Categories: Press Release

Today saw the official launch of the Sperrins Sculpture Trail and unveiling of the three giant art installations that have been created to showcase the geology, archaeology and heritage of the Sperrins.

This innovative tourism project showcases a trio of interrelated and unique art pieces created by world acclaimed artist Thomas Dambo, located at three sites in the Sperrins at Mullaghcarn, along the Glenelly Valley near Cranagh, and at Davagh Forest.

These innovative and inspiring artistic creations celebrate the ancient and intriguing natural beauty of the region and embraces the giant spirit of the local landscape.

The Sperrins Sculpture Trail is delivered by Derry City and Strabane District Council in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council and is part of a wider plan to promote this popular area of natural, unspoilt beauty and drive rural tourism and investment in the local natural and built heritage.

The Sperrins Sculpture Trail is delivered through the Rural Tourism Scheme as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 with funding support of over £1.32m from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with match funding totalling £568k from the partner Councils.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Patricia Logue, speaking at the site of the trail at the Glenelly Valley site near Cranagh said she was hugely supportive of the project and very impressed with the giant sculptures.

She said: “I am delighted that this hugely important tourism project for the Sperrins is now complete and ready to be actively marketed and promoted as a major tourism attraction for this really beautiful scenic area. I am confident that it will bring much needed investment to the region and encourage visitors from across the globe to visit our amazing rural heartlands, whilst preserving the natural assets for our rural communities and linking in with the work being done at a regional level to embrace the giant spirit of our local landscape and natural environment.”

The Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Dominic Molloy speaking about the Davagh site said: ““It is my pleasure to formally welcome Ceoldán the Giant to the Sperrins and to OM Dark Sky Park and Observatory, one of only two International Dark Sky parks on the island of Ireland. The inclusion of such a striking sculpture in the ancient heart of Mid Ulster can only add to the exciting experiences already in place that are open to our local and international visitors. In forging this link with our neighbouring Council areas, we are working collaboratively to maximise the benefits for our local rural economies west of the Bann.”

Speaking about the project, Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Thomas O Reilly, said:

“We are thrilled to be a part of the Sperrins Sculpture Trail featuring a trio of giant sculptures. These interrelated and unique art pieces created by world-acclaimed artist Thomas Dambo not only showcase his artistic brilliance but also highlights the natural, unspoiled beauty of the region. It will serve as a catalyst to drive rural sustainable tourism, attract investment, and preserve our local natural and built heritage. We anticipate the Trail will captivate visitors locally, regionally, and internationally, leaving them with unforgettable giant experiences of the Sperrins”.

Welcoming news of the completion of the project, DAERA Director of Rural Affairs Teresa O’Neill said: “ I am delighted that DAERA,  through the Rural Tourism Scheme strand of the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, has been able to support this project. 

Tourism is one of the key economic drivers for Northern Ireland and I congratulate the three Councils involved for developing and delivering unique and iconic artistic creations at the three sites in the Sperrins. This innovative project will attract additional visitors to this rural part of Northern Ireland and will therefore provide a timely boost to the local economy”. 

A spokesperson from McGurk Architects added: “As a local firm based in the Mid Ulster area, McGurk Architects are proud to have led and managed this unique project from design competition stage through to final completion on site.

In July 2022, Colm McGurk (Director and founder of McGurk Architects) sadly passed away, suddenly and after a short illness. Colm’s research into the history, geology and folklore of the Sperrins was instrumental to the award of this contract to McGurk Architects and Colm told everyone he met about the Giants of Sperrin.  

We believe that the Giants enhance the identity of our region and trust that they will be cherished and enjoyed by many future generations.

´╗┐Artist Thomas Dambo said: "Working in Northern Ireland has been a great challenge. Most of my sculptures around the world are made from trash like discarded pallet wood, because my main mission is to show the world how to transform trash into treasure. But for The Sperrins I was asked to build my sculptures to last for 60 years and this has been a push to learn how to work with longevity in a responsible way.

“To make 'The Three Giants and the Campfires in the Sky' a reality I had to learn about responsible forestry, European Oak and natural preservatives. I also salvaged tons of residual wood from Danish furniture makers to make sure my work would still be in line with my core values. Because we must leave this planet a better place!

“I have worked through Chinese bureaucracy, Caribbean heatwaves and climbed steep slopes to build on the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee - but what met my crew in the misty hills of the Sperrins made me realise that most of the world doesn't have weather - Northern Ireland though - you've got weather! Thank you."

The three locations are at Cranagh (Derry City and Strabane District Council area); at Mullaghcarn (Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area) and at Davagh Forest (Mid Ulster District Council area).

Copenhagen based artist Thomas Dambo and his team have worked alongside the design and construction consultancy team McGurk Architects to take forward the development of this hugely exciting and innovative project that will not only showcase the epic stories associated with the Sperrins, the inspirational nature of the landscape but also the giant spirit and welcome of its people.