The Big Dog Art Trail wins Best in Show in Swindon

By Jamie Hill - 14 September 2023

Arts and CultureCommunity

With more than 23,000 people taking part, almost 210,000 Swindogs and Swinpups collected and 13,500 miles of walkies around the trail, The Big Dog Art Trail got Swindon’s tails well and truly wagging this summer.

The world’s first ever balloon dog art trail was a huge success, with an amazing 1083 people collecting all 72 sculptures located in local parks and green spaces, shopping streets, libraries and community centres across Swindon this summer.

All in aid of Julia’s House, the local children’s hospice charity, and brought to Swindon by Wild in Art, the seven-week-long public art event had people of all ages out and about exploring Swindon, as they discovered the unique, brightly coloured sculptures.

Chris Hyde, Project Manager of The Big Dog Art Trail, said: "We have been blown away by the response from the public to the trail. The Swindogs and Swinpups have brought joy, excitement and colour to Swindon over the summer for locals and also for tourists to the town, many of whom have visited just to see the trail. It has been amazing to see everyone’s reactions and watch families, children and even pets all enjoying the amazing designs and exploring the local area to visit their favourite places as well as discover new ones"

If you have missed any of the sculptures or want to see them for one last time, there will be a chance to meet them all at the Farewell Weekend on 16 and 17 September at the STEAM Museum.  The giant Swindogs will be joined by the Swinpups, designed by local schools and youth organisations, for a final paw-some public appearance all together.

Supporting Julia’s House

The Big Dog Art Trail has helped raise awareness and vital funds for Julia’s House, which relies on public support for over 90 per cent of its funding. 

Chris continues: "We have had such a lovely response from everyone on the trail to the amazing care the Julia’s House nurses and carers provide every day. We support the most seriously ill children and their families in Swindon and across Wiltshire and we want to be able to continue this life-changing care. If you haven’t yet done so, we would so appreciate your support and donations and of course, we hope to raise further funds at our Grand Auction on 19 September, where the Swindogs will be on sale to the highest bidder for a unique memory of the trail."

Bringing together art and business communities

The balloon dog sculptures were brought to life by amazing local and national artists, whose imagination and creativity saw hotdogs, dragons and butterflies all take to the streets of Swindon.

Papillon, designed by Caroline Parrott and sponsored by Intel, was voted the best in show by The Big Dog Art Trail app users, as the stunning butterfly design blended in seamlessly to its surroundings in the beautiful Rose Garden at Lydiard Park.

Speaking about her artistic creation, which featured 3,864 hand-painted and hand-cut aluminium butterflies and took 9 months to complete, Caroline Parrott said: "Papillon is the biggest challenge in my work I’ve ever created, so I’m immensely proud he’s been voted top dog.  I’m so excited to be at the farewell weekend and auction, and see him hopefully raise a good amount of money for the charity. It was fantastic to see the trail when I visited Swindon for the opening weekend. I sat near to a few sculptures while I was there and watched the reactions of people who were out finding the dog sculptures, there was so much excitement and appreciation of the work involved to create them.

"It’s been a great way to highlight Julia’s House children’s hospice and how important it is to children, families and carers. I helped to care for my Dad throughout the nine months I worked on Papillon, and although this is the other end of the scale as far as care goes, it just highlighted to me even more how important charities like Julia’s House are for providing support and respite for families."

The Big Dog Art Trail wouldn’t have been possible without headline sponsors Imagine Cruising, alongside all the businesses that sponsored each individual sculpture to ensure they were enjoyed by the public.

Robin Deller, co-founder and CEO of Imagine Cruising, said: "Having been a proud sponsor of Julia’s House for several years, when the opportunity arose for us to sponsor The Big Dog Art Trail itself, as well as our very own Swindog, we were incredibly excited. We always relish the chance to support our community as best we can and witnessing the talents of local artists and seeing this fantastic event bring so many people together, it is just incredible."

The final bow wow

The final steps around the trail may now have been taken, but there is still a chance to see all of the Swindogs and Swinpups together under one roof for their final bow wow.

Held in the iconic STEAM Museum on Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17 between 10am and 5pm, the Farewell Weekend will be your last chance to see all the incredible sculpture designs in one colourful event.  You will also have the chance to win your very own miniature Swindog.  Book in advance to secure your place, or pay on the day. Tickets cost £2.50 per person, U3s go free. 

Find out more here:

At the Grand Auction you’ll have another chance to see the Swindogs in all their glory and bid for your favourite sculpture at this thrilling evening at STEAM Museum on Tuesday, September 19.

Hosted by celebrity auctioneer Charles Hanson, you can register to bid at the event, and the auction is now live online for those wanting to take part from further afield. There is also a special Buy It Now price which will be available from 4 to 11 September.

Find out more here:

Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-founder, Wild in Art said: "It will be such a spectacle to see all the Swindogs gathered together for the Farewell Weekend. The trail has been a huge success and it’s all down to the people of Swindon who have really made the trail their own.  Now it’s time for us to generate a legacy for Julia’s House as we find homes for these unique and quite stunning pieces of art. We know from previous trails that people fall in love with a sculpture they have walked past every day, or a business may be excited about installing a particular Swindog as a talking point in their foyer. The reasons are endless but what they all have in common is that Julia’s House will benefit from every Swindog sold at the auction."


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