of £2,973,060. The project won the UK National Heritage Lottery award for the best arts project in 2016.
The Man Engine’s success prompted a ’Resurrection tour’ in 2018, travelling to current and historical mining communities across the UK.
The Man Engine ceremonies were more popular than expected and the time and resources needed to recruit and train stewards for crowd control was underestimated. This meant a specialist crowd control company was needed and in some towns the route of the Man Engine had to be changed to ensure safety.
Potential for learning or transfer
- The REMIX project has noted that a major barrier to mining in Europe is the public’s belief that ‘Europe doesn’t mine’. Innovative projects like the Man Engine that reach large numbers of people, celebrating Europe’s strong mining heritage are an important way of changing that perception.
Areas which have a proud mining heritage are likely to welcome re-starting of mining activities and funding for mining–related business development. Creating an environment in which Europe can produce more of its own raw materials, especially for high technology applications (including critical raw materials) is a high priority in Europe.
- An important learning point is that concentrating time and resources into one large project, rather than many small projects, can result in a larger impact.
- The Man Engine toured the UK in 2018. A European Man Engine tour in 2020 is planned. Regions may be able to take direct advantage of the Man Engine by inviting it to their region.