A MASSIVE Look Back (1/3)

Do you remember our MASSIVE, wish-covered elephant??

This year marks twenty years since our first big project – MASSIVE. It aimed to make people smile, to brighten up a drab and dull day in Buxton and give our local community the opportunity to create an image of something that made them happy.

We worked with local artists and over a thousand volunteers and children in local schools in the lead up to Buxton Festival and Fringe 2000.

It all began with a dream had by Anna Watson, which involved huge aluminium rainbows and Fairfield. The dream instilled “a hum of excitement and a strong sense of determination” to make a child smile and offer an imaginative and colourful space for people to be. “It was born out of my love of community arts” says Anna, “having been raised by a family of artists, clowns and puppeteers and a desire to bring magic into the lives of others including my then 3 year-old daughter, Maisie. I woke up one morning in the summer of 1999 and envisioned an interactive art installation which would connect people from every corner of the community: young, old, less-able, isolated and the more gregarious.

Anna teamed up with old school friend Chris Robinson and Funny Wonders and a “big furry elephant with purple tusks and a funky coat of hexagons was conceived”. Bryn Layton came up with the name; Millennium Arts Supporting Society Involving Velvet Elephants (MASSIVE) and we applied for funding.

Chris, along with the help and skills of nearly 20 others, built the elephant body out of willow withies, bamboo canes and chicken wire. Chris had just moved back to the area and the project provided him with “a means of finding his place again within a community he used to know well”.

Meanwhile, Anna visited many local services, schools and community organisations and invited people of all ages and backgrounds to create a fabric hexagon containing an image of ‘what makes me happy’. This resulted in a collection of over sixty decorated hexagons which were sewn together to make a blanket to be draped over the elephant.

Anna reflects, “the results were incredible… I witnessed faces lighting up, connections between admiring contributors being forged and a visible sense of achievement on witnessing the huge, elephant-sized patchwork quilt draped over the smartest velvet elephant Buxton had ever been host to.”

What a wonderful memory. You [Anna], Chris (the willow weaver) and the whole kaboodle!” Nicola

Aww I loved this elephant!” Felicity

The following thanks were made to: The Bingham Trust, High Peak Borough Council, Rachel Shilling-Payne (Springs Shopping Centre), Buxton Museum & Art Gallery, Robert McGuiness (R.L.M. Associates) on behalf of Warwick Homes Ltd. Developers for the space in which to “construct our behemoth”, Buxton’s Samba Band, Ruth R, Pete and Sarah (Cheshire Cheese ‘cremation service’), Chris and Doug Agnew, Keith Jones Publicity, Michael Clement, Tom Crawshaw & Laurie Agnew (web-site makers).

The elephant makers – Chris, Annie M, Bryn, Heidi, Paula, Andrea, Rachel, Sarah, Jamie, Aaron, Sean, Dan, Janet R who made the headdress and Claire

The hexagon makers at – The Bedford, The Dovedale building at High Peak College, High Peak Pre-School, Grapevine Community Cafe, Cavendish Hospital, Fairfield Infant School, Chapel-en-le-Frith Junior School, Hollinsclough Nursery and Infant school, John Duncans School, the children of Bennett St, Rachel, Andrea and any other highly talented individuals that may have escaped by attention!

The blanket-makers – Annie M, Annie L, Ruby, Rachel, Chris & Doug A, Celia, Fliss, Ali, Heidi and Nicky

And Claire Wilde who designed the posters, leaflets and forms.

Do you have any memories? Get in touch at

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