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Big wheel keeps on turning

Europe’s biggest travelling wheel has rolled into Williamson Square, all decked out in 28,000 festive lights. We step aboard and discover what all the screams are about

Published on November 13th 2006.

Big wheel keeps on turning

It’s 10 of the longest minutes of your life, and not best experienced after a gigantic meal. Are we talking about that quaint annual ritual of clearing up wheelie bin carnage from your garden the morning after Mischief Night? No, this is something far hairier.

Kids: Meet the city’s newest attraction, Europe’s biggest travelling big wheel.
Biggest travelling big wheel: Welcome to Liverpool where you have quietly trundled in, without fanfare, to amuse the population in the run-up to Christmas.

Indeed, it was proving hard to find out any official information about the big wheel: the people at the city council press office pointed us towards the people at Liverpool’s Business Improvement District, from where we were sent back to a person in a different council department. Round and round we were going, just like a big wheel, in fact. Then Peter Lewis, city centre neighbourhood team leader, came to the phone.

Oh, but stop it. What is there to know about Williamson Square’s mighty new resident? You get in it, it goes up, it comes down, it goes up again. Well the London Eye it ain’t. For those who like their heights as sanitised as possible, don’t go expecting a nice warm enclosure where they bolt the glass doors and gently glide you towards the heavens with the option to stage your very own private VIP party at a premium.

Here, the small but colourful gondolas are open to the elements, they spin around and it’s up to you how tightly you hold on to your shopping/children/stomach as you soar 115ft into the sky at a fair old whoosh for £2.50. Feel the wind in your hair, keep your mouth shut, duck the seagulls and don’t look down.

And as for a party? Well, each gondola on the German-made wheel, which is a perpetual traveller of European cities, holds just six people, and the only whizz you’ll experience is that from the carriages themselves: anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs is strictly barred, warns a big notice in one language: English.

“2,000 people have been on it so far. Just one drunk person and these guys who operate it don’t take any prisoners,” said a satisfied Mr Lewis who was keen to point out that the wheel, which spent nine heady years in Hamburg, has been decorated with 28,000 white lights as part of Liverpool’s biggest festive illuminations to date.

It is an atmospheric addition to the square and, when the Continental Market is taking place at its foot, you can come over all Third Man for a moment.

Then you realise it’s not the strains of the Harry Lime Theme on a zither you can hear but Baz the trumpet player, on an Awayday from Bold Street, and the screams of riders as they get to the top for the first time.

So, for once, a wheelie is going down well in in the city. It will therefore leave in January when the lights come down…in other words, before we have a chance to paint it purple.

Angie Sammons
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