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‘Bouncy Stonehenge’ aims to please history buffs and fun-seekers alike

James Carretero, center, of Spain, jokes around as he and other workers install the Sacrilege, a life-sized inflatable replica of Stonehenge, Saturday, July 21, 2012, in Greenwich, London.

Jae C. Hong/AP

"We've had a few Druids," said Jeremy Deller. "I think they quite enjoyed it."

Druids bouncing on an inflatable Stonehenge: maybe it could be a new Olympic sport?

The Turner Prize-winning artist was standing next to his latest work, which is technically called Sacrilege but is known to everyone who's enjoyed it as simply, "bouncy Stonehenge."

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As he watched, dozens of children and their parents leapt with abandon and squealed with glee around the life-sized representation of the famous Wiltshire standing stones. "I just wanted to make something that was open to the public, and free, and fun," he said.

The actual, ancient Stonehenge is one of Britain's most famous tourist attractions, a monument whose origins are shrouded in mystery, where pagans still gather to celebrate the solstice each summer. Sacrilege, which is part of the Cultural Olympiad of art and performance across Britain, is quickly gaining in popularity.

Even in the pouring rain on Hampstead Heath in north London, a half-hour long queue stretched in front of the giant inflatable and its hand-painted standing stones, which are rather wobblier than their real counterparts. It costs nothing to bounce, and the rules are simple: no shoes, no sharp objects, no human sacrifice.

"We haven't had any human sacrifices yet, but we've had a few grazed knees and banged heads, and one arrest," Mr. Deller said. (The arrest was not serious, "just a teenager being a teenager.")

After ten minutes of bouncing, exhausted parents and ecstatic children stumble off the jiggly monument. "Parents are always glad to get off after ten minutes," Mr. Deller said. "Kids could go forever." It is, indeed, a hearty workout: human sacrifice would probably be less exhausting.

Mr. Deller created the artwork/gargantuan toy in conjunction with Inflatable World Leisure Ltd., a Nottingham company that lays claim to the invention of the bouncy castle. Like the artist's other work, it's both cheeky and serious, with one eye on entertainment and one eye on history (he once restaged a violent confronation between miners and police as a piece of perfornance art.)

Sacrilege has been so popular on its 26-stop tour of Britain that there's now talk of taking it abroad, with Canada a possible destination. As long as we remember the rules.

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About the Author
Columnist and Feature Writer

Elizabeth Renzetti has worked at The Globe and Mail as a columnist, reporter, and editor of the Books and Review sections. From 2003 to 2012, she was a member of the Globe's London-based European bureau. Her Saturday column is published on page A2 of the news section, and her features appear regularly in Focus. More

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