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Wild in Art’s Charlie Langhorne on the key to making brands work as sculptures – and the IP he’d love to collaborate with.
Charlie, it’s great to catch up. We last spoke in 2021, when you gave us some great insights into Wild in Art’s “big, bonkers, brilliant, public art trails”. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then – what have you been up to?
We had a really busy year in 2022. In total, we delivered 27 trails or related activities – from 12 sculptures in smaller communities to over 100 sculptures spread across seven cities. From Auckland to St Andrew’s, Sydney to Southampton, from golf bags to T-Rexs, it’s been a really exciting year. Oh, and incredibly we had sculptures on the streets for 358 days of the year, with 855 large sculptures and 731 smaller ones created by schools and community groups.
“In 2022, incredibly we had sculptures on the streets for 358 days of the year!”
Amazing. I know Wild in Art work closely with a creative community of artists, designers and illustrators. What advice would you give to artists looking to get involved with Wild In Art and your trails?
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You work closely with charities to curate and deliver fundraising trails for them. What would be your pitch to them in terms of why they should get involved with a trail?
I never really think of it as a pitch as we are very fortunate – and I absolutely do not take this for granted – to have more approaches about trails that we can take forward. Our work with charities is very much a partnership and the closer we work with them, the better the outcomes seem to be.
More often than not, the first priority for a charity wanting to run a trail is about fundraising. While this is a key aim, I always say it should not be the only aim as our trails deliver much more than this.
Things like such as corporate engagement, both short and longer term, as well as staff engagement, awareness, health and well-being, volunteer programmes and so on. We are fortunate in that many of our charities work with us on multiple trails over multiple years and we develop a really close and friendly relationship with them.
“We work with some great IP owners and I’m always mindful of the trust they place in us – it really is something that I value.”
Some of your trails feature well known IP and licensed characters. How do you persuade IP owners to get involved?
Much like our relationship with charities, I don’t want to have to persuade anyone to work with us – with one canine exception and you know who you are! I hope that they see what we do and want to work with us.
We work with some great IP owners and characters and I’m always mindful of the trust they place in us – it really is something that I value. We have great relationships with the likes of Aardman, Penguin Random House, Andersen Press and Walker Books. On a personal level, I’m so proud that they allow Wild in Art to ‘play’ with the characters. Thank you all!
What is also important when we work with any character is that it has to work as a sculpture for an art trail. Sadly, we do sometimes have to say no as, much we might want to. If the character can’t work as a sculpture, we just can’t make it work.
What are some of the projects you are working on for this year?
2023 is a really exciting year for Wild in Art as we celebrate our 15th anniversary. We have some really great trails coming up. From Elmer the Patchwork elephant in Christchurch, New Zealand, to hares in Aberdeen and the Highlands and Islands… Fun fact: our two furthest apart sculptures in 2023 will be 11,252 miles apart, Christchurch in New Zealand to Lerwick in Shetland!
We also have two Shaun the Sheep trails and Morph heading into London. We have tortoises in Jersey and castles in Swansea and we’ll be Going on a Bear Hunt in Leeds… Something for everyone to enjoy!
Absolutely. All sounds fantastic. I know that in some cases, the charities you work with develop merchandise for the trails and also buy in licensed product to stock their shops with. Can you tell us a bit more about the retail part of the trail programmes?
Yes, many of our partner charities have fairly large retail offerings with a significant number of shops. Working with a licensed character opens many possibilities for the sale of licensed product, but many also produce merchandise that is specific to the actual trail. It’s clear that the public really enjoy the trails and are keen to take a piece of it home with them.
“If the character can’t work as a sculpture, we can’t make it work.”
Are there any licenses you would like to work with and talk to? They might be reading!
Apart from the certain canine mentioned earlier, I would love to develop a trail with LEGO. I think the LEGO Minifigure would make a really fantastic sculpture, carry so many art forms and would be hugely popular with the public. I think it would also raise huge amounts for charity. It would be fantastic.
We’ve put it out there – let’s see what happens! Finally, please let us know three of your favourite individual design and sculptures from the trails you have run…
This is a tough one as it so often changes. Sometimes it will be the art form on the sculpture, other times the sculpture itself or the location.
The whale tail sculpture is a particular favourite at the moment but then again so is our castle… Then again, seeing our lighthouse sculpture In Lerwick was pretty exciting, or seeing a rhino on the steps of the Sydney Opera House… Or, or or!
Ha! Spoilt for choice! Thanks again Charlie, let’s tie-in again soon.
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