Archaeological records show that Stilt Walkers date as far back as 6th century BC in ancient Greece. Historical and current uses of Stilts include getting through swamps, watching animals from height, crossing rivers, repairing buildings and plastering.
But the best great historical and modern use of Stilt Walkers is entertainment! Stilts are used throughout the world for festivals, parades and every sort of event you can imagine. There are a huge range of different costumes possible on Stilts and there is no limit to the creative possibilities – if you can dream it up then someone likely has a Stilt version of it! In this article I cover some common misconceptions about Stilt Walkers at events, discuss the various types of Stilts available and give some insight into unique concepts we have created at Highly Flammable over the years.
5 common misconceptions about hiring Stilt Walkers:
1. They might fall on someone
One of the perceived risks of having Stilt Walkers at events is the possibility of them falling and hurting themselves or worse, event guests. Reasons for this perceived risk include things like crowded events with limited space and unstable ground. Stilts are also seen as high, scary, and unstable when you look up at them!
However when done safely and correctly many of these risks are removed. Our Highly Flammable talent are trained in being able to handle a wide variety of situations and surfaces. In addition we now commonly use ‘Bouncy Stilts’ which are slightly lower, more stable and more interactive – more on this later.
2. They will hit their head on our roof!
One of the biggest misconceptions is Stilt Walkers being ‘too tall’ for most venues! Though this can be true for some really tall Stilts (a world record is 17-meter-high stilts!), most of the time venues are high enough for our Stilt Walkers. However there are a few situations and venues where ‘straight stilts’ won’t work – this is another reason and use for ‘Bouncy Stilts’ which are not as tall.
3. Our event is on grass/Up and down stairs/slopes
It’s often perceived that Stilt Walkers need flat and hard ground. Although this can make things slightly easier – Stilt Walkers can actually handle a wide range of surfaces and can usually walk up steps or slopes; this is one of the reasons why we always have a ground support person at Highly Flammable! Again – Bouncy Stilts are better at this! However there are a few types of floors and situations that can be really bad for Stilt Walkers; ones that are wet with a plastic or shiny surface (like vinyl) or smooth tiles. Water can turn some surfaces into ice skating rinks and ice skating on Stilts is not fun! Though once again this is where our Stilt training and ground support is super important in avoiding these surfaces and situations!
4. We had Stilt Walkers last year
Event managers sometimes want something different each year for their event – this makes perfect sense – keep things interesting, new, and fresh. However with the vast variety of possibilities of Stilt Walking characters out there; I know its incredibly possible to have one of our stilting products which is diverse from the year before, and people will LOVE! Interestingly enough we find some of our clients even want exactly the same thing again since it was so effective – Mirrorman
(another concept we offer) is also a common example of this. People often love the recognition of something they have seen before – especially since roving characters create different experiences every time they perform!
5. Our event is not suitable for Stilt Walkers
I hear this quite a bit – especially from corporate events. People sometimes think Stilt Walkers are not suitable for their event, whether that be due to the theme or desired atmosphere being created. This is often due to past experiences with Clown-type Stilt Walkers they saw when they were younger or other Stilt Walking characters they have seen. One of the tasks I have at Highly Flammable is teaching people about the vast possibilities, as well as what is suitable – which I love to do!
Over the years we have done every event you can think of and every time we have amazing feedback. Sometimes I feel like our clients worry that they are taking a bit of a risk in having something a bit out there along – but every time this happens they tell me afterwards how ‘they really get it now!’. With our range of concepts and characters there is something for everyone and we often modify the characters based on the event (ie more monster-like versus more cheeky and fun Mythical Fauns; or Formal Stilt Walkers which are more reserved verses more outgoing and loud!).
Main types of Stilts
1. Straight Stilts
Straight Stilts (or ‘Pegs Stilts’) are very common and probably the most well known. These Stilts are effectively straight poles attached to a persons legs and feet. The kids version then has extended poles to hold onto. These are generally really tall (40cm – 2m) and are constructed from either a light metal or wood. The feet are usually strapped into a footplate and there are straps that attach just below the knee. We do use them at Highly Flammable – these days there is less demand and we have less concepts available on these Stilts.
2. Bouncy Stilts
These Stilts came out around 2005/2006 and have been called a wide variety of names such as Kangaroo Stilts, Sky Runners, Bouncy Feet, Powerbockers and Exercise Stilts. Inspired by amputee technology, these Stilts have fibreglass arcs which bend. They are lower to the ground and give the ability to bounce up to two metres into the air! We love these Stilts are they are more manoeuvrable, safer, easier to interact with guests on and generally more fun to perform on! We have developed a wide array of costumes and characters on these Stilts and are always looking for customisation opportunities!
3. Drywall Plastering Stilts
One fallback of Straight and Bouncy Stilts is that you cannot stand still! You either have to hold onto something or move around on the spot which can be exhausting. Another type of Stilts is ‘Drywall Plastering Stilts’ which allow you to stand still (so you can focus on plastering from a height). These Stilts are less common for performing, although there are some really amazing more complex concepts that can be developed using these Stilts.
4. Digilegs/other advanced Stilts
From here there are a variety of advanced, home-built and experimental Stilt types. Engineers and designers throughout the world have created some incredibly unique, interesting, and innovative Stilts including Digilegs which are amazing for portraying creatures. I look forward to seeing the next version of the Bouncy Stilts which gives height, great movements, extra stability, and look amazing!
Our characters we offer on Stilts
Over the years we have developed a tonne of different Stilt Walking characters and we are always on the look out to develop more for our clients. When we started we had a variety of colourful and clown type Stilt Walkers and then we moved into creatures; starting with the amazing Mythical Fauns. Some of the concepts were developed through in-house R&D projects; whereas others were created in-house based on client customisation needs. Here is the list moving from the more popular to the more specialised! If you’re interested in more information then please see our Stilt Walkers page
or get in touch