Unleashed once more, Gromit is out and about in Bristol for another summer – but this time he’s got company… Find out how The Grand Appeal has upped the arts trail game and taken its poster pup to ground-breaking new heights (quite literally!)

Gromit, the clay canine of A Grand Day Out fame, and other beloved box office hits, is back in Bristol this month – spottable in familiar sculpture form all over the city, and sporting beautiful themed designs from local artists, sponsored by local organisations and businesses.

He’s not alone, however. This time round he’s got faithful owner and madcap inventor Wallace in tow, plus – somehow – that pesky penguin, arch nemesis Feathers McGraw, is following them around too. They just can’t shake him off, can they?

Led by Bristol Children’s Hospital charity The Grand Appeal in collaboration with Aardman Animations, Gromit Unleashed 2 follows the success of Gromit Unleashed and Shaun in the City, in 2013 and 2015 respectively, which raised millions to save lives and support young patients and their families.

From 2 July until 2 September more than 60 sculptures, each individually designed and decorated by high-profile artists, designers, innovators and local talent, will be spread across Bristol – this will be the world’s first arts trail to feature three licensed characters. This year’s event also sees collaborations with international brands and household names, including Bristol-filmed gameshow The Crystal Maze plus exciting, all-new, interactive animatronic sculptures…

Look out for artist Zoe Power’s bold and cheerful Gromit, covered in Bristolian expressions, geometric elements and images of the city, on Clifton’s Sion Hill

Locations: branching out

The 2018 trail is super-inclusive, showcasing more of Bristol and the surrounding areas than ever before. Thornbury represents the most northerly point, with Avon Valley Adventure and Wildlife Park and Chew Valley marking the east and south boundaries respectively, and Weston-super-Mare in the west. St Mark’s Road in Easton, the Royal Fort Garden at the University of Bristol, Hartcliffe Community Farm and Blaise Castle are four of many locations taking part in the trail for the first time, with Clifton Suspension Bridge, Temple Meads and The Mall at Cribbs Causeway returning for a third time.

All sculptures are free to access and wheelchair friendly – with any sculptures situated at attractions with entry fees to be located at the entrance.

A map and an app is available as of the start of July to help navigate the full trail, in addition to which there will be shorter ‘trails within trails’ for visitors to discover across the whole of Bristol.

New interactive elements

Organisers have brought together the best and brightest of Bristol’s diverse creative and tech industries to create a really special, pioneering feel to this year’s edition. With the help of four ‘trailblazers’: Creditcall, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce and the University of Bristol, the event is going where no arts trail has gone before, putting innovation at the forefront of Gromit Unleashed.‘Gromitronic’ comes courtesy of Renishaw, with a plasma ball nose and waggling printed tail

Where your money goes

Ten of the sculptures in the trail will fundraise for specific wards, services and departments in Bristol Children’s Hospital. This means that visitors can choose which one to support and donate through a designated contactless donation point. At the end of the trail these sculptures will be auctioned off for their designated service or department. Those are ED, Major Trauma, Neurosurgery, Cardiac, Bereavement and Palliative Care, PICU, NICU, Oncology and Surgery & Theatres. Seven other donation points will fundraise for the entire hospital. The remaining sculptures will also be auctioned off to support the hospital as a whole.

Drawing on their expertise in STEM disciplines, Renishaw, Rolls-Royce and University of Bristol have each created extraordinary interactive and robotic sculptures to amaze trail fans, and show just what is possible when you combine arts and science. The Grand Appeal has partnered with global payments technology company Creditcall to provide contactless payment technology around the trail to help drive fundraising for Bristol Children’s Hospital during the trail and make it easier and quicker than ever to donate.

With the promise of augmented reality, feats of engineering, and truly unique sculptures never seen in a public arts trail, organisers hope to take Gromit fans to unprecedented places – and, we must say, we are brimming with excitement.

Some of the interactive sculptures were unveiled at the Brabazon Hangar at Filton Airfield recently, ahead of the trail launch, to show how forward-thinking technology has been harnessed to showcase Bristol’s diverse creative and tech industries. Gromitronic, designed and built by a young team of Renishaw engineers, combines multiple technologies including mechanical engineering, electronics, software and metal 3D printing and features everything from a plasma ball nose to a waggling 3D printed tail to entertain the young and young-at-heart, while aiming to stimulate discussion about engineering technologies. Look closely at the collar and you may also recognise a few Bristol landmarks – all 3D printed in miniature. High-flyer Gromjet, brought to life by Rolls-Royce, recognises the importance of engineering and aviation in Bristol’s past, present and future. Using the same technology reserved for its Pegasus engine on the Harrier and the LiftSystemTM on the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, engineers equipped Gromit with hybrid-electric engines which take him to new heights – literally! Rising up to one metre, Gromjet is the result of advanced processes such as 3D scanning and printing. The Crystal Maze presenter Richard Ayoade costing up with the show’s themed Gromit

Named after a watchmaker’s most complex design, A Grand Gromplication was designed and produced by three University of Bristol engineering students – Christine Braganza, Ella Allan and Octavia Clark – after their design won a competition by the Faculty of Engineering. Inspired by steampunk culture and its connection with gears and cogs, A Grand Gromplication is a play on the term used by watchmakers to describe the most intricate designs. The term is also a nod to the historic Bristol time, which placed Bristol 10 minutes ahead of London before the introduction of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884. The students spent over 350 hours installing over 700 cogs on Gromit, using computer aided design, 3D printing, gear ratios and soldering.

“Watching Gromitronic, Gromjet and A Grand Gromplication slowly come to life over the last six months has been the most exciting wait of our lives,” says Nicola Masters, director of The Grand Appeal. “We are absolutely delighted with the incredible results and are so grateful to every single person involved for helping us take Gromit Unleashed 2 into totally new territory. To quote a certain inventor, ‘We’ve tested this on Gromit – haven’t we lad?’”

Oh yes, it’s going to be a cracking summer.

grandappeal.org.uk; gromitunleashed.org.uk

Featured image: Isambard and Wallace: both loved for amazing inventions that they’ve put Bristol on the map. Artist Tim Miness is responsible for Wallace’s Brunel makeover – find him at the SS Great Britain site, naturally.