When we commissioned the work for Aurora, the world’s biggest polar bear, the Shard had never been climbed. The 6 women who then climbed it on 11 July had not yet inspired thousands of people through their epic ice climb to save the Arctic. Greenpeace hadn’t yet said: what will you do?
All summer, we’ve been busy creating a space where people can come together to celebrate the Arctic and take a stand to stop it being destroyed. We’ve worked hard to make this an exciting, creative and carnivalesque day that will be fun for all ages. We’ll have the biggest polar bear in the world and a wonderful team of puppeteers to bring it to life. Some of them are even from the West End’s Warhorse!
Bringing the magnificence of the Arctic and the people that want to save it to the streets of London is no small challenge. But as we all know, things are getting serious up there at the pole – oil companies like Shell are falling over their greedy selves to get at the oil that’s only accessible during the Arctic summer months. Rubbing their hands together as the ice retreats. That’s why this is exactly the right time of year (around the moment when the sea ice is at it’s smallest) to make sure that Shell is brought face-to-face with the thing it wants to destroy: the Arctic.
We wanted a bear of mythic proportions – we’ve called her Aurora after the Northern Lights as well as the collective noun for polar bears. We wanted her to be inspired by The Sultan’s Elephant, by the warrior bears in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, to take from contemporary puppetry like Warhorse, to be a nod to steampunk classics such as The City of Lost Children and of course, to embody the Arctic and the polar bear.
Vast, terrifyingly beautiful, noble, intimidating and soulful – these were the kinds of words that formed the creative brief for Aurora – the world’s biggest polar bear. When we commissioned the designer we said that this bear must be awe-inspiring: that anyone who saw her must be astounded – must think, how did they do that?
We want this bear to become the totem of all those people who have signed up to save the Arctic since the campaign began last year. She represents the collective global ‘roar’ of Greenpeace supporters. The ambition and hopes of everyone who’s worried about climate change coming together in this one global day of action on 15 September. When all over the world people are taking to the streets for the Arctic.
I'd love it if you could be there. Because if ever we needed to create a collective mind-blowing uproar, if ever we’re going to gather enough momentum to make a noise that Shell will listen to, it’s now. We can’t do it without you.
Hannah Davey is Actions Creator at Greenpeace and is overseeing the project.