Explores: Gromit Unleashed (2) – What’s it all about?

If you know anyone from Bristol – online or in ‘real life’, you may have noticed beautifully decorated sculptures of Aardman characters Wallace, Gromit, and Feathers McGraw popping up on your Facebook/Instagram/Twitter since the weekend. Many of you know all about it, but for the benefit of those like my lovely (when she wants to be 😉) colleague Silvia who haven’t been in Bristol since the first trail, I thought I’d give you a bit of background (plus it’s an excuse to dig out old photos – you’ve been warned, dodgy selfies and questionable fashion choices lay ahead!)

Our first sculpture of Gromit Unleashed, Paisley by fellow UWE alumni Nia Samuel, he was located on North Street.

The first Gromit Unleashed launched on July 4th 2013 – a FREE (I do love a freebie) arts trail consisting of 80 giant fibreglass sculptures of Gromit, a character created by Nick Park. Gromit has featured in a variety of films with his eccentric owner Wallace, produced by Aardman Animations, an academy award winning animation studio which just so happens to be based in Bristol. (And has the coolest offices ever down by the harbourside – I’ve been lucky enough to visit through work!!)

Each sculpture was individually decorated by a variety of artists, celebrities and even US movie studios Pixar were involved, creating Gromit Lightyear. The sculptures were placed all around Bristol and the surrounding area in a variety of locations, with the exception of  (original) ‘Gromit’ who was located at London Paddington (although he was moved to Bristol for the end of the trail).

Ian and I with Gromit at London Paddington. Any excuse for a trip to LDN!

Bestie Ian and our partner in crime Vikki (when we could drag her along), sought out sculptures come rain or shine – or work, we visited a few while on lunch, thus the office wear – we had pictures with all eighty, we even managed to snap fifty in one day on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday… (I learnt a valuable/painful lesson that day – always wear socks with Converse!)

Rocking the Skechers with work wear look in St Nicks Market.

The locations meant we visited new places, but it also meant a lot of other people did too – people from as far as the USA and Japan, where Wallace and Gromit have a large following, came to complete the trail!

Oops A Daisy by Diarmuid Gavin at Tyntesfield – we were lucky to visit on a Sunday when they held their seasonal market and bought some yummy produce for our tea! 😋

It wasn’t all just fun and tourism (although it’s estimated the trail contributed millions of pounds with extra visitors to the city during its two month tenure), the purpose of the trail was to raise funds for The Grand Appeal, a charity that raises funds for Bristol Childrens Hospital. One of the first means of fundraising was a Detect-O-Gromit App, which sold for 69p, with a variety of features allowing the user to locate and check off Gromits and complete a number of challenges. There was also a large amount of merchandise available, including maps and soft toys, with figurines being released later in the year (just in time for Christmas!)

Newfoundland by One Red Shoe

Following the end of the trail, an auction was organised hosted by TV Presenter Tim Wonnacott. When I’m not eating and exploring, I do actually have a full time job (shock!) in marketing, and was very lucky as a perk to be able to attend the auction as a guest of my employers Chairman, with a view to purchasing a sculpture – to say I was excited does not cover it!

The tent that housed the auction up at the Mall, Cribbs Causeway.

The auction was held on October 3rd 2013, with the option to view on live stream. All eighty sculptures went on sale plus a number of smaller sculptures. Each one had a reserve price of £10,000 which every sculpture exceeded, and while the pre-auction estimate was around £1 million, this was smashed, with a total of £2,357,000 raised on the night.

My bidder number and brochure for the 2013 auction!

As for my employer? We purchased the last Gromit of the night, a baby Gromit decorated by children at the Bristol Childrens Hospital.

My selfie game hasn’t improved – me with the Bristol Childrens Hospital Gromit.

Following the ginormous success of Gromit Unleashed, in 2015 it was announced that there would be another trail – this time, Shaun the Sheep would be taking a starring role with a Shaun in the City trail coming to both London and Bristol featuring 120 sculptures, again individually designed by a variety of artists and celebs and placed in famous locations and green spaces.

Chris and I with Petal, by Artist Emily Ketteringham, close to Tower Bridge.

The London trail ran from 28th March to 31st of May and featured 50 sculptures, but in some feat of madness Chris (mere boyfriend at the time) and I decided to try to complete the trail in a day.

It took us twelve hours, and we walked twenty miles (so my iPhone told us) but we managed to get forty nine Shauns ticked off! The only one that thwarted us was Kanzashi, which had unfortunately been removed from the trail the day we were visiting 😢

The Bristol trail ran from 2nd of July and featured 70 of the sculptures in a variety of locations around the city. Being local to us this time Chris and I had a little more time to play with, as it ran until the 31st of August.

After a bit of a mad dash, we finished on the 26th of August, just days before the removal of the trail. Our final Shaun was King Arthur of Lambelot and Excalibaaar which was on College Green (pictured below). All 120 sculptures were then put on display in both London (Covent Garden) and Bristol (Cribbs Causeway) prior to being auctioned. The 2015 auction raised in excess of £1 million, with the funds this time being raised for critically ill children across the country (not just Bristol).

And so begins Gromit Unleashed 2! Running from 2nd of July to the 2nd of September, it will feature twelve Wallace sculptures, forty one Gromit sculptures, and fourteen of Feathers McGraw. This will be my first trail as a wife and step-mama, and yesterday (July 2nd) we visited our first Gromit of 2018 – Merry-Go Gromit by Emily Golden, located at Puxton Park. William and Theo have grown a little since their first Gromit Unleashed adventure – here’s a recreation of their 2013 poses…

I would highly recommend getting the app if you plan on completing the trail. This time round it costs £1.99 with all profits going to The Grand Appeal. It definitely adds to the fun, as before you’ll be able to use a map to locate and check off sculptures, receiving awards as you go along. There is also additional information about each sculpture and their artist, and a fun photo feature which the kids will love!

The George Family first stop of GU2 – Merry-Go Gromit by Emily Golden

The previous incarnations of Gromit Unleashed and Shaun in the City have been brilliant fun. Chris and I have completed them in a variety of circumstances – I’ve done it with friends, as part of a couple and as part of a family, and I can say it’s been brilliant each time! (Wills and Theo 2013 v 2015 below!) All previous sculptures have been free to access (though sometimes there are opening times restrictions), there have been some incredible designs and it’s all in aid of a fantastic cause. It’s also had us exploring areas of Bristol which despite having lived here for nearly 14 years, we had never visited.

So whether you’re a Bristol dweller or thinking of venturing to Brizzle from further afield, I would say come and visit our wonderful city and follow this fab trail, you’ll have a brilliant time, make some fabulous memories and hopefully get some great pics too. I’m trying to avoid ‘spoilers’, so you’ll find no more pics from #GU2 from me for now – here at least, beware my Insta – but I’ll probably write a review of the trail once we’ve completed it! So I’ll leave you with the George family Gromit & Shaun collection! Something tells me that this may be added to very soon… Thanks for reading! Lizzie xx

Our Gromit and Shaun collection (so far)

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