“They’re really nice but…why elephants?!!”
A typical reaction to ‘The Herd of Sheffield’: the latest creative spectacle to hit Yorkshire. Between July 11th – 5th October, you will find 58 fibreglass elephants (and 72 mini-elephant calves) dotted around the city centre. In fact, it’s pretty hard to miss them: each one is a bespoke creation painted with a unique, eye-catching design. These have been carefully chosen to reflect Sheffield’s culture and heritage, with elephants commemorating The Arctic Monkeys, snooker, the steel industry, rock climbing and iconic Sheffield buildings, to list but a few. Together these colourful artworks create a characterful, free outdoor sculpture trail, unique to Sheffield. You can pick up a Trail Map at various outlets in the town centre, including the Tourist Information Centre.
The brains behind this operation is Wild In Heart, “the UK’s leading creative producer of spectacular, mass-appeal public art events”, who were also responsible for ‘The Big Hoot’ in Birmingham (a similar idea but with statues of owls). This company specialises in bringing together communities – businesses, schools, local groups, etc. – all in the name of art. This has certainly been the case with the Sheffield Herd: over 75% of the artists are from the city, and all of the mini-elephants were designed by schoolchildren and teachers.
Whether you are a fan of elephants or not, there’s no denying that the Herd are here in the name of a good cause: The Sheffield’s Children’s Hospital. This is one of only four stand-alone children’s hospitals in the UK (and the only one in Yorkshire) and gives specialist treatment to hundreds of thousands of children each year. The Herd are encouraging the public to support the hospital’s Artfelt programme, which fills the hospital with art to create a better environment for the children’s recoveries. You can also take part in the ‘Virtual Stampede’ and earn a limited edition Stampede medal by running, walking, swimming or cycling 60km in whatever way you choose. Finally, on 20th October the elephants themselves will be sold at an auction to raise funds for new life-saving equipment at the hospital. A chance to take home a legacy!
But this still leaves the question – why elephants? The idea comes from Lizzie, an elephant who played an important role in keeping Sheffield’s steel industry going during the First World War. At a time when most of the city’s horses had been enrolled by the military, Lizzie performed vital work in shifting heavy loads of steel and machinery about the cobbled streets. And so, 100 years later, her legend still inspires.
My personal favourite of the Herd has to be “A Sheffield Summer” (by the train station, and pictured above) designed by BBC Radio Sheffield competition winner Jane Norburn. To me, the bold design captures all the good things about our city – the ‘village atmosphere’, green spaces, trees, parks, water- that make it such a perfect place to live in summer. So while the days are still long, why not make the most of them to do some elephant-spotting of your own?