Newcastle ~September 2019 ~ Elmer edition

St.Oswalds Hospice in Newcastle cares for both adults, children and babies who have terminal illnesses.  It is a registered charitable trust, and whilst the NHS regulates it, it does not fund it. The childrens hospice has to raise over £7.5 million each year to keep its doors open and its service free to those who need it, and relies a fair bit on volunteers, (who’s equivalent salary comes to around £180 million a year, if they were paid minimum contract wages). It is well run and very well thought of by those who have been unfortunate enough to need its services.

This year the Childrens Hospice organised an art trail, to raise money for the kids unit. Based on Elmer the Patchwork Elephant, a childrens book written and illustrated by David McKee.  From 21st August to 1st November 2019 an art trail featuring individually designed elephant sculptures based on the Elmer character happens across Tyne & Wear.  50 large by recognised North East artists, and 114 little sculptures by school children. There’s an app (of course there’s an an app! 😀 ) to download the trail and at the end of the time period the elephant sculptures are auctioned off.

I had no inclination to go charging around Tyne & Wear doing the trail, but it is fun coming across them on outings, and there were a few in Newcastle when we went. I took some pictures of them 🙂

“Jumble” by Valerie Smith-Lane a tattoo artist in Newcastle.

“‘Jumble’ illustrates that no matter what, we are all made up of an assortment of things and that so many entities influence who we are. Our thoughts, behaviours and appearance are formed by our ancestors, heritage, culture, society, surroundings and people’s influences on us. Collaboration and equality can result in an outstanding outcome.”

“Are We Nelly Home” by Zoe Emma Scott a self-taught artist who specialises in painting North East landmarks.

From the left:- Pure by St Anne’s Catholic School, Gateshead. Trunk by George Washington Primary School, Washington. Reach for the Stars by St Mary’s RC Primary School, Newcastle. Everyone’s a winner by Bede Community Primary School, Gateshead.
Uno by Crookhill Community Primary School, Ryton.

“Our design was inspired by our school values of respect and equality. We encourage children to respect others and be confident in who they are – just like Elmer. We believe everyone is equal no matter what they look like and we wanted our Elmer to reflect this. Our motto is ‘Working together, we succeed,’ so everyone worked together to produce a unique design embodying self-confidence and individuality”.

Uno with Kintsugi by Roman Road Primary School, Gateshead.

“Our design was inspired by our whole school’s well-being and work on mental health. The Japanese have an old philosophy that ‘nothing is ever truly broken’. This ancient art of ‘Kintsugi’ repairs smashed pottery with gold. As people, we sometimes feel broken or in pieces but like our Elmer, with support, we can be restored.”

ORBIT by Jim Edwards

Jim Edwards is best known for his contemporary cityscape and landscape painting, capturing the iconic locations of the North East.  ‘Orbit’s’ surface is covered in the familiar patchwork of land masses that represent the planet Earth. The tiny International Space station circumnavigates the elephants body, catching the attention of Orbit, like an insect passing by his trunk.


Disco Wilbur by Natalie Guy

Natalie Guy is a contemporary mosaic artist using a wide range of materials including diamonds, hex nuts, jigsaw pieces and mirror tiles. Disco Wilbur is based on the Wilbur character who appears alongside Elmer in David McKee’s book series and is created using thousands of pieces of mirror tiles.

He’s my favourite of course 🙂

On the trail.

The auction raised £182,200


Stay tooned for more from Newcastle.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind~February 2018

Or… Eat for England, The Cramlington Spoon.

Sophie and I are back on track for 2018 and off out at weekends again with our cameras. On Saturday the weather was predicting dry/cloudy/sunny/blowy but no rain expected, so we decided to head up into Northumberland, to Druridge Bay as our last trip there got rained off. We were also incorporating a trip to see Northumberlandia, The Lady of The North on our way back home.  But first I had a surprise in store for Sophie as we would be passing the location of the Cramlington Spoon, which she didn’t know about, and I had seen in passing on a website.  The location of it turned up easily enough on google maps, so I set the satnav and off we went.  When we got to the point where it should have been, the road I thought we would go up to see it was closed- “private Estate” but old eagle eyes Sophie had spotted a public walking path that ran up the side of the fenced off ‘Estate’. (note to self- do research BEFORE the event, not after 🙄 ).  So we parked up the car and set off along a muddy path up the side of the field. Then we turned right up the side of another field. We still couldn’t see it but kept going, and eventually, after a left turn, we were walking towards the spoon.

Eat For England art installation by Bob Budd (Cramlington Hospital in the distance)
Anyone for mud pie?

What the (expletive deleted) is THAT doing there?  I hear you wonder.  Well dear reader, it was erected in 2006 as part of a Lottery-funded art installation trail and its position was “very logical” for the artist, who explains that the fields are the very origins of food production. Hmm. In spite of it being there for 12 years now, it’s rarely visited and not well known at all, which isn’t a huge surprise as its IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE and it is a royal PIA to get to, at least on muddy days.

Dig in!

At about 15ft (4.5m) high it is quite big for cutlery, and Mr Budd calls it a “carrot” to entice people into the countryside. You’d think he of all people would know the difference between a spoon and a carrot, but I’m not convinced of his sanity so we’ll leave it at that.  When interviewed by the BBC, Newcastle University’s head of fine art, Andrew Burton, said he believes  there is “always pleasure in unexpected discovery. There is an excitement or frisson about placing a work somewhere where it will really have to be sought out, so that the hunt becomes part of the overall experience,” he says.  I can certainly attest to it being an experience.

So why is Close Encounters of the Third Kind the title of this post? I hear you doing more wondering. So I’ll tell you.  When we got to the spoon there was a man standing opposite it. He was quite young, in a grey tracksuit, and had a small GoPro camera attached to a short tripod, also opposite the spoon.  He spoke to us, with an unidentified accent, possibly East European, not sure to be honest.   “If you wait 10 minutes a plane will come over and you can get a shot of a plane going over the spoon”, he said.  ” Um ahha” I said intelligently, “I’ll look out for one”.  Sophie spotted some birds swarming (not sure birds swarm, but they were far away and looked a bit like bees so swarm will do) and we got our zoom lenses attached and tried to get some shots of them.

Swarm of birds.

You can click to embiggen that so they look more like birds than bees if you don’t want to take my word for it. There was no sign of any airplanes “Two came along in 10 minutes before you got here” said the Gopro man. We’d just about finished taking our shots of the spoon, and still had to get back to the car and a drive to Druridge Bay, so I said we couldn’t wait for planes any longer and would have to go. ” Do you know anywhere else good near here?” he asked, “In walking distance?” which perplexed me as we were IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!  “Umm ahha” I replied intelligently, and got out the satnav on the phone,


“not really, sorry”.  As Sophie and I turned to leave, the chap took off his track suit and did a perfect handstand by the spoon, which was a bit of a surprise, and both Sophie and I managed to get a shot of this feat.

photo courtesy of Sophie Cormack
looking for carrots?

He then jumped up on the spoon for what purpose I can only leave to your imagination.

Commune with the Spoon. photo courtesy of Sophie Cormack.

On our way back to the car, we discussed the strange encounter with this chap.  Why doesn’t he know where he is? how did he get there? is he Eastern European? none of our questions had answers  of course, so naturally we decided he’d been zapped there by alien technology and consequently would be zapped back up after he’d done whatever he must with the Spoon. A definite close encounter with a third kind.

stay tooned for a trip to Druridge Bay