THE ele-phantastic stars of the North East’s biggest, free, public art trail have raised £182,200 for St Oswald’s Children’s Hospice.

For 11 weeks the 50 large and 114 small elephant sculptures which made up
St Oswald’s Elmer’s Great North Parade, lined the streets of Sunderland, Newcastle, Gateshead and North and South Tyneside.

And last night (12 November) 44 of the individually decorated Elmer sculptures, along with three smaller elephants and few surprise bids, went under the hammer at a spectacular auction at Sage Gateshead.

Bidders from around the world competed with home grown buyers, via telephone and internet bids and the event got off to a flying start with Elephish.

Painted by Joanne Wishart and one of the trail’s most popular sculptures, this first lot hit a staggering £10k.

For almost three hours auctioneers Fred Wyrley-Birch and Julian Thomson from Newcastle’s Anderson & Garland guided the bidding with one of the highlights being North East artist Jeff Rowland’s sculpture Amy, his last completed work prior to his death in 2018, which went for £7,200.

But the biggest surprise of the night was Lot 33, Hakuna Ma Elephant, by Jina Gelder, which will now go on permanent display at St Oswald’s after 12 bidders in the room each donated £500 to buy it on the hospice’s behalf.

In a further twist – and as a nod to St Oswald’s 2016 Great North Snowdogs trail – a small Snowdog sculpture decorated in Elmer’s famous patchwork colours was successfully sold for £3,700 to a bidder who had travelled from her home at Richmond, North Yorkshire for the event.

And pupils at Hunswick School, Durham, will now receive a free delivery of books, after Elmer publisher Andersen Press agreed to donate books to 10 per cent of the sale price to her chosen school.

“The tension, the excitement, the sheer joy in the room as each elephant found its forever home, was just incredible,” said Elmer’s Great North Parade project lead, Jane Hogan.

“We didn’t imagine the total would be so high and we are incredibly grateful to Julian and Fred for their expertise and for making the auction such fun and to all those who came along, who placed bids and who helped make the event such a success.

“Their generosity will help us enrich the lives not only of children with complex, life-limiting conditions in our care, but also their siblings and parents, so, thank you – very much indeed.”