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Ashford Snowdogs sold at auction for Pilgrims Hospice, raising £150,000

By Charlie Harman

Almost £150,000 was raised for charity when every Snowdog from a popular art trail was sold at auction.

The gala evening held at Ashford International Hotel last night was the culmination of the 10 week art trail in the town, and saw high bids both from the room and online.

The glitzy event was officiated by TV auctioneers Michael Hogben and Alison Chapman, who egged on bidders and pushed the total even higher for the Pilgrim Hospice, collecting £142,000 in total.

VIDEO: The Snowdogs went under the hammer

Kate Duddell, the charity's corporate, community and events fundraising manager, said: "This has been an amazing experience for Pilgrims Hospices.

"Working with Ashford Borough Council, the wonderful sponsors and schools has given us so many marvellous opportunities to engage with local people and develop important relationships and connections within the community.

"The auction and the funds it raised was quite spectacular.

Michael Hogben and wife Lesley buoyed buyers' spirits and bids
Michael Hogben and wife Lesley buoyed buyers' spirits and bids

"We send our thanks to everyone who has been involved in helping to make this such an incredible success."

The highlight of the night was Mr Doodle's Doodle Dog which raised £15,000, with the winner also bagging a live doodle which he completed on-stage.

Emily Firmin, daughter of Bagpuss and Clangers creator Peter, was in the room to watch her and her late father's dog Bagdogg sell for £9,000.

Pilgrims Hospice staff preparing to wheel the Snowdogs into the auction room
Pilgrims Hospice staff preparing to wheel the Snowdogs into the auction room

Popular pooches Snowbrador and 2 Tone Ska Dog both raised £5,200 each, Harry Kanine sold for a bid of £6,200 and Noble Ash went for £5,500. Stripes - which hints at Ashford's being the first place to get white road markings - fetched £7,000.

Also included in the lots were Bark Kent, the Kentish Express-sponsored sculpture, which fetched £2,400 and Infinity Dog, which attracted £3,000 and a large amount of controversy following its relocation in September.

A live painting demonstration was also on show from Lois Cordelia, the creator of Lest We Forget The War Dogs which was brought into the auction room to the poignant sound of The Last Post.

John Sims alongside his creation, the 2 Tone Ska Dog, which sold for £5,200
John Sims alongside his creation, the 2 Tone Ska Dog, which sold for £5,200

The event marked the end of the10 week Snowdogs Discover Ashford trail which ran between September and November, seeing 35 giant Snowdog sculptures and three packs of Snowpups placed in key locations around the town.

Ashford Borough Council worked in partnership with Wild in Art and Pilgrims Hospices to deliver the trail, with the Snowdog sculptures designed by local artists and sponsored by businesses, together with 19 Snowpups that were designed and decorated by 19 schools across the borough.

On the day of the trail's official launch, September 15, County Square Shopping Centre reported a 4,000 increase in people coming through the doors compared to the same Saturday last year.

Artists were given pink paddles to bet with
Artists were given pink paddles to bet with

More broadly footfall in the town centre was up by 122,000 in September compared to the previous month. The popularity of the decorated dogs has even prompted businesses to open on Sundays, and has caused a significant spike in memberships and book loans at the library - which hosted the Classic Snowdog and 7 pups.

Over 4,500 people downloaded the official app, redeeming 56,000 rewards.

Participants walked almost 1,000 miles which is the distance between Ashford and Lisbon, Portugal as the crow flies.

Cllr Mike Bennett, portfolio holder for culture at Ashford Borough Council, said: “Snowdogs Discover Ashford has been incredibly well received by the people of Ashford and beyond.

Members of Ashford Borough Council, Pilgrims Hospice staff and artists came together at the event
Members of Ashford Borough Council, Pilgrims Hospice staff and artists came together at the event

"The success of the trail has far outweighed anything we could have possibly imagined when the idea was initially brought to us.

"To see the community come together, bonding through art and interpreting the messages conveyed by the trail each week, was a truly wonderful experience and we’re thrilled that they have now raised so much money for such a worthy local cause.”

The kooky canine crowd-pleasers inspired trips from as far afield as Wales and many Ashford residents were fond of the sculptures, so much so that Ashford Borough Council decided to bid on some of the lots.

Emily Firmin with the Snowdog she created with her late father, Bagpuss creator Richard Firmin
Emily Firmin with the Snowdog she created with her late father, Bagpuss creator Richard Firmin

The local authority bought three dogs - Made in Ash-Hound by artist Danielle Williamson, Harey Hound by Traci Moss and Vincent van Pooch by Beverley Fisher – two of which were sponsored by the council during the trail.

Ashford Borough Council spent £7,900 on the sculptures, but a donation of £2,000 was made to the council by a member of the community to buy a Snowdog for the town.

Despite uncertain plans for the pooches, the council says they will be used in promotions across the calendar year throughout the borough – making appearances at opening ceremonies and launches, visiting schools and being available to the public for events such as Create Festival.

Likewise it's not known what the private purchasers plan to do with their personal dogs.

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