Organisers of the upcoming Northern Festival of Illustration are hoping to create a trail of decorated monkey sculptures across town.
They are now looking for businesses prepared to help display the 35 distinctive artworks once they have been decorated across the summer.
Nineteenth Century legend suggests the town’s then leaders authorised the hanging of a monkey during the Napoleonic Wars on the grounds that it was a French spy marooned after a shipwreck.
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While locals largely laugh the story off, the tale is still occasionally twisted against the town.
Earlier this year there was criticism from outside Hartlepool about plans to place an explanatory sign on a monkey statue at the Marina.
Pat Chapman, vice principal at the Hartlepool and Middlesbrough-based Northern School of Art, which organises the festival, said: “The Hartlepool monkey has made the headlines recently and we would very much like the people of Hartlepool to take ownership of the narrative.
"We will do this by inviting as many community groups as possible to decorate monkeys in appealing ways and celebrate the association.
“The amazing local community arts charity BloomInArt has been commissioned to work with community groups of all ages to create the artworks.
"Now we would love the help of the local business community to display them.”
The sculptures have been created by former Northern School of Art student Billy Cessford, based in Redcar, who runs a business creating scenery and props for events, stage and screen, TV, film and theatre.
The 2021 event runs from September to November and will be the fourth festival.
The biennial celebration of the diverse world of illustration has attracted more than 100,000 visitors to Hartlepool since it was first held in 2015.
This year’s programme is aimed at bringing people back out onto the streets and into shops, cafes, bars and other local businesses following the pandemic.
It will include a monkey party, 18 paid opportunities for young local illustrators and a belated chance to showcase the 2020 and 2021 work of the school’s illustrators following the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
To express an interest in displaying a monkey, email [email protected]