Last week we were reminded by a longstanding client of ours, Artichoke Trust, about an event that took place 15 years ago. To this day, Sultan’s Elephant remains one of the pinnacle moments in our history of rigging events.

Artichoke had worked in secret for seven years, planning, convincing and cajoling the public authorities to make the project happen. Streets, normally reserved for state occasions and major sporting events were taken over by art for the first time. Audiences followed the journey of a giant girl and her travelling companions, the Sultan and the Elephant – at Trafalgar Square, St James’s Park, Horse Guards Parade and Piccadilly. The Sultan’s Elephant changed the landscape for outdoor art forever and we were honoured to be a part of it.

The fifteen year anniversary of this landmark event comes little more than a year after the passing of AJ – credited by Artichoke as the ‘one person in Britain who could both persuade the authorities to grant permission and undertake the immense logistical demands of this unprecedented four-day event which saw central London free from traffic and handed back to its pedestrian population.’ In a tribute to AJ, Artichoke went on to say : ‘It is hard to describe the many obstacles that were thrown our way, and it was AJ with his characteristic mixture of self-confidence, charm and astonishing invention who overcame them all.’

It is impossible to forget the skill, passion, determination and charm that AJ put into this event. Somewhere in our archives is a photo of him, saw in hand, cutting down a tree branch along the procession route, in order to allow for the elephant to pass unhindered – an example of his ethos that nothing should stand in the way of making art accessible to everyone.

His legacy continues to inspire us to meet even the most bizarre requests to make things happen head on, with grit, determination and humour. We’re used to the unusual – we have yet to be confronted with the impossible.

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