Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Cracking turnout for Gromit trail

Research reveals 1.18 million people saw the Gromit Unleashed trail and exhibition in Bristol this summer

More than one million people are estimated to have visited giant Gromit sculptures exhibited around a city.

Research by the project organisers reveals that 1.18 million people saw the Gromit Unleashed trail and exhibition in Bristol this summer.

And nearly 900,000 visited specifically to see the dozens of 5ft tall Gromit sculptures, which had been decorated by artists, celebrities and designers including Sir Quentin Blake, Jools Holland and Cath Kidston.

The total direct impact of the Gromit Unleashed project is more than £77 million, which includes money spent on paid accommodation as well as wider spending in the city including travel, gifts and refreshments.

The wider knock-on impact of this injection of public spending is believed to have given Bristol a staggering £123 million boost to its economy.

Just over half of the visitors were from Bristol, with 42% coming from around the UK and the remaining 2% from overseas, in particular North America, Europe and Australia.

Organisers say 16% of visitors stayed overnight as part of their Gromit Unleashed trip, with 11% staying in paid accommodation for an average of two nights and spending over £200 on their rooms.

Last week 81 Gromit sculptures, which each weigh around 90lb, were auctioned for charity which raised more than £2.3 million for the Bristol Children's Hospital's Wallace & Gromit Grand Appeal.

Art fans from across the world were locked in a fierce bidding frenzy at the sale, hosted by Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott.

Pixar's Gromit Lightyear - based on the Toy Story character - was the star lot, reaching a staggering £65,000.

Watch Out, Gromit! by English cartoonist Gerald Scarfe and Aardman Animation's Nick Park's Newshound received joint second highest bids, fetching £50,000 each.

Eleven smaller Gromits, weighing 33lb, were also auctioned by Wonnacott during the sale, which saw bids from Australia, America and Japan.

Organisers of Gromit Unleashed say the tourism figures reveal only part of the impact of the project on the city.

Nicola Masters, director of Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal, said: "Our aim has always been to bring something of real value to the city, as well as raising funds for Bristol Children's Hospital but we never anticipated this level of impact.

"The figures are astonishing but the economic impact is only part of the equation as the project has not only helped bring people to visit this wonderful city, but got Bristol people out to explore parts of the city they have never seen before."

David Sproxton, chairman of Aardman, said: "Gromit Unleashed is the most successful project we've ever done beyond what we're usually associated with and we've all been bowled over by the way that people from far and wide have responded to the sculptures and flocked into the city.

"We keep being asked 'what's next' and its certainly going to be a challenge to top this but the project partners are keen to see if we can scale up the idea with Shaun the Sheep in 2015 and roll it out nationally - or even internationally.

"We're very much at an exploratory stage but with 2015 being the Chinese Year of the Sheep, coupled with the charity fundraising potential and the release of our new movie, it seems like the perfect time.

"Where Gromit leads, sheep tend to follow."

Wallace & Gromit's Grand Appeal has pledged to raise £3.5 million to support the expansion of Bristol Royal Hospital for Children.

It hopes to fund state-of-the-art equipment, family facilities and child-friendly artwork to complement a £31 million investment by the NHS.

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