'Why queue 8 hours to see Gromit?' asks Janet Street Porter
By Western Daily Press | Tuesday, September 24, 2013, 05:00
Janet Street Porter criticised people for queuing for 8 hours to see Gromit
They captivated the West for the best part of the summer and had them queuing for hours over the weekend – but as darkness fell in Bristol last night, the last person in the line managed to get in to see a collection of 81 5ft-high cartoon dog sculptures.
While the rest of the nation got back to the nine-to-five routine yesterday after a unseasonably warm autumn weekend, there was little in the way of work or school going on in Whiteladies Road.
Thousands queued for the final chance to see the collection of Gromits, Bristol's own animated canine, after the exhibition was extended by a day because of the "staggering" demand.
At one point over the crazy weekend, the queue was eight hours long, and organisers actually tried to close the end of it. The spectacle drew sneery remarks from London media types, like Janet Street Porter, who wondered if there was really nothing else for people to do in Bristol.
But for the families that spent the summer "Gromit hunting" – touring the city and beyond, ticking off the sculptures on public display – the chance to see all of them in one place was too good to miss, and worth queuing all day for.
"It's a worthy cause, but why not make a charitable donation and then visit a museum to enjoy something original," said Ms Street Porter, "rather than queue up to see a yukky Cath Kidston floral pooch. Am I a cultural snob? Yes."
More than 10,000 are estimated to have filed through the doors at the exhibition venue on Queen's Road at the weekend – more than 25,000 overall – and such was the demand that the organisers opened it again yesterday, on the day they had planned to begin the preparations for the grand auction next month. The entire event has been a huge success for the Grand Appeal, the Wallace & Gromit-themed appeal for Bristol Children's Hospital. The auction climax is scheduled for October 3, and can't be postponed, said Nicola Masters, from the Grand Appeal, so the exhibition can't carry on.
"We had about 9,000 to 10,000 people over the weekend but we've never turned anyone away who had actually been queuing," said Miss Masters. "We've been doing everything we possibly can to get people through the exhibition. We moved into a larger venue four days before the exhibition, we've extended the opening hours – officially and unofficially – and we've been opening early and closing late," she added.
The Gromits will now be spruced up ready for the auction. "We've been planning the auction for two years and there's a lot of planning gone into it. We've got people coming from all over the world and obviously we can't change it, delay it or postpone it at this late stage."
The scenes of lengthy queues snaking around the Bristol streets was reminiscent of the Banksy exhibition in Bristol's museum four years ago – in fact the queues were longer at some stages.
"We never imagined we would get so many people as this," said Gromit Unleashed spokeswoman Dani Marlborough. "It has been a staggering response. We are doing our level best to give people as much chance to see the display as possible."
The first person through the door on Saturday started queuing at 4am, and anyone arriving at the back of the queue when the exhibition opened each morning would have still been waiting in line well after lunchtime.
For thousands of young children it was perhaps the first practical initiation into the great British institution of the long queue.
Fenella Loveridge, her son Max, her friends and their sons and come from Nailsea. They started queuing at 8.30am and walked through the entrance at about 3.30pm.
"We were playing I-Spy and the alphabet game and whenever we turned a corner, we gave a really big cheer.
"There's some green grass on the Whiteladies Road where the children could play – we kept telling them, 'It's only another hour to wait'.
"People in the queue were good-humoured and cracking jokes but I must admit, we were all getting a bit weary. Still, it was worth it because the Gromits looked fantastic. They had obviously been polished up.
"We had seen 77 of them so of course, it was a big thing to see the rest. The icing on the cake was getting one of the figurines which now has pride of place on my mantelpiece."
Organisers decided to close the queue at 9am on Saturday for safety reasons. At that time, the queue had gone so far round the block that those at the back in Elmdale Road could see those at the front by the entrance in Queen's Avenue.
Becky Thoburn, who queued with her family, said: "The queue has moved steadily along so you feel as though you are making progress."
Tonia Murrin, 43, an office worker from Brislington, in Bristol, who saw the Gromits with her two children, Abigail, 10, and Lucy, seven, said: "We got up early so we could be in the queue for 7am. It took us about an hour and a half to get in."