CHILDREN are being encouraged to use their creative skills to capture the Man Engine’s visit to Willington.

Thousands of people are expected to marvel at the largest mechanical puppet ever built in the UK when it stops of in the town on Saturday as part of a nationwide tour. It is its only visit to County Durham and is the biggest event to take place in the former mining community for decades.

Preparations for the visit are well underway and event organiser Northern Heartlands is determined to make it an unforgettable experience. It is especially keen to get children involved and has already arranged for 500 schoolchildren to parade through the town at 2.30pm ahead of the Man Engine’s performance at 3pm. The children will walk the same route as thousands of former colliery workers.

And this week, the team announced an exciting writing and illustration competition it is running for children at Hunwick, Our Lady St Thomas, St Stephens, Sunnybrow, Willington and Hartside primary schools.

Children are asked to write a story and draw a picture capturing the Man Engine’s visit to Willington. The winner will be featured in The Northern Echo and their story will be published in full on The Northern Echo website. The top five pictures and stories from each school will also receive a prize certificate and their work will be published on the Northern Heartlands website.

Powered by Volvo’s L220 wheeled-loader, the Man Engine stands at 11.2m tall so is sure to inspire the children.

Sarah Gent, of Northern Heartlands, said: “We would love to take this opportunity to invite children to share their creative response to the Man Engine, through drawings and stories. We can’t wait to see what the children come up with.”

The Man Engine is a free event but registering an interest is recommended. Due to the volume of traffic anticipated, walking and pubic transport is recommended. Car parking is limited.

Willington resident Olive Linge has created a display about The Man Engine, which will be installed on the town green on Saturday before moving to the Spectrum Leisure Centre. Mrs Linge has also created a display for Willington library.

To find out more the Man Engine, the competition or to register to attend visit northernheartlands.org/event/the-man-engine/