Surrey Hills CowParade 2016 brings charitable fun to our countryside
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders beware, because cows are set to take over our county this summer! As the world’s biggest public art event, CowParade, arrives in the Surrey Hills, Matthew Williams meets the first three colourful characters to escape from the farm...
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine April 2016
If you haven’t yet heard of CowParade, then mark our words, you soon will. The world’s largest public art event, this innovative concept has already been staged in more than 80 cities worldwide, from London and Paris to New York. And now it’s coming to the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), meaning that we can look forward to hundreds of brightly-coloured cows decorating this special landscape.
“The idea of Surrey Hills CowParade is that individuals, companies and schools will sponsor a life-size cow and either decorate it themselves or bring in an artist to do it,” explains Caroline Price, member services manager for Surrey Hills Enterprises, which is coordinating the project. “The cows will then be displayed around the county before being auctioned off, with the proceeds split between the sponsor’s chosen charity and the Surrey Hills Trust Fund, established to conserve and protect the Surrey Hills AONB.”
Originally born in Switzerland in 1998, CowParade has since seen more than 3,000 cows decorated by more than 5,000 artists across the world. So who knows how this might catch on in this rural landscape! Here, we meet the first three to be making their way to the Surrey Hills...
1) Mirror Moo
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The leader of the herd, the aptly-named ‘Mirror Moo’, is the official Surrey Hills cow.
Launched at Coverwood Farm in Ewhurst (aka CowParade HQ), this striking chrome cow was painted by specialists Spray Chrome UK to, literally, reflect the landscape of the Surrey Hills.
The sparkling design, which has led to many a bemused real-life cow, was officially unveiled by CowParade leader Tim Metson and the Mayor of Waverley, Cllr Mike Band.
“My family have been farming at Coverwood Farm since the 1950s, and we have seen many changes,” says Tim. “The high land and labour prices, together with the depression in agricultural incomes, create a massive pressure to give up farming or diversify, which does not benefit the Surrey Hills.
“CowParade coming to the Surrey Hills allows us to shine a light on what an important role farmers play as custodians of the landscape.”
Since helping to launch the project at Sandown Park racecourse in Esher, ‘Mirror Moo’ has met Mary Berry at RHS Wisley’s Christmas lights switch-on, settled in for the evening at The Cock Inn in Headley and dined among the vines at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking. This is a cow with an access-all-areas pass…
Coming straight out of Compton is ‘Pilgrim’, pictured above, a collaborative work between teams from Kings College, Guildford, and Watts Gallery – Artists’ Village.
To create this colourful cow, a group of GCSE art students worked alongside local visual artist Becci Kenning, taking inspiration from the rich history and exhibits of Watts Gallery, and the results are spectacular.
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” says Becci. “I’ve built a great relationship with the students – it’s been wonderful talking to them as artists and listening to their ideas in a relaxed environment.”
Becci believes the resulting design, which took two weeks to paint to the desired texture and depth of colour before being glazed, features a strong Arts and Crafts palette, which is a nod to the pottery at the gallery.
The pupils’ own sketches of the CowParade design and studies of the artist Watts’ approach and his drawing techniques will now form part of their GCSE art portfolio. The experience, their teacher says, has been invaluable.
“Surrey Hills CowParade is a great initiative,” says Kings College’s head of art, Lucy Davis. “We were keen to get involved as it’s been wonderful for our art students to have the opportunity to work on a real live brief alongside such a talented professional artist. I would definitely recommend that other schools take part.”
Throughout Surrey Hills CowParade, the public will be able to meet ‘Pilgrim’ in the grounds of the gallery. Meanwhile, Watts’ colossal horse sculpture, Physical Energy, is said to be pulling out every trick available to remain the centre of visitors’ attention…
Where ‘Mirror Moo’ brings abstract excitement and ‘Pilgrim’ a splash of colour, this third addition to the Surrey Hills CowParade family makes sure that the parade’s hooves remain firmly grounded, despite their newfound fame.
Affectionately named ‘Trusty’ by Surrey Hills Trust Fund chairman, Neil Maltby, this latest member of the herd was designed and painted by local artist Ali Clarke to help raise awareness of the Surrey Hills AONB.
“I’m delighted with the design,” says Neil. “I felt strongly that this was a perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the Surrey Hills landscape and the organisations that are in place to help protect this special area.
“Trusty will not only form part of CowParade during the summer but will also help us longer term to promote and educate people about the Surrey Hills when we take her around the county to shows and events.”
The design for ‘Trusty’ was directly inspired by the established branding of the Surrey Hills, featuring the undulating landscape as well as hints to the work of Walter Bailey, the sculptor commissioned to make the famous wooden boundary markers and artworks distributed across the AONB.
“The fluid shapes transfer so well onto the undulating form of the cow,” says Ali. “And it was apt that I should paint this alongside real cows on a farm in the heart of the Surrey Hills.”
We’re pretty sure ‘Trusty’ will have no problem blending in...
• Surrey Hills CowParade will run from May to September 2016. To sponsor a cow or for more information about how you can get involved, visit the official website at cowparadesurreyhills.com
So what’s the beef?
In summary, the idea behind Surrey Hills CowParade is that individuals, companies and schools will sponsor a life-size fibreglass cow and either decorate it themselves or bring in an artist to do it. The cows will then be displayed around Surrey before being herded to the inaugural Surrey Hills Food, Drink and Music Festival on Saturday September 3 at Coverwood Farm in Ewhurst, where they will be auctioned off for charity. Those judged to be extra-special will be auctioned at a glittering ceremony to be held at a unique London location later in the year.
About the Surrey Hills
The Surrey Hills is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), one of 38 such protected landscapes. The hills stretch across a quarter of the county and include the chalk slopes of the North Downs from Farnham in the west to Oxted in the east and extend south to the deeply wooded Greensand Hills that rise in Haslemere.
Surrey Hills Society writes a monthly column about the goings-on in our county's Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Surrey Life magazine - never miss your copy, by taking advantage of our latest money-saving subscription offer.