A new phenomenon was launched to a blaze of media publicity in Chester this week. BARRY ELLAMS reports
CHESTER Cathedral refectory exuded all the glamour of a Lamborghini showroom on Tuesday evening as a classy new model was unveiled to snapping cameras, film crews and raised wine glasses.
No flashy supercars here though, instead a Super-rhino, streamlined, constructed of fibreglass and a snip at £5,000.
The Rhinomania launch organised by Chester Renaissance and Wild in Art and supported by Cheshire West and Chester Council, Bank of America and Big Storage showcased some of the 70 three feet replica beasts that will gatecrash the City of Chester this summer.
Part of the Chestival programme, Rhinomania is an exclusive street art project that cements Chester’s affinity with its neighbouring zoo.
Conceived by local and regional artists from Cheshire, Wirral, and Merseyside the rhinos have drawn up some vivid and imaginative designs and titles.
Eastgate Rhino, Rhin O’Clock, Tudor Rhino, Clown Rhino, Space Astronaut Rhino, Yum Yum the Rhino, The Bulk, Vampino. Rhino - Guardian of Chester, Park and Rhino, Banana Rhino Split, Retro Rhino, Chester Races, Court Chester Rhino, Rhinosaur and Rhino Stone Cowboy.
The replica animals will be part of an exclusive Chester Rhinotrail with more than 200,000 trail leaflets published free for visitors and tourists.
At the end of the Chestival event the rhinos will be auctioned to raise funs for The Chester Zoo Conservation Project and The Hospice of The Good Shepherd.
Rhinomania is a tried and tested formula. Japanese sculptor Taro Chiezo’s Superlambanana was a landmark piece installed at Liverpool’s Williamson Square in 1998. The outlandish, tongue-in-cheek design immediately inveigled its way into Liverpudlian folklore at a time when the city was showing signs of cultural and economic recovery.
Zoologists describe rhinos as naturally reserved beasts, territorial, curious, slow to temper but formidable when provoked… true Cestrian qualities then and a fitting icon for Chester’s bold ambition.
Ironically, when Chester is without a theatre, cinema and lately a football club, Cestrians are becoming ‘territorial’ by:
Campaigning to reopen the former Odeon as a public space
Fighting to set up a phoenix club (City Fans United)
Cheshire West and Chester council has placed a new theatre for the city at the top of its agenda.
Joining the clamour for change - Chester Renaissance has corralled a 70-rhino stampede that will kick up a stormcloud of creativity, street art, fun and entertainment for children from July to September.
The Rhino will inevitably become a mascot for Chester, it encapsulates that steely determination and new found thirst for glamour and fun as exemplified by the high attendance of voluntary, public and private sector sponsors at the Rhinomania launch on Tuesday evening.
Private enterprises and the University of Chester were joined by city elders and leading public sector figures in a unanimous show of approval for the project.
Chester Renaissance’s delighted chief executive, Rita Waters, said: “I am very proud to be working in Chester. It’s a very exciting time to be working in this city and we are really putting ourselves on the map.
“Of course this links the City of Chester with Chester Zoo which is the second largest paid-for attraction in the UK.
“This is also showcasing Chester and its many attractions. It will also be one of the biggest art education projects in the UK this year.”
The 70 rhinoceroses bring a playful psychedelia and light relief to a city steeped in history and are already a smash hit with children.
Rita explained: “We already have 116 primary schools involved an it is raising many environmental and city issues.”
A fictional backdrop to the Hollyoaks soap and often perceived as a ‘WAG town’, Rhinomania gives Chester a more tangible muse for its tourism ambitions.
For Chris Brown, chief executive of Visit Chester and Cheshire, the iconic beast brings ‘culture to the masses’ and gives something different to ‘the value of the city’.
If you would like to sponsor a rhino go to www.rhinomania.co.uk.