The Teddy Bear festival is a fortnight filled with fun and community spirit in the South Norfolk village of Great Ellingham (view on map ), centered around the famous Teddy Bear Trail. Residents display teddy bears made (mainly) from straw in their gardens, using their creativity to plan, design and construct unique exhibits. These have ranged from sportsmen (Teddy Flintoff) to musicians (Ted Sheeran), TV chefs (Mary Beary) to children's stories (Goldilocks) and from royalty (Prince George was born the day after the 2013 festival ended) to teddy-linked concepts (Zumbear).
Although the festival raises a considerable amount for good causes, we pride ourselves on helping to run an event which allows us to celebrate village life. As Pete Clayton (former chairman of the committee) said, "Raising money is a great thing for the charities but our main objective is the community spirit we work with and build upon. The sound of children's laughter on the streets is lovely."
In February 2004, at a parish council meeting, there was a discussion about how to celebrate St James' weekend. The idea of a scarecrow week arose, but perhaps these would be too scary for the children. Sue Gent proposed teddy bears abseiling from the Tower of St James... this spiralled and thus the idea of the Teddy Bear trail was born. Mike May remarked, "What a lovely idea! Teddy bears are a sign of comfort and friendship!". This has been our motto ever since.
The Teddy Bear trail idea very quickly became much more than that, with the first festival ending up hosting a whole programme of additional events:
2004, our first year, saw 47 bears in the village; in 2005, there were 72; and in 2006 over 90. We are grateful to all villagers for their continued support.
Since the beginning of the celebrations, the Teddy Bear Festival has raised approximately £50,000 for various local groups and charities. See the Good Causes page for more information.