Big Dog Art Trail 'Swinpups' ready to go walkies to local schools

By Jessica Durston - 12 January 2023


The Big Dog Art Trail team say a parade of Swinpups are getting ready to go walkies in classrooms across Swindon in anticipation of the UK’s first balloon dog art trail, this Summer.

Credit - Daniel Graves

Schools, colleges, and children’s nurseries are being invited to adopt and design their very own 80 centimetre-high balloon dog sculpture, as part of Swindon's Big Dog Art Trail’s learning programme.

Once decorated, the mini Swinpups will feature on the free art trail through some of Swindon’s most iconic and historic places, alongside around 30 giant Swindog sculptures, which will be painted by a mixture of professional and up-and-coming artists.

The Swinpups will then be returned to their 'forever homes' for schools and communities to continue to enjoy.

The Big Dog Art Trail is being brought to town by global art trail producer Wild in Art and the Wiltshire children’s hospice charity, Julia’s House. 

As well as receiving a blank Swinpup sculpture to decorate and keep forever, participating schools and communities will be supported with guidance and resources to help design their sculpture and engage their young learners in the project.

They will also receive advice to help them fundraise a target amount of £500 for Julia’s House to help the charity continue its life-changing care in the local community.

This creative learning adventure for children and young people is being supported by Swindon Borough Council - the trail’s official Learning Programme Partner. The council recently announced its support for The Big Dog Art Trail, allocating £80,000 from a special UK Government levelling up grant to part-fund the event.

Cllr Matty Courtliff, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Heritage, Leisure and Town Centre Experience, said: “All children should have the opportunity to explore the arts and develop their creative skills with hands-on, real world experiences. Thanks to funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, we’re delighted to be supporting The Big Dog Art Trail and Julia’s House as the trail’s Learning Programme Partner. I’m very excited to see what our town’s budding young artists will create with their own Swinpups.”

Running from 15 July - 3 September 2023, The Big Dog Art Trail is expected to attract thousands of visitors from outside Swindon and encourage local residents to re-discover the town, and provide a welcome boost for local businesses.

The Big Dog Art Trail team say the major art trail will end with a grand farewell finale where all of the Swindog and Swinpup sculptures will be brought together under one roof. After that, all the Swinpups will return back to their schools and communities for display.

Following this, the supersized Swindog sculptures will be adopted at a special auction event to raise essential funds for Julia’s House children’s hospice.

Martin Edwards, Chief Executive of Julia’s House, said: “We’re delighted that young people can take part in the Big Dog Art Trail adventure and get their paws messy while they create their very own Swinpups. Play and creativity is at the heart of our care for seriously ill children across Wiltshire; it’s a powerful way for the children to discover the world around them, communicate and develop skills and understanding.

“We hope schools and young people across Swindon have a lot of fun designing their own Swinpups and learning more about their local community and environment – we can’t wait to see where their wild imagination takes them! And they’ll be joined by the children at the Julia’s House Wiltshire hospice who will be designing their very own Swinpup too. They’re all going to be an exciting addition to the art trail.”

To apply for a Swinpup, those interested are asked to complete an application form by Friday 10 February at the Big Dog Art Trail website:

Key Big Dog Art Trail Learning Programme dates are as follows:

  • January 2023 - Local schools, youth groups and nurseries invited to join the Learning Programme.
  • 10 February 2023 - Deadline for Learning Programme applications.
  • March 2023 - Learning Programme inspiration event.
  • March to June 2023 - Swinpups painted by schools and young people.
  • 15 July to 3 September 2023 - Big Dog Art Trail goes LIVE around Swindon.
  • 16 and 17 September 2023 - Farewell event with all the Swindogs and Swinpups in one place.
  • 18 September 2023 - Swinpups return to their forever homes. Auction event for giant Swindogs.

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