Big Dog Art Trail launches this weekend

By Ben Carey on 13 July, 2023

The hotly-anticipated Big Dog Art Trail kicks off in Swindon this weekend.

The world’s first balloon dog sculpture art trail, held in support of children’s hospice charity Julia’s House, runs from Saturday 15th July until Sunday 3rd September. There will be a trail of 30 giant, individually painted balloon dog sculptures across the town, as well as 42 smaller Swinpups dotted around for everyone to enjoy.

The Business Exchange is one of the event sponsors and has ‘adopted’ Gem Van Gils’ Swindog creation, ‘Viva la Frida’, located in Queen’s Park.

Anita Jaynes, Founder of The Business Exchange, said, “The Business Exchange is thrilled to be supporting Julia’s House with this fantastic initiative which celebrates art, champions our area, and brings businesses together for good.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to be part of a big community event in a special year for The Business Exchange as we get set to celebrate our tenth anniversary.

“I’ve personally seen the difference hospice care makes to children and families living with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions and wanted to help Julia’s House with its mission.”

Children’s cookery author and dog lover Annabel Karmel MBE helped launch The Big Dog Art Trail this week when she joined a selection of the sculptures at Lydiard Park.

Having lost her first child at a young age, Annabel understands the value of respite in times of heartache and stress. She is a long-standing supporter of Julia’s House and patron of the charity.

She said, “My three-month-old daughter died from encephalitis in hospital, but I would have liked to have had somewhere like the Julia’s House children’s hospice to come and take her.

“In those times when you feel so desperate, to have a room where you can be with your child when they’re coming to the end of their life, would have been very comforting.  The work Julia’s House does to support children with life limiting conditions and their families is amazing and I urge everyone to support The Big Dog Art Trail and this fantastic cause.”

After the trail ends on Sunday 3rd September, the complete pack of Swindogs and Swinpups will be brought together for a grand Farewell Weekend on 16th and 17th September at Swindon’s historic STEAM Museum, before they are auctioned on Tuesday 19th September.

All of the money raised will go to Julia’s House, which relies almost entirely on public funding to provide its lifeline of care to local families.

Mike Bartlett, Deputy CEO at Julia’s House, said, “We have been working on the trail for over a year with local businesses, the council, local and nationally renowned artists and around 40 schools – it has been an amazing community partnership.

“We’re so excited to be revealing all 72 sculptures, including our own Julia’s House Swindog, which has been created by the children at the Wiltshire hospice, together with local artist Hannah Dosanjh. 

“It’s going to be a great free event for everyone in Swindon this summer and a big visitor draw to the town.  We’re so grateful to everyone who has got behind the trail and helped to make it happen.  The money it will raise will make a huge difference to the life changing care we provide to seriously ill children and families in Swindon and across Wiltshire.”

For more information about the trail, sponsors and artists, or to download the map, app and education packs, visit The Big Dog Art Trail website or follow @bigdogarttrail on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and Twitter.