Brace yourself - the stampede is here!

Posted by: Stephanie Burns
Brace yourself - the stampede is here! supporting image

Rob Lee's 'Technicolour Pachyderms' elephant will be on display at Devonshire Green

The Herd of Sheffield elephant sculpture trail is taking over the city this summer

It’s been 100 years since Lizzie the elephant helped Sheffield’s steel industry to maintain production when the horses that usually did the heavy lifting were bought by the military and taken away to help with the war effort.

Now, thanks to The Children’s Hospital Charity (TCHC), Wild in Art, and several sponsors and artists, Sheffield is paying homage to Lizzie with one of the biggest mass participation art events the city has ever seen.

From 11 July until 5 October, 58 1.6m-tall fibre-glass elephants, each of which has been individually designed by an artist, will be on display around Sheffield’s parks and open spaces - even as far out as Meadowhall, Forge Dam and the Our Cow Molly farm at Dungworth - and the public are being encouraged to find them all.

The Little Herd, a series of 72 smaller elephant sculptures decorated by children from 72 schools across Sheffield, was released on 21 June and will run until 30 September.

The event is the brainchild of TCHC’s fundraising manager Rebecca Staden, who saw a sculpture trail of pigs in Cincinnati 17 years ago and always wanted to create her own. She contacted Wild in Art, an organisation based in the Peak District dedicated to the promotion of art through the creation of mass participation public art events, which has been involved with similar events in Birmingham, Bristol and Norwich, and got the ball rolling.

“I thought we could create something really special for the city,” explained Rebecca at the Herd of Sheffield preview evening at 92 Burton Road in Kelham Island, which brought all 58 elephants - along with the artists and sponsors involved - together for the first time. “Everyone has worked so hard on the project and it’s really exciting to see it all come together. Every penny raised will make a real difference to the hospital.”

The design selection process was an open forum and, by the time the deadline had approached, around 300 artists had put forward their designs for consideration. The 58 sponsors who had agreed to support the project then gathered at the Sheffield Institute of Arts to choose their favourite design and commission the artists - 75 per cent of whom are from Sheffield - to turn their ideas into reality.

All 58 sculptures will be auctioned off at the Crucible on 20 October in a bid to raise as much money as possible for TCHC. Rebecca is hoping it will break the £250,000 mark.

You can pick up a Herd of Sheffield map for a suggested donation of 50p at loads of locations across the city, including John Lewis, Atkinsons, Barclays, Sheffield Train Station, Castle Galleries at Meadowhall, Home and Fragrance at Crystal Peaks and Sheffield Makers Shop in the Winter Gardens.

Or you can track the elephants and their calves across the city with the free Herd of Sheffield app, which is available to download now.

If spotting the elephants alone isn’t enough involvement for you, the charity has also organised a virtual stampede. They’re encouraging people to run, swim, cycle or walk a total distance of 60km during September, for a registration fee of £15. If you complete the challenge by the end of the month, you’ll get a limited edition Herd of Sheffield 2016 Stampede medal. You can sign up for it now here.

For more information, see the Herd of Sheffield website or join in the conversation on Twitter using #herdofsheffield.


Meet the artists


S1 Artspace-based illustrator Geo Law’s elephant Lingo, which you’ll find at Sheffield Hallam University’s Bryan Nicholson Building, is a proud display of Sheffield words and phrases. He has built on the idea of people passing through the city, and students staying on here after university, and picking up the local dialect, which he finds fascinating.

Geo was also chosen to design a prototype sculpture so the artists and sponsors knew what to expect. “As soon as Rebecca mentioned the idea, I was like ‘this has to happen’,” he said. “We need something like this to showcase the talent we have in the city and hopefully this will make the centre nice and busy over the summer. Something like this is for everyone. Each sculpture has a story behind it. It’s a talking point - and that’s what art is!”


Sheffield artist Pete McKee was one of the first to finish his elephant, which is named Marjorie after his late mum and mother-in-law. Despite the difficulties he faced in decorating such an unusual canvas, he thinks the Herd of Sheffield is a great idea. “It’s really hard to draw people and objects because every part of it moves,” he laughed.

As is inscribed around the elephant’s belly, Pete’s design is dedicated: ‘To the proud, strong, industrious men and women who grafted till their muscles ached, their hands burned and their flesh tore, so that they could take care of their families’. He said: “It is about my parents and grandparents and the hard work they put in to bring us up. Sheffield was built on steel and working in factories is hard but they did it to put food on the table.”

Marjorie is sponsored by Special Steel Group, which provided space for many of the artists to complete their designs, and will be based at Kelham Island.


Freelance illustrator, designer and lettering artist Lisa Maltby, who has worked with the likes of Waitrose magazine and Chatsworth, was inspired by the idea of small things having great potential. Her ‘Small Beginnings’ design, displayed at Botanical Gardens, was snapped up by Sheffield High School - but she nearly didn’t get involved at all. “Someone from the charity contacted me the day before the deadline and asked me to submit a design. I haven’t done anything like this before and I thought it was too big to tackle. But the next afternoon I started thinking about it on a smaller scale, and then small elephants, and the idea grew from there. It was a bit of a rush and I only submitted a line drawing so I was really surprised to get picked, but so thrilled too.”


Creative in Crystal, a Swarovski application centre based near Bramall Lane, took an unusual approach to their Nabarro-sponsored sculpture, which is on display at Victoria Quays. Owners Ben Ridley and Rachel Maloney, along with partner and artist Martin Ward and staff member Carly Eastwood, followed the herd in a different direction - with a giraffe theme. “What we do as a business is all about being different so we decided to use 24 carat gold leaf, Swarovski crystals and hair extensions to turn our elephant into a giraffe. We have put a lot of time and love into it and we really hope it raises lots of money at the auction.”