The Big Hoot

First let’s start with explaining this post’s title. Just what are “5 Great Art & Shopping Trails”?

It’s ok, Gift Shop Hub is here to help. We’re the ultimate retail resource of useful and not so useful facts after all. Below we’ll be exploring 5 retail trails. And exploring really is the key word here. The aim of an art trail is to follow a map to explore a village, town or city. To visit each location and then find a clue or object.

Each trail is different but they often have the same goal: To get people to visit the places off the beaten track. To open our eyes to the many indie shops hidden in the shambles, antique quarters and little villages around the UK. This article is focusing on public and shop based routes but there are also many wonderful trails that take in artist’s studios as they host open days. We’re also slightly bias towards animal themed events here at Gift Shop Hub… who can resist a brightly coloured spray-painted hippo after all!

What do Henderson’s Relish and the Artic Monkeys have in common?
Why yes, they’re all Sheffield icons. They’re also the inspiration behind the artwork painted onto Elephants that could be found around the Steel City last summer.

Throughout summer 2016 58 large elephant sculptures painted by professional artists and 72 smaller elephants designed by schools created one of the biggest mass participation arts events the city has ever seen. Taking in the city’s streets and open spaces tourists. Residents alike enjoyed their elephant safari, discovering and celebrating Sheffield’s heritage and vibrancy through this world-class initiative.

Featuring artists as varied as illustrator Matthew Cooper who has worked with the Arctic Monkeys designing the band’s “AM” album cover and Pete Mckee’s elephant Marjorie; a tribute to his late mother and mother-in-law who both shared the name.

This ones, a bit of a cheat as the Cudworth bunny Trail is run by Gift Shop Hub Editor Chris Fox from retailer Wishes of Cudworth. Whilst we try and avoid nepotism as much as we can, we hope you agree the bunnies deserve their spot of this list. Part of a new shop local campaign, 9 shops in Cudworth (A small village in Barnsley) have cute rabbits in their windows. We’ll be covering the story behind the trail in more detail in our Cudworth Bunny Trail diary but now you can hop over to to find out more…

The Big Hoot captured the imagination of everyone in Birmingham and beyond in the summer of 2015, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets with their Big Hoot Trail maps to explore the colourful invasion of individually designed owls. Taking in the city’s 10 districts, tourists and residents alike enjoyed their owl adventure, discovering and celebrating the extraordinary creativity produced by many of Birmingham’s artistic community and over 25,000 young people.

The Big Hoot owls went under the hammer on 15 October 2015 at The Big Hoot auction sponsored by Vodafone and they smashed their target by raising the incredible sum of £508,035!

Hi, The Boot Hoot, why did you choose an owl to represent Birmingham?

After consultation into an appropriate sculpture that resonates with all communities, it was agreed to develop an owl for this event – inspired by the Eagle Owl – not least because Birmingham is one of the few places in the UK to have recorded sightings of this very rare bird. We felt that the owl also offered so much more – relevant themes such as wisdom, learning, industry, the environment, is child-friendly, and indeed, offers a broad canvas to explore humour, puns and social media. Furthermore, 2015 is the 750th anniversary of Parliament in the UK and the collective noun for owls is a ‘parliament’!

2Rutland Hippo Trail

This delightful trail came up often when researching this article but with a slightly troublesome tone… hippo kidnapping. A story in the Stamford Mercury told how three of the hippos had been stolen in night-time raids.

“On Tuesday night an orange hippo, which had only been installed on Monday, was snatched from the Stamford Road roundabout in Oakham, after the chains securing it to rocks where snapped off.

The following evening two more hippos were stolen – a duck egg blue-coloured baby model from Barnsdale Lodge Hotel and a green hippo from Lyddington’s village green”

It’s such a shame to see the focus move away from the event and onto the crimes committed. Gift Shop Hub wanted to share more about the trail itself but the stolen hippos dominated the story. It would be nice to hear about the positive side of this trail and the lessons learnt. As we look towards our own 2018 Cudworth Bunny Trail with larger rabbits, we can’t help but think about the security of our statures if displayed in public areas. The Rutland Hippo Trail ran back in 2010 and we can only hope it created a positive legacy beyond the story of the stolen hippos.

GoGoDragons! 2015 was an interactive arts sculpture trail that brought 84 large dragon sculptures and 120 school dragons to the City of Norwich.

Created by Wild in Art’s Creative Director Chris Wilkinson, the dragon sculpture draws on the close association between the heraldic symbol and the city since the Middle Ages. The creatures feature in much of Norwich’s architecture and the city has churches dedicated to Saint George in Tombland and Colegate – both of which house dragon symbols.

There were 84 individually designed large dragons to discover and each one was decorated by artists and sponsored by a local business, trust or group.

Seven of the GoGoDragons! clan shined a spotlight on elements of the city and its history. Known as the Heritage Seven, these dragons were part of a special project managed by Eastern Region Media Community Interest Company (ERM CIC) and they were developed by artists working with local community groups.

There were also 120 smaller dragons which were decorated by children and young people from Norwich’s schools and community groups who spent a term learning about the mythical, historical and local connections of Dragons, as part of an education project delivered by education partner The Forum Trust. These dragons were displayed in clusters in The Forum, Intu Chapelfield, Castle Mall, Norwich Lanes and some local independents.

At the end of the trail the large dragons were auctioned to fund the valuable work of Norfolk charity Break who support vulnerable children, young people and families across East Anglia.