Cambridge Standing Tall art trail project launches with a plea to ‘be more giraffe’
A first glimpse of how the giraffes that will form the city’s next major art trail will look was enjoyed by guests at the launch of Cambridge Standing Tall.
Break, the charity that benefited from 2021’s hugely successful Cows About Cambridge trail, hosted the event, appropriately enough, at the Museum of Zoology.
The trail will feature 40 fully painted long-legged sculptures, each sponsored by a local business, taking to the streets of Cambridge for 10 weeks in March 2024.
Delivered in partnership with Wild in Art and principal partner Cambridge Business Improvement District (BID) – and supported by the Cambridge Independent – the trail was launched last Wednesday (January 25) with two sculptures.
The first was designed by the agency behind the Cambridge Standing Tall brand, 10 Creative, and was brought to life by artist Mik Richardson, while the second, smaller one, was painted by artist Phil Daniels.
The trail will help bring people into the city, creating a fun activity for families, and will raise valuable funds for Break.
It runs a pioneering service in Cambridge called Staying Close, Staying Connected, which supports young adults leaving the care service.
“Break is based in Norwich and has five residential homes – two of which are for those with disabilities – across East Anglia,” said Nikki Neile, press officer for Break, just before the unveiling. “We work with young people in the care system in Cambridge.
“Our Staying Close, Staying Connected team looks after care leavers, helping them to transition to adult life. We have four such young people in Cambridge, where we’ve helped them with housing: we assign them a transition worker to help them with work and benefits, to live an independent life. It’s lovely being able to do this kind of project.”
There were around 70 people at last week’s event, including sponsors, artists, stakeholders, local business representatives and the mayor of Cambridge, Cllr Mark Ashton.
“This evening’s event is to show people what the sculpture is like and to showcase our first 10 trailblazing sponsors,” Nikki says. “The call-out for artists is in March, and the selection process – where sponsors pick the artists they want to bring their giraffes to life – will be in June. We’ll get all the sponsors in one place, and issue a call-out for artists – anyone who wants to do a design – and we’ll decide with a panel which artists will go forward.
“Then they get to work for eight or nine months and the public-facing show begins in March 2024. At that point they’re all painted, packed up and delivered around Cambridge before being displayed ‘randomly’ across the city, working in conjunction with the council and our sponsors.
“At the end of the trail some giraffes will be auctioned – which is what happened in the Cows About Cambridge trail and some of them will be bought back by the businesses that sponsored them. Hopefully we’ll raise lots of money for Break.”
Indeed, Cows About Cambridge raised an amazing £257,100 at the 2021 auction of 44 lots of painted cows. The record amount raised for the charity, however, is held by its Norwich dinosaur trail, GoGoDiscover, which contributed the mammoth (sorry) amount of £427,400 in 2022.
Break’s CEO, Rachel Cowdry, began the speeches at the Downing Street museum by thanking supporters.
“We’re very excited at working again with Cambridge BID after the success of the Cows about Cambridge trail,” she told the gathering. “To everyone who has come together, whether they be schools, artists, sponsors or supporters, I say ‘get involved, connect with the project team’.
“What’s the impact of getting involved? To share with people who have been on the journey we’ve been on since starting in Cambridge a few years ago. Because if we don’t do it, who will? If we don’t heal the hurt in relationships, who will? If we don’t help these young people fulfil their dreams and believe they are amazing, who will?
“Our vision is to be that somebody, and we’re asking you, please will you join us to be part of that community that needs us. It’s about showing civic pride. By being involved, you will be involved in a great team.”
Rachel was followed by Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, who delivered a brilliant sales pitch, a direct appeal to the heart which no one in the room could deny had a dramatic and galvanising effect.
Ian stunned the audience with statistics illustrating the effect Cows About Cambridge had had on the city’s economy.
He told the assembled throng it had led to “£12million of value added to the city” with “half a million people engaged, 74 per cent of people spending more time than they would have in the city, 84 per cent visiting places they hadn’t got to see before, 2.3 million engagements – and it created a great sense of community”.
He added: “99 per cent of people said they felt a sense of pride in Cows About Cambridge, and that it brought communities together.
“We know it’s been a tough time but we ask you to reflect on how tough it’s been for the children we support, so I ask you to put your hands together for Break and the work they do.”
As the applause faded Ian upped the ante.
“When it comes to sponsoring, you’re not leaving this room until you agree to sponsor this trail, so you either sign up now or leave and get pestered for the next six months. There are so many reasons to do it: economic benefits in terms of footfall and shopping activity, but also increases in wellbeing, the trail will bring people together, bring the whole county together.”
As people looked around nervously to see if the doors were being locked (they weren’t!), Ian kicked on.
“Yes I know it’s a tough time but when times are tough, that’s the moment the community needs to pull together. And yes, budgets are tight, but budgets are always tight. Get involved, and do it for yourself because when these things hit the streets it’s going to be magic, they’re going to put smiles on everyone’s faces and your kids will say ‘Did you see the Cambridge Independent today?’ and they’ll ask ‘Did you get involved?’ and you want them to watch them light up when you say ‘yes’ – and not be looking at your feet and mumbling to avoid the look of complete disappointment if you say ‘no’.”
There really was no stopping him.
“So families can go out,” Ian continued to his audience, now hanging on to every word, “they can have fun together and it’s not going to cost you a fortune. It’s giving kids fun, and it’s giving them hope, and what could be better than that? We now have the great pleasure of unveiling our first two sculptures…”
Mik Richardson’s giraffe proved to be glowing and tasteful, while Phil Daniels’ contribution is a fiery delight that elicited gasps from the crowd.
Ian concluded: “Aren’t they both absolutely beautiful? We’re so grateful to the artists community. We do have a hashtag – #bemoregiraffe. So have that big heart, get involved.”
Rachel said afterwards: “We hope as people gaze up at the giraffes, they see them as we do – a representation of Break, standing tall for young people with care experience and telling them that the sky is never the limit.”
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