WHAT HEAVENLY CREATURES

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The Independent Culture
Every home after News at Ten, the weather report - the bit we have really been waiting up for - is now being introduced by one of 12 weird and wonderful figures. Who is the kinky, glamorous creature in black rubber that gushes sympathetically when it's raining? Meet umbrella woman Brellina - and the spherical, fluffy Shivra (personifying cold, below), and golden Gilda (sun, above), three of the new faces of British weather on ITV.

More often than not weather bulletins have a gloomy picture to paint; other members of the team are Nimbella (cloud and rain, a puff of grey hair and Dame Edna crystalline glasses), Crystella (snow, in white furs), Florta (breeze, the flowers in her towering hair-do blowing away to reveal bare twigs), Norwin (wind, and windswept), Cyan (freezing conditions, in blue), Mirka (fog, a looming grey witch) and Frice (frost and ice, spiky with crystals). They are likely to have more outings than their more clement stablemates Helios (cloud and sun) and Aurora (hot and dry).

These are the WeatherGens, so called because they were commissioned from London design company Tutssels by PowerGen, sponsors of ITV weather. Their flamboyant costumes and make-up were put together by the New RenaisCAnce company, veteran designers of clothes, costumes, sets and pop videos. "It was perfect for us," says Carolyn Corben of New RenaisCAnce. "Our initial brief - well, it was like no brief at all to start with, we were told to go mad and not to rule anything out." A number of the costumes involved considerable feats of engineering. "The snowflake costume was the most difficult," Corben says. "We started off making armatures of fibreglass, then covered them with layers of Sellotape, which is very easy to work with and makes a firm under-structure, then we added the decoration on top." Brellina was also a challenge. "The umbrellas are all joined to support each other, and there's a concealed hosepipe up her back which connects with a shower rose at the back of her head." Gilda, the sunny-showers WeatherGen, has 2,000 sequins and two-and-a-half kilos of sequin dust in her crinoline.

Corben and her partner Harvey Bertram-Brown had only 12 weeks to complete all the costumes, so they drafted in a dozen helpers. Each shoot was finished in a day; for some characters, hair and make-up took as long as four hours. "We had to support some of the costumes between shots, and make sure they were padded to take their own weight, rather than hurting the models," Corben says. "The response has been fantastic. We have had so many people ringing up and writing in; the clear favourite is Shivra, the fluffy blue ball who represents cold."

Shivra was played by nine-year-old Jason Wong. "He was so good-natured and patient; we had to put him in a padded body-suit covered with blue ostrich feathers - you can't see the zip because it's hidden in the feathers. He had to stand up for a whole day, virtually."

She believes the WeatherGens will become firm favourites. "Everyone wants to know about the weather but it's not very glamorous. This campaign makes it exciting and memorable. It might even come to the point where people say, `I hope it's going to rain tomorrow, I want to see the umbrella woman.' "

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