A line of trunks greets me as I stand at the top of Fargate, looking down towards the tram line.
Pretty shades of pink and striking hues of blue, bold patterns and intricate designs - each elephant with a story of its own to tell. As I head out on the Herd of Sheffield Trail that first day, I’m honestly stunned by the care and effort that has gone into every design.
It’s not my first time seeing these magnificent creatures, I was lucky enough to swing a backstage pass to view them in their natural habitat, at the city centre warehouse where they’ve been hiding out the past couple of months, just waiting for the stampede to begin. But seeing them now, standing proudly in the sunshine, is truly a sight to behold.
Each one draws a small crowd as I stop to look. Office workers on their lunch break, pensioners out doing their shopping, and a few like me, armed with cameras, on a mission to visit all 58 elephants. I meet Pete Southwood and his three-year-old daughter Molly outside the City Hall, who’ve visited 34 elephants already this morning. I chat to 72-year-old pensioner Abdul in Devonshire Green, as we both stop to marvel at The Star’s elephant, with its scenic nod to the great outdoors.
I pass the snooker elephant at The Crucible, signed by the players weeks earlier, and the city’s musical ‘Legends’ elephant a little further up, that’s already looking set to become a firm favourite.
It’s a wonderful idea, that’s seen artists and designers unite, businesses join forces and - now it’s finally arrived in the city - conversations inspired.
The last time an elephant caused such a stir in Sheffield was when our beloved Lizzie walked these cobbled streets many moons ago. As the inspiration for this arts project, Lizzie - who was brought to the city to help with the war effort 100 years ago - was truly loved by everyone and won a place in the heart of every resident in Sheffield. Tales of her plodding through the city’s streets, up and down hills - venturing between factories to ensure Sheffield’s furnaces continued to roar before resting in her stable near to the factories of Kelham Island - have become legendary. While working hard, she is said to have had a cheeky personality; eating a schoolboy’s cap, putting her trunk through a kitchen window to help herself to a pie that was cooling, and pushing over a traction engine are some of the stories that swept the city and helped her become a celebrity in her own right. It isn’t clear what happened to Lizzie after the war, but what is certain, thanks to the incredible Herd of Sheffield Trail, is the impact she had on our fair city.