Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is coming to Belfast!

02 July 2021

Northern Ireland Hospice, in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press, have announced that Elmer the Patchwork Elephant will be joining them to celebrate 21 years of care since the opening of the Children’s Hospice at Horizon House, through a spectacular public art event in the summer of 2022.  

A herd of 30 uniquely decorated Elmer sculptures inspired by David McKee’s beloved children’s books will be positioned around key landmarks, streets, and open spaces in Belfast along with a herd of ‘Young Elmers’, designed by local schools, for one unforgettable jumbo event.  

Each elephant will be painted by established or emerging local artists and will create a free art trail across Belfast for 10 weeks, for everyone to enjoy.  

Elmer the Patchwork Elephant is one of the most iconic and widely read children’s book series of all time, selling over 10 million copies worldwide since it was first published by Andersen Press in 1989. Written and illustrated by celebrated children’s author and artist David McKee, the Elmer books have been translated into more than 60 languages. 

Mary McCall, Director of Income and Generation at Northern Ireland Hospice, announced Elmer’s arrival at Horizon House along with the Lord Mayor of Belfast City Council, Kate Nicholl and Mayor of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, Billy Webb MBE. 

Mary said: “We have kept this a secret for as long as possible and now we are so excited to share this news with everyone. Elmer is a much-loved character and represents kindness, differences, acceptance, and friendship which is very much the spirit of Hospice. This is the largest event we have ever held, and we are delighted to be partnering with Wild in Art and Andersen Press with their expertise and advice. We hope that the community join us in celebrating the care delivered by the Children’s Hospice, enjoy seeing the beautiful Elmers’ and perhaps learn a bit more about what Hospice is all about.  

We are also launching a learning programme specifically for schools and we can’t wait to see the creative designs that they come up with! Whilst this is an amazing opportunity for our charity to raise vital funds, we hope we are also giving something wonderful back into the local community that has supported us for over 40 years. The next 12 months will be a whirlwind of excitement and organisation for us, and I would urge local businesses to get in touch early so they can be part of this amazing celebration event.” 

Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-Founder at Wild in Art added: “We are so excited to be working with Northern Ireland Hospice to bring the first public art trail to the city of Belfast, and the first Wild in Art event in Northern Ireland. Featuring a 3D canvas inspired by the famous patchwork elephant, Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail will see artists, young people and communities come together with businesses to showcase the area’s creativity, its heritage and spirit of fun. We hope industries and businesses in Northern Ireland together with cultural providers recognise the great benefits of getting involved as well as the positives for the local community and the Hospice.” 

Paul Black, PR and Brand Director at Andersen Press, said: “Elmer’s messages of kindness, friendship and inclusivity are at the heart of everything Northern Ireland Hospice does, so we’re over-the-moon that Elmer can play a part in spreading that message to Northern Ireland, and cannot wait to see all of the incredible, colourful designs on the streets of Belfast, and hopefully help raise much-needed funds for an incredible charity.”  

David McKee, the creator of Elmer, adds: “Elmer stands for accepting who you are and celebrating difference. We are all different, with so many differences, difference of colour, of accents, but also of size, shape and how we dress. The differences are what make the world so rich and its brilliant that we’ll celebrate that with Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail next year. 

The first Elmer book established ‘Elmer’s Day’ – the day every year when elephants decorate themselves and go out and parade. Since then, I’ve seen many drawings by children of decorated elephants, I’m so excited by the thought of large 3D elephants being decorated by artists and children. It will be fun both for the decorators and the spectators who get to see them. But more than that, it will be an enormous help to the Northern Ireland Hospice to continue its important work. I can’t wait to see the sculptures on the streets of Belfast.” 

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl said: “I’m very pleased to give my support to Northern Ireland Hospice in launching this new initiative which will not only be an added boost for local tourism but will increase awareness of the essential work that Hospice does across the community and will help raise vital funds for this much-loved local charity”.  

Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey, Councillor Billy Webb MBE added: “Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council is very appreciative of the Hospice’s vital work and will be an active supporter of this exciting nationwide art trail next summer. This announcement is great news – particularly at a time when the local economy really needs a boost and things to look forward to”. 

Elmer’s Big Belfast Trail will open on 27 June 2022 and over the coming weeks Northern Ireland Hospice will be asking local artists to submit designs for the 30 elephants. It is estimated that the trail could generate up to at least 200,000 visitors to Belfast and Hospice plan to take the Elmers on tour to other cities and towns across Northern Ireland for special farewell events in September 2022.