Sightseers from across North East converge on Hartlepool to see 35ft inflatable Grinch
A giant inflatable model of children’s character the Grinch is certainly going up in the world.
The 35ft creation – reputedly one of just five in the world – has attracted a host of visitors from across the North East and beyond to its new Hartlepool home since the Mail’s original story last weekend.
Town businessman Ray Liddell, 49, bought it online from America for an undisclosed sum as an early Christmas present for seven-year-old Grinch-loving daughter Jasmine.
But it was not until a passer-by offered to pay £10 to have a photo taken with the inflatable that Ray decided to raise money for the town’s Alice House Hospice in memory of his dad, Frank, who died aged 77 in May after contracting coronavirus.
He said: “The reaction has been amazing. We have had people coming from all over the North East from places such as Middlesbrough, Guisborough, Bishop Auckland, Murton, South Shields, North Shields.
"People are coming to Hartlepool who have never come here before.
"We even had delivery drivers from Sheffield who were driving past Hartlepool who were asked by their wives to divert into Hartlepool to get a picture taken with The Grinch.
"It’s really brought the best out of people with everyone keeping socially distant from each other and the police coming around to make sure everything’s alright.
"And it has all come about by fluke, really.”
The hospice revealed earlier this year that it had lost £1m in projected income following the cancellation of fundraising activities since the pandemic’s onset.
Donations can be left at the Park Avenue property with an online account already close to reaching its initial £10,000 target following a £1,000 donation from town company J&B Recycling.
Ray, the managing director of Hartlepool business Cactus Products, which manufactures protective spikes for properties, said: “I was just so overwhelmed when I heard.
"I know them, they are fantastic people and it is a wonderful gesture from such a creditable Hartlepool company.”
J&B managing director Vikki Jackson-Smith praised the Liddells for “this amazing effort”, adding: “It has been a difficult year for fundraising for Alice House and to be able to support a hospice which does so much to help local people in the community is very important to us.
"The efforts of the Liddell family are outstanding.”
The Liddells wanted to thank the hospice for the care given to Frank, the former boss of Hartlepool businesses Kildale Car Sales and Lion Security, before his death.
Ray said: “We have had no real way of honouring him publicly and there was only three people at his funeral because of the situation at the time.
"So this is one way of paying tribute to him because he did a lot to help other people.
"If you broke down in Leicester at 10pm, like someone once did, he would be only too ready to help by driving through the night.”
Mr Liddell, who lives with wife Jenna, 37, Jasmine, a pupil at West Park Primary School, and eldest daughter, Olivia, 12, who attends High Tunstall College of Science, has advised sightseers that anticipated rainfall means the Grinch may not be inflated all this weekend.
The online JustGiving appeal, which has raised nearly £9,000, can be supported by via The Grow Your Hart Fund page at www.justgiving.com/campaign/GrowYourHart