20 June 2024

Trail of 6ft rats to honour guitar legend Ronson

by Rebecca Hannant

First, there were the toads, the moths, and then the puffins – now 6ft rats are set to be released across East Yorkshire in the latest sculpture trail to be launched in the region.

A Mischief of Rats, billed as “the most radical animal sculpture yet”, aims to raise funds for the Daisy Appeal at Castle Hill Hospital and is a tribute to the 1960s band the Rats, which included legendary Hull musician Mick Ronson – later the lead guitarist with David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars.

The scheme will see specially designed and decorated rat sculptures placed across Hull and the East Riding in summer 2025. Like the previous schemes, locations will be carefully selected to attract visitors to less well-known places as well as encouraging them to spend time tracking down rats in towns and villages, resorts, and attractions across the region.

Rick Welton, co-director of the project, said: “This is the most radical animal sculpture trail yet. A Mischief of Rats will see up to 50 giant artist-decorated rat sculptures finding homes across East Yorkshire and Hull next summer.

“The grand charity auction at the end of the trail will raise much-needed funds to support the vital work of the Castle Hill Hospital-based charity, the Daisy Appeal, which helps advanced and detailed detection of cancer, heart disease, and dementia through highly advanced PET-CT scanning techniques.”

Fellow co-director Clare Huby said: “The inspiration for A Mischief of Rats was Hull musician Mick Ronson. Mick is probably best known as lead guitarist with David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars, but his home band was the Rats, who played gigs in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sadly, he died from cancer, aged just 46.

“So, Mick and the local Hull and East Yorkshire music scene will be one of the themes that we will invite our artists to follow in their designs. Other themes will be health and medical science, rats in literature and the media, rats, ships, and the sea, and, to give our artists’ imaginations free rein – rats made beautiful! Our sponsors will be able to choose their favourite from a gallery of amazing rat designs.”

Previous trails Puffins Galore, A Moth for Amy, and Larkin Toads have proved highly successful with local people and visitors to the region. Businesses have been invited to sponsor the rats, with all funds donated to the Daisy Appeal. The cost of sponsoring a rat is £4,500, which covers all of the costs of developing, creating, managing, and promoting the trail.

Claire Levy, fundraising manager for the Daisy Appeal, said: “We are excited that A Mischief of Rats will be raising substantial funds in such an imaginative and high-profile initiative. The auction proceeds will be used to support our cutting-edge research and to purchase state-of-the-art equipment and facilities that are so important to improving the life chances of patients living with cancer, heart disease, and dementia in our region.”

Rick added: “All our trails depend on developing partnerships with the business community and other organisations in the area. We know that these trails attract thousands of visitors to see the sculptures, with increased footfall to shopping areas, local attractions, and out-of-the-way places.

“Puffins Galore saw an influx of visitors not just from our region but from other parts of the UK. There are real benefits for business sponsors. A sponsored rat is a unique showcase for their brand and services and can engage a wide public through marketing, PR, and social media opportunities.”

Businesses and organisations are already on board. Beverley jewellers Guest & Phillips, development company Wykeland, along with the area’s tourism partnership Visit Hull & East Yorkshire, have all provided start-up funds for the initial development work, with logistics company Neill & Brown and engineering company Strata Group committing to supporting project delivery.

After sponsors have been gathered, artists will be invited to submit designs, and sponsors will be invited to select their rats. The rats will then be decorated and installed across the region in August 2025, with the trail open from May to August.

In September 2025, the sculptures will be auctioned off, and it is hoped that this, along with profits from any merchandise sold, could raise up to £250,000.