FEATURE: Little Herd prepares to stampede into the city

Daniel Wright, Acres Hill
Daniel Wright, Acres Hill

At a top secret location, in a warehouse in the heart of the city, 73 elephants are waiting patiently.

The layers of carefully-draped bubblewrap hide beautiful hues of purple and gold, exciting splashes of red and blue, and unique designs and patterns in a myriad of themes and styles.

Little Herd

Little Herd

Huddled shoulder-to-shoulder, they’re all waiting for one thing: June 21 - the date they will stampede into the city and finally reveal themselves to the people of Yorkshire.

Each 2ft fibreglass elephant started its life in one of the region’s schools, where it was crafted to life and poured over by dozens of pupils before having its trunk packed up and sent here, ready to be unleashed into the wild’s of Sheffield.

“It’s such an exciting time,” said Rebecca Staden, project manager behind the ‘Little Herd’ and its big-sister project ‘The Herd of Sheffield Trail,’ which will arrive in the city this summer. Hundreds of visitors are expected to descend on Sheffield for the Herd of Sheffield Trail, which will raise money for Sheffield Children’s Hospital with an auction of its sculptures - designed by some of the biggest names in the art industry - at the end of the summer. The 59 giant 5ft elephants will be placed at locations throughout the city from July 11, leading visitors around some of Sheffield’s most popular sights and attractions, and hopes to raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Sheffield charity during its ten-week run.

73 primary schools around the city decided to get in on the accompanying Little Herd arts project action, fundraising £500 each for a smaller elephant to decorate, which will go on display at venues throughout the city from June 21 until September 30, before being returned to their schools. Among those taking part is Acres Hill Primary School.

Little Herd has been one of the nicest projects we’ve ever been involved in’

“At first, some of the children didn’t think they would be talented enough to design and paint the elephant,” explains associate deputy head teacher Rachel Hurding.

“But it gave them a chance to explore their creative sides and our winning design was created by year three pupil Hasti Rashid. Her artwork was then complemented by 24 other entries, submitted by children from different year groups.”

And the pupils have been sure to put their own stamp on their elephant - named Heart - with the Acres Hill school motto emblazoned on her back, reading: ‘We are gentle, kind and helpful.’

The school decided to use traditional Indian patterns as their main inspiration for the elephant, which they held elephant-themed film nights, bake sales and non-uniform days for, in order to fund.

Shimaz Ahmed, Acres School

Shimaz Ahmed, Acres School

Brilliant ‘Bradley’ joins the herd from Bradfield School, one of the first to sign up to the project.

24 students were selected to form a design team that created Bradley’s unique look - which is a nod to Sheffield’s steel industry, featuring the urban foundations of the city on his feet, with smoke from the chimneys rising up into trees, symbolising the city’s rural heritage. Metallic cogs added to Bradley’s top half represent Bradfield School’s emphasis on science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.

The school’s art and design subject leader Sarah Drabble says: “Little Herd has been one of the nicest projects we’ve ever been involved with as a school and we’re really looking forward to seeing our very own Bradley on the elephant trail this summer.

“You can almost guarantee that every child in the school has visited the hospital at some point and they all know what it means to the city. They were so excited to see pictures of what the new wing of the hospital is going to look like and I know it means a lot to them to have made such an important contribution. Everyone is so excited to see all the elephants come together!”

Bradley full, Bradfield School

Bradley full, Bradfield School

When it came to brainstorming at Nether Green Junior School, pupils and staff decided they wanted to create their very own Eco-warrior elephant. Eco-warrior is covered with 420 leaves, each one individually decorated by a child at the school, and features the fingerprint of every pupil.

Community fundraiser Gemma Bower said: “Eco elephant is such a lovely and vibrant member of the Little Herd and it’s great to know that each student at Nether Green Junior School got to, quite literally, make their mark on him.”

Nethern Green year six pupil Ned says: “I can’t wait to take my family to see the trail and show them our elephant.

“I’ll be able to point at the spots on his trunk and say ‘looks, those are my fingerprints!’”

The history of the herd...

Elephants were chosen as the basis of the summer’s Herd of Sheffield Trail arts project, in order to celebrate Sheffield’s Industrial Heritage.

It was exactly 100 years ago, in 1916, that Lizzie the elephant was used in the steel industry to help with the war effort.

As World War One raged on, the military purchased most of England’s horses and sent them to the Western Front. Many farmers and traders had to find alternative beasts of burden - cue Lizzie lumbering dutifully down the cobbled streets of industrial Sheffield.

Her job was to cart minutions, machines and scrap metal around the city - a job previously done by three horses before they were taken off to war.