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Wire Walker Philippe Petit Returns


This evening marks a very special - and dangerous - performance at St John Cathedral. At six o’clock, famous man on the wire Philippe Petit will once again defy gravity. Marine Saint went to see the preparations for tonight’s show.

[Sounds from St John the Divine Morning Prayer]


Installed in St John the Divine is a new feature. A tightrope suspended 20ft in the air. It’s surrounded by over 1000 multicolored ribbons inscribed by prayers. 


Immediately I got the idea that if the wire was crossing the nave high enough for me to pass through the ribbons instead of underneath, then I could walk a bit like a boat on a lake. I could create a wake with a ribbon that responds to my passage. 

SAINT:  That’s Phillippe Petit. He’s best known for illegally walking the wire between the twin towers 50 years ago. He’s an artist in residence at the cathedral and his performance tonight, the first at the cathedral in a decade, is sold out. It’s required thorough technical and mental preparation.

PETIT: I practice on the floor. I time myself. It's like an actor preparing for a Broadway show.

SAINT: But 20ft in air, Petit knows there’s much more at stake.

PETIT: I really have looked at all the aspects technically and artistically, and there is nothing left to chance. And that's what allowed me to do what I call a beautiful walk, because I'm not thinking, Oh my God, I hope the wire is strong enough, you know?

SAINT: Petit is often mistaken for a circus performer, but he considers himself an artist.

PETIT: In America, when you talk about wire walkers, immediately the mind goes to the circus. And the interesting thing for me is I was not born in the circus. My parents hated what I wanted to do. I had to fight them and all that. I learned by myself. And under the influence of arts.

SAINT: People nonetheless recognise Petit for his long career of daring walks.

PETIT: And you wonder why I was not afraid. So all those things are quite beautiful. But it's not my aim to inspire people.

SAINT: Still, Laura Bosley is hoping his performance will do exactly that. She plans events for the cathedral. 


We love when he walks here because there's something about these soaring ceilings we have here and having somebody being up there and walking when we are here down on the ground, there's something it's actually very spiritual. I think, just to sort of have that connection.

SAINT: But there are worldly considerations too. Tickets for tonight’s show can be as high as Petit’s work, up to $1000.

BOSLEY: Nothing is free. So every time even art costs money to make art. But we know that the return is going to be wonderful when it's Philippe. 

SAINT: You may be nervous about tonight’s performance, but Petit certainly isn’t. Marine Saint, Columbia Radio News


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