Executive Travel & Sightseeing

Goodbye Gromit and thanks for a grand summer

HE brought hundreds of thousands of visitors flocking to Bristol and put the city on the international map – but after ten glorious weeks Gromit waved goodbye to the city centre.

The giant dogs that proved such a hit over the long hot summer had all disappeared from the city’s streets by the end of this morning.

More than 200,000 people picked up maps in the first eight weeks of the trail and Bristol’s museums saw an extra 192,000 visitors flock through their doors during July and August.

Thanks to the enduring popularity of Wallace’s faithful sidekick and the glorious summer sunshine the Gromit Unleashed appeal has been a mammoth hit with people in the city and visitors from far and wide.

 There have been proposals by the Gromits, couples posing by the pooch on their wedding day and those who have taken their own dogs for walkies or travelled by trike around the trail.

There have also been the fundraisers who have run, cycled and danced between the sculptures in support of Bristol Children’s Hospital charity the Grand Appeal.

Others flew in from far-flung places to take in the trail. There were visitors from New Zealand, Taiwan, Sweden, Spain, Canada and Abu Dhabi.

But late yesterday afternoon the operation to move the sculptures off the streets and into a secret location ready for auction swung into action.

Despite the Gromits disappearing from the city streets, director of the Grand Appeal, Nicola Masters, said it is still not time to say a final goodbye.

Several sculptures will go back on display this week and all 80 will be gathered together for the only time for the Greatest Dog Show on Earth at the Royal West of England Academy after a spot of TLC and good old-fashioned elbow grease.

“It’s not the end,” Ms Masters said.

“We have got two sculptures going into the Mall, the Paddington one at Grand Appeal and then we have got the exhibition – the Greatest Dog Show on Earth – so at this point it is not goodbye.”

Figures for July and August show that more than 45,000 people downloaded the Detect-o-Gromit app, raising nearly £20,000 for the charity.

More than 100,000 people visited The Art of Gromit Unleashed shop at Upper Maudlin Street. And on the penultimate Saturday of the trail queues stretched almost as far as the Colston Hall as people waited for three and a half hours to get into the shop.

The Gromit Unleashed Facebook page received 33,000 likes and had an average monthly reach of 746,000 people while the Twitter feed now has more than 14,000 followers.

Now the sculptures will be lovingly restored ready for their final hurrah at the RWA before being auctioned off to raise money for the Bristol Children’s Hospital expansion appeal.

Ms Masters said: “It was very difficult putting the Gromits out on the trail in the first place because they had become our babies and we protected and coveted them and looked after them, but after the public response to them it is going to be sad to see them go.

“It has been a wonderful summer and people on the whole have been fantastically supportive of the event.

“Bristol is certainly going to have a lot less art on the streets, hopefully some will stay in Bristol. It will be nice to have that legacy for the city.”

Sarah Vipond from the charity, who was involved in moving the sculptures from around the city centre yesterday, said: “The ten weeks have flown by and I think it is fair to say it has been a bigger project than we anticipated – the support from the public has been incredible.”

For more information about Gromit Unleashed visit www.gromit unleashed.org.uk

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