Horsham District hoardes greatly enjoyed the stellar Elephantastic charity auction in St John’s Church Hall last Saturday, organised by the town’s Rotary Club in conjunction with the Born Free Foundation and Billingshursts’s PMW Communications. 187 model elephants – large and small – were on show, featuring extraordinarily inventive designs. Star War’s Brian Blessed, hot-foot from signing copies of his autobiography Absolute Pandemonium made an impassioned speech saying: “This area is very dear to me – and so are elephants, I’ve done a lot of work with them in Sri Lanka” before welcoming Born Free’s Virginia McKenna with: “she makes God smile!”
The auction got off to a cracking start, Bellman’s MD Jonathan Pratt of TV’s Bargain Hunt expertly cajoling £2500 for Born Free for a woolly mammoth named Ann-Cestor. Rotarian John le Rossignol roundly praised the beautifully decorated elephants as lively bids ensued, each successive creation seemingly outdoing its predecessor. One glowed in the dark while another (Tiger Lellie) was disguised as a tiger. Horsham’s Vicky Tregarthen was delighten to snap up Rosie Periwinkle, traditionally painted by Anna Caunter. Vicky said: “This is my first auction so I was delighted to buy Rosie for a friend who fell in love with Rosie when seeing her on display in a Horsham shop window!”
The elephants had been adopted by local businesses and decorated by the district’s incredibly talented artists, including college students and Amanda Holden with help from her daughters. Some had been signed by local celebrities Peter Andre, Sally Gunnell, Julie Walters and Tim Wonnacott. Brian Blessed and Virginia McKenna also appended their autographs, Virginia, a former Slinfold resident and educated locally, told the District Post: “Making Born Free inspired me to become a conservationist. I’ve always had a particular affection for elephants, many of them have a nightmare life of persecution and the Foundation is busy fund raising to open a sanctuary in Europe. That’s my dream; they need the companionship of other elephants. This has been a truly wonderful event – I’ve seen many elephants but none so colourful!” Virginia appears in a star studded new film Golden Years, released in March.
Throughout the auction Jonathan Pratt’s young daughter Neva was greatly entertained by her father: “He jumped about such a lot and I was begging him to buy the tiger elephant for me!”
Nobody ignored the elephants in the room: thanks to the generosity of local people a magnificent £9000 was raised on the day and will go towards the overall total, shared by over 60 of the district’s wonderful charities.