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Beakerhead 2021: DAVID ascends downtown tower

By Ramiro Bustamante Torres, October 20 2021—

The return of Beakerhead was short but nevertheless exciting. There was a hesitant return of the usual interactive events this year but the organizers have been able to make a comeback that attracted a sizable crowd. 

“It’s really important for us to show up this year. It’s been challenging for all nonprofit organizations to figure out how to maneuver and adjust during the pandemic,” said Jennifer Martin, interim-CEO of Beakerhead. Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases and new provincial restrictions, many events had been postponed or cancelled altogether. In 2020, the Beakerhead festival was not held.

This year, the festival was held at the south parking lot of Eau Claire Market alongside the Calgary International Film Festival (CIFF) on Sept. 24. Old Beakerhead favourites could be found during the festivities like “Steely T” — a giant turtle contraption with protrusions that would spout flames. Nibbles — inflatable lit-up bunnies — also made an appearance that day where some last saw them at the UCalgaryStrong Festival 2019 courtesy of Beakerhead. Amongst the many attractions where folks were encouraged to “wonder” around and discover, the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science had a presentation, performing various science demonstrations. 

“How can we do something highly visible that many people could take in and experience and engage with and still be sensitive to our conditions?” said Martin. 

During the one-day festival, there was a special event called THE ASCENT. The feat of scaling 39 floors of Devon Tower — across from Eau Claire Market — was performed by DAVID, a giant metal marionette that had two supporting cables to hoist it up and fifteen other cables for the puppeteer and operators to articulate the marionette. DAVID is the largest marionette in North America at a height of 34 feet. The event was observed by the crowd below and people at home had the opportunity to watch via live-stream, as DAVID ascended from the side of Devon Tower through the evening, culminating to reaching the summit and celebrated with fireworks. 

“DAVID is a Canadian art piece, a group called The Underground Circus created him. He’s been in other situations before — this is not his first time, but it is his first time climbing a building. So the amount of engineering that went into making that work is amazing. [You] think about the engineering and the art of the puppeteering. That’s exactly what Beakerhead is all about.” said Martin. The STEAM-inspired festival that Beakerhead had this year is one for the books.

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