Moon landing-themed elephant will give South Shields a taste of what to expect from Elmer's Parade

One of the stars of an ele-phantastic art trail taking place this summer is breaking free from the herd to make a special appearance in South Shields.

Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 2:37 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th May 2019, 4:08 pm
Moon landing-themed elephant Elmer Armstrong is being kept under wraps for now. Here's a sneak preview of what to expect at The Word in South Shields.

From August 21 for 11 weeks, 50 elephant sculptures positioned across South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead, Newcastle and North Tyneside will form Elmer’s Great North Parade.

But one of the individually decorated elephants is to go on show earlier for one day only to mark a very special anniversary.

Elmer Armstrong will be visiting The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, at South Shields.

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Saturday, July 20, will be exactly 50 years since the first Moon landing and, to celebrate, The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, at South Shields, is holding a full day of space-themed activities.

And the guest of honour will be Elmer Armstrong – an elephant tribute to the first man to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong.

The sculpture has been designed and painted by Norwich-based mural artist Mik Richardson, who also painted a Snowdog in 2016’s Great North Snowdogs trail.

“I don’t want to say too much about the design because I want it to be a surprise,” said Mik, “but I can say that I’ve really enjoyed creating Elmer Armstrong.

Saturday, July 20, marks 50 years since Neil Armstrong became the first man on the Moon. Elmer Armstrong, a space-themed elephant, pays tribute to the achievement.

“The theme really resonated with me because I spent 27 years in the RAF as an avionics engineer, and although I live in East Anglia, my dad was from South Shields, so I’m really pleased my Elmer is going on show at The Word.”

Tania Robinson, head of culture at The Word, said the multi-award-winning venue is “very excited to be taking part in Elmer’s Great North Parade,” which is a Wild in Art event in support of St Oswald’s Hospice.

“Elmer has long been a favourite children's book character,” she said, “and, as the National Centre for the Written Word, we are thrilled to be sponsoring a sculpture to raise money for such a worthwhile cause.

“We hope as many people as possible will come along on July 20 to get a selfie with our fantastic Elmer and take part in the many activities we will be holding.”

Along with the chance to see Mik’s specially-designed Elmer, visitors to The Word on July 20 will be able to join the artist for a T-shirt designing session and enjoy storytelling with Simon Bartram, author and illustrator of Bob, The Man on the Moon.

The venue’s FabLab will be holding a drop-in session where visitors can use laser cutters to make space-themed key rings and souvenirs, and Big Bang Science Party will be showing children some out-of-this-world science experiments.

The Space Takeover Day, on Saturday,July 20, will take place from 10am to 4pm, and tickets for individual events can be booked online at or bought at Shop @ The Word.

Visitors can also be among the first to experience The Word’s major new exhibition, Amazing Space, which opens on June 29 and will explore space fact and fiction, taking visitors on a journey through Space like no other, from moons and planets to music and movies.

Elmer Armstrong will return on August 21 as part of the Parade and will remain in place for the duration of the 11-week trail, which is expected to be the biggest mass participation event in the North East this summer.