Pupils in an Armagh school are delighting art-loving residents and tourists visiting Belfast as part of the city’s feelgood event of the summer.
Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail – which includes the work of pupils from Saints & Scholars Integrated Nursery & Primary School – has seen a herd of “elephant-astic” sculptures make a colourful splash by popping up in iconic locations, landmarks and open spaces throughout Belfast city centre.
The free, family-friendly art trail runs until August 31st, and features over seventy uniquely decorated sculptures designed by artists, local schools and community groups.
Teacher Clare Hughes is Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCo) at Saints & Scholars Integrated Nursery & Primary School.
She said: “Our sculpture is called ‘Unity’ and was inspired by our motto of how it takes a world of differences to make a different world.
“The story of Elmer the Elephant lends itself to this motto. Elmer is different. Elmer is special. Elmer is unique. The theme is all about celebrating our differences and our similarities, which is a theme underpinning all that we do in an Integrated Nursery and Primary School.
“The whole school had an assembly about the celebration of 40 years of Integrated Education, then our special elephant was unveiled. Each class could choose a name. The school voted for UNITY. This theme is reflected in our design
“All the children and staff in our school literally made their mark on our very own Elmer to celebrate, in a concrete way, our message of diversity, inclusion, kindness, compassion and friendship.
“On each of the legs there are 10 candles, therefore 40 candles in total to celebrate 40 years of Integrated Education. The flames of the candles were made by every P4-P7 child using their unique fingerprints. The 40 in numerals was made using the unique fingerprints of our P3 children.
“Our Nursery children added a blue fingerprint to the emoji smile which Unity leaves ‘behind’ wherever he/she goes along with the slogan, ‘We all smile in the same language’, which was written by the children. The fingerprints on Our World were painted by the P2 children. Every P1 child in the school added their handprint, and their names are next to these.
“Unity’s ears, designed with the school motto on each ear, are listening to the message we have for our school. The patchwork letters to link with the Elmer theme, on the spine area, saying UNITY and were painted by the children who attend The D.E.N. (Developing Education Through Nurture) provision. The eyes, eyebrows and the smile were also painted by these children too.
“All in all 300 children, the total enrolled at our school, have made their unique mark on Unity, as a sign of our wonderful, integrated school community – hence the name we chose.
“At some point in our lives, we will all be touched by the work of a Hospice and the amazing, compassionate work it does. If we can all contribute to this in some way, then we should. This is our way, as a School Community, of doing this.”
If you are wondering how to entertain your children during the summer holidays, you can head to Victoria Square Shopping Centre in Belfast to see the Saints & Scholars ‘wee Elmer’ on the trail. You can also join in with the free events at Elmer HQ in CastleCourt Shopping Centre, where children can enjoy artist workshops, storytelling and face painting.
Many of the sculptures pay tribute to the history and spirit of Belfast city, from the linen industry to C.S. Lewis, Titanic, and even a Game of Thrones design, with others touching on themes such as the natural beauty of Northern Ireland, environmentalism, the NHS, pride, fairy tales, folklore, Hospice, graffiti, diversity and inclusivity.
Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail is organised by the Northern Ireland Hospice in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press. The trail is in aid of NI Hospice and is part of its celebrations to mark 21 Years of Care at Children’s Hospice, Horizon House.
Northern Ireland Hospice Chief Executive Heather Weir said: “Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail is the biggest event that the NI Hospice has ever undertaken. It’s huge for the people of Belfast and for those outside the city too – it’s a ‘must do’ for residents and visitors alike and I am sure it will delight all who see it.
“As well bringing communities and businesses together, the trail will help fund the specialist care which our team provides for local babies, children and young people living with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses.
“Elmer’s stories all promote positivity, compassion, inclusivity and care; all values which align closely with NI Hospice. We’re so pleased that Elmer is helping us raise awareness of our important work in the local community.”
It is estimated that around one million people will take part in Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail, which will deliver a boost of £10m to the local economy this summer.
To find out more about Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail visit elmerbelfast.co.uk or download the ElmerBelfast app for free from the App Store or Google Play.