Independent research into the impact of this summer’s Cows about Cambridge sculpture trail has found that the initiative delivered a direct economic benefit of £12.8 million for the city, with a GVA (Gross Value Added) of £5.95 million. More than 533,570 residents and visitors actively engaged with the largest public art event that Cambridge has ever hosted.
Running for 10 weeks from June to September, this world-class art trail was free for local families and friends to enjoy. Each of the 44 life-sized Cow sculptures and 46 mini moos was lovingly hand-decorated by a national or regional artist, school or community group, and all were situated in Covid-friendly locations in the open air or within public spaces indoors. Covering 10 miles, the entire trail could be walked during a fun day out, guided by the Cows about Cambridge app or a printed map.
The project was brought to Cambridge by global event producers Wild in Art, in collaboration with principal partner Cambridge BID, official travel partner ThamesLink and Break – a charity working with children and young people on the edge of care, in care and leaving care.
The research found that the city’s reputation was enhanced by the art trail, with 99% of survey respondents feeling proud that Cambridge had hosted the event and 97% expressing an increased sense of community.
“It made the city a more joyful place,” commented one survey respondent, “both by seeing the cows and also by seeing other people interact with them.”
More than 80% of respondents visited over half of the 90 Cows on the trail, with 74% spending extra time in Cambridge as a result. Some 61% of those surveyed spent three or more days visiting the trail, and 84% said that Cows about Cambridge took them to locations they hadn’t previously visited within the city.
In addition, awareness of Cambridge as a destination was raised through 216 media clips with a total reach of more than 118 million people across the UK – with national media highlights including BBC Breakfast, Good Morning Britain, The Times, The Sunday Times, and The i.
“I loved seeing the local area in a place which I might not ordinarily have visited,” said one trail-goer. “It brought us to a city we’d never been to before and showed us what a great city it is,” commented another, adding: “We will visit again.”
Well-being was high on the agenda, as the trail enabled family and friends of all ages to socialise in a Covid-safe manner. Trail-goers using the pedometer within the Cows about Cambridge app walked an moovellous 25 million steps or 11,200 miles, and 96% of survey respondents reported that the trail enhanced their health and well-being. Some 92% of respondents said that the trail helped them to get outdoors more and 90% felt that it encouraged them to walk more than usual; 93% felt that the trail was accessible to those with additional needs.
“Frankly, this trail saved my sanity,” said an NHS worker. “We did the trail over several weeks, allowing me and my friend to continue our full-on and relentless NHS work, renewed and refreshed each week.”
“It brought a breath of fresh air to the city,” said another trail-goer, “and an opportunity for people to explore the city with a purpose.” Another person commented: “I walked 30,000 steps on one of the days – I’m so pleased that the trail has encouraged my walking.”
There were more than 2.3 million engagements with the Cows about Cambridge app, as people used it to plan their visit, follow the trail and share the Cow designs with family and friends. Using the app, 198,239 Cows were ‘unlocked’ and collected by trail-goers.
A celebration of creativity, the trail directly invested more than £115,000 into the regional arts sector, which has been hard hit by the pandemic. A total of 40 artists enjoyed direct exposure as a result, and an Arts Council England grant enabled three local artists to empower 178 people from vulnerable communities to design their own installations. Over 12,750 school pupils and students enjoyed an opportunity to cow-nnect with the Cows about Cambridge Learning Programme, which combined creative projects with important conversations about the environment.
A teacher at Gretton School said, “Cows about Cambridge gave our students a sense of belonging, of being part of a larger community – especially after all the isolation and loneliness that has come about through lockdowns and all the Covid restrictions.
“Being part of a well-organised and impressive community project was empowering for the students. They were so proud that their work was on display in such a public setting, alongside professional artists!”
A staggering £257,100 was raised in a charity auction when the trail ended and 45 sculptures were sold to the highest bidders, with local artists Dinky Doors achieving the highest individual bid of £16,000 for their steam punk cow, MooMoo-o-Tron III. Some 46 mini moos returned to the schools that created them, as a lasting legacy and ongoing source of inspiration.
Event producers Wild in Art were delighted with the trail’s overall impact: “Following a delay of more than 12 months, due to the pandemic, it was such a privilege to – finally – let our herd of bovine beauties loose in Cambridge over the summer,” said Charlie Langhorne, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Wild in Art.
“People needed something to make them smile, and Cows about Cambridge created a feel-good factor right across the city. Our aim was always for the trail to bring real value to Cambridge as the host city as well as raising funds for our charity partner and I’m delighted to see the results of the evaluation. The figures clearly show the huge impact which happens when the business and creative sectors join forces.”
Principal partner Cambridge BID was also encouraged by the trail’s success: “Before the pandemic, our main objective for this project was to help connect residents with their city and encourage them to explore new places. Serendipitously, the timing of the trail was just perfect with people keen to meet again with friends and family but in a safe way,” said CEO Ian Sandison.
“The feedback is fantastic. We have not only met our main objective but brought joy to thousands of people and provided a much needed economic boost to the city.”
Official travel partner ThamesLink was proud to be associated with the event: “The partnership has been a wonderful opportunity for us to do something to support the communities we serve, to help build the local economy and develop new relationships. We were also able to involve our corporate charity in promoting mental health awareness during the themed week on well-being,” said Tom Moran, Managing Director of Thameslink & Great Northern.
“And it’s not every day that you have opportunity to take a life-size Cow sculpture and mini moo on a train to visit Brighton beach!”
The beneficiary charity, Break, was thrilled at the legacy made possible by the auction: “The £257,100 raised at auction is a staggering amount and will ensure this trail is felt by the children and young people we care for well beyond 2021,” said CEO Rachel Cowdry.
“It has been an honour to be involved in the first sculpture trail of its kind in Cambridge. As well as investing the money to change young lives in the region, we are looking forward to continuing the relationships we’ve built with new friends and supporters.”
The online survey of 694 people was conducted by research agency NGI Solutions.