Skip to content

Electric Ellie joins the Newcastle Helix community

August 29, 2019

Elmer at Newcastle Helix
Share via:

A very important visitor will call Newcastle Helix home for the next 12 weeks. Electric Ellie now lives just outside Newcastle University’s Urban Science Building (USB) on Science Square. 

She is part of Elmer’s Great North Parade, which will feature 50 individually designed elephants based on the much-loved children’s character, Elmer the patchwork elephant.

She has already been attracting lots of visitors since she arrived with her bright and colourful design that celebrates two great inventors of the North East, Joseph Swan, who developed the first light bulb and William Armstrong, who developed new more efficient ways to use hydroelectricity.  Her design features imagery which resonates with our site’s history and the fact that it was built on a former coal mine.

The trail started on Wednesday 21st August and Ellie was given a warm welcome from the Helix community, visitors included Cllr Ged Bell from Newcastle City Council, Abi Kelly, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs at Newcastle University, Amanda Rabey, Ellie’s Artist who is based at the Mushroom Works, Michelle Duggan, Newcastle Helix Partnership Manager and representatives from the Urban Observatory and EPSRC National Centre for Energy Systems Integration (CESI) who are both based in the USB.

Amanda Rabey, Ellie’s Artist who is based at the Mushroom Works said: “It is wonderful to see Electric Ellie “come to life” at the beautiful and inventive Helix site.”

The USB is a key part of our vision to create a full-scale demonstrator of urban innovation – underpinning research to make urban centres more sustainable for future generations.  Newcastle Helix provides a living laboratory to trial innovative urban technologies, with the USB hosting several exciting research projects. Electric Ellie helps to bring this to life and demonstrates the commitment and vision for the site as an exemplar sustainable development.

CESI, trial new energy systems, novel materials and smart engineering and The Urban Observatory is host to the largest set of publicly available real time urban data in the UK. The data is open and can be accessed and used by anyone to make informed, evidence-based decisions about the future design and management of cities.

The energy system of Newcastle Helix includes a 11kV smart grid throughout the site, combined heat and power (CHP) district heating, electric vehicle (EV) fuelling station, low carbon heating, building-mounted solar photovoltaic and solar thermal photovoltaic (PVT), producing power and hot water.  CESI IS using the Newcastle Helix energy system to learn more about the effects of operating in “islanded mode” with an independent power supply, managing sources of power at a reasonable cost and how the USB cam act as a virtual power plant.

Cllr Ged Bell, Cabinet member for Employment and Investment, Newcastle City Council said: “We are delighted to welcome Electric Ellie to Newcastle Helix. It is a place for business, world-class research and academics, but it’s also a place for where the local community can learn and be inspired.

“Being part of Elmer’s Great North Parade will not only help us to bring more people to Newcastle Helix,  it allows us to be part of a huge regional initiative that engages local communities in arts and culture and encourages people to see everything our city has to offer. We are thrilled to play a part in raising vital funds that will support hundreds of families across the North East.”

Abi Kelly, Executive Director of Corporate Affairs at Newcastle University said: “We hope that Ellie’s arrival will further help to put Newcastle Helix on the map. As a University very much attached to its place, it is important to us that local people, schools and community groups see that the site is as open to them, just as it is to our students and our academic researchers.

“The wonderful design that Amanda has created harks back to the past of the Helix site as the former Elswick Colliery, but also recognises the advances we are making around sustainable energy in the USB and elsewhere on Helix.”

Elmer’s Great North Parade is an event delivered by St Oswald’s Hospice and supported by Wild in Art. St Oswald’s Hospice provides specialist care for North East adults, young people and children and support for family and loved ones.  It is hoped that the event will raise more than £500,000 for babies, children and young adults in the community who are dealing with life-limiting conditions.

Elmer’s Great North parade will run from August – November 2019, welcoming hundreds of thousands of visitors to the region.

Make sure you pay Ellie a visit and follow her on Twitter @electric_elmer. If you do grab a selfie, post your photo on social media copying @stoswaldsuk and using the hashtag #GreatNorthElmer.

To find out more about Elmer’s Great North Parade visit

Latest articles

Stay up-to-date with latest news, events and more within a great city that never stands still.

Your Business. Your City. Your Future.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Subscribe to Invest Newcastle for updates, news, events and business opportunities.