If you were in Birmingham or the Black Country over the summer – you may have seen a bear. For 10 weeks, over a hundred colourful ‘sun bear’ sculptures were on display in a trail spanning 70 miles, in a collection called ‘The Big Sleuth’. The ceramic bears, standing at 5 foot 6, were designed by various artists, with each costing £6,000 of sponsorship money to produce.
The Big Sleuth was a charity initiative which followed on from ‘The Big Hoot’, which auctioned owl statues in 2015 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, and other auctions from around the UK ran by the ‘Wild in Art’ organisation.
On Thursday 12th October, after a final showing of all the bears at Eastside City Park in Birmingham, 91 of the bears were sold in an auction at the Thinktank science museum. The event raised a collective £257,300 for the charity.
The bear which sold for the most money was ‘Buzz’ bear, fetching £9,000. Buzz was sponsored by the University of Birmingham and decorated with flowers and bees, designed by Julia Allum. The bear was on display on the University of Birmingham campus, alongside ‘Rosie’ and ‘Professor Bee Kind’.
‘Peony Passion’ made the second most money at £8,000, with a design of a panda wearing a floral silk robe. London Midland bought the third highest-selling bear, ‘The Bear that Cares’ for £7,000, and will donate it to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. The bear itself was inspired by the story of a girl named Arabella, daughter of the cousin of artist Kieron Reilly, who died before the age of 8 weeks due to a heart condition.
Other top-selling bears auctioned included ‘Mother Bear’, which was decorated with various species of bear and sold for £6,200; ‘Sweet William’ which featured Shakespeare quotes and a floral decoration, which was voted the public’s favourite, and was sold for £6,100; and a ‘Peaky Blinders’ bear, which was sold for £5,900 – inspired by the BBC 2 show set to have its fourth season later this year.
Although the event raised less than the Big Hoot – which brought in £508,035 – the director of fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Louise McCathie, said “the money raised will make a huge difference to the 90,000 sick kids our hospital cares for each year and we can’t thank our bidders and everyone involved in the project enough.”
For more information on the Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, visit: www.bch.org.uk