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In the 1500s Wolverhampton, England was a small town in the midst of a sheep farming region. Over the centuries it expanded from being in the woollen trade into a bustling and active industrial centre of about 250,000 people. 

In 2015, Outside Centre, a disability arts organization in Wolverhampton, decided to undertake a public statue campaign to draw 100,000 tourists to the community, build community pride, and raise money for their organization. As the community’s short name had become “Wolves” and their soccer theam was also called Wolves, they decided to create wolf statues, Thus, was launched the “Wolves in Wolves” campaign… www.wolvesinwolves.co.uk

That same year, Dr. Dave Mech, one of the founders of the International Wolf Center in Minneapolis, USA, forwarded the statue story from the Wolverhampton Express and Star newspaper to Volker Beckmann, Project Director of Spirit Way Inc. After a short deliberation among Board members, Beckmann contacted Dr. Paul Darke, the director of Outside Centre, and outlined all the wolf initiatives underway in Thompson Manitoba. A package of information was mailed to Darke with the offer to work together in their campaign. As Thompson was being recognized as the Wolf Capital of the World and Spirit Way Inc. had already created over 50 wolf statues across Manitoba, there were several mutual benefits between a small community in the wilderness in Canada and a large industrial centre in England. 

  The attached photo shows Darke wearing Thompson’s Wolf Capital cap In front of their local Wolves Superstore. The Spirit Way Board felt that was an open and friendly gesture to collaborate. Darke invited Spirit Way to send an artist to Wolverhampton to paint two of their 30 statues. The remainder would be painted by celebrities who lived in Wolves. The campaign would last from June until September. 

Creative possibilities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean began to gel over the next 18 months. During several Skype sessions, Darke made suggestions to bolster the program and SWI’s participation. At the same time, the Canadian government announced a campaign to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017. Spirit Way

 felt this would be the ideal time to promote Northern Manitoba under the theme of “Celebrating Canada’s Wildlife and Wilderness”.

President Marion Morberg and Volker Beckmann met with Travel Manitoba to outline a creative promotional campaign in Wolverhampton and London, England. Initially the goal was to have a display and wolf statues at the Canadian High Commission in Trafalgar Square, downtown London. The logistics of that became too cumbersome, and after numerous consultations the ideal location for a painted wolf statue was found at Charing Cross Station. This extremely busy railway station has a footfall of more than 4 million people a month!

One hurdle was the astronomical cost for £50,000 a month to lease a space at Charing Cross. After several months of discussion and Darke’s visit to London to speak to management in person, the station manager offered the space to Spirit Way Inc. for free for one month!

With the potential to reach a tremendous number of people in England, Morberg and Beckmann contacted several potential partners in Winnipeg, Thompson  and Churchill. All partners immediately saw the opportunity to promote northern Manitoba to an international audience.

Beckmann and Morberg devised a promotion to hold a contest and give away a $30,000, twelve day prize trip to Manitoba. The entry would require people to take a selfie near the wolf statue and share it on social media. The statues will be painted by Jasyn Lucas from Thompson. The artistic theme will highlight Canada’s wildlife and wilderness and display wolves, polar bears, and northern lights. One statue will reflect

 the seven indigenous teachings. Large banners will hang from the ceiling to draw people to the statue. A video monitor will show a continuous three minute promotion of northern Manitoba and how to enter the contest. The expectations are that hundreds, if not thousands of people will enter the contest which will lead to further promotion of Thompson’s Wolf and Carnivore Conference and AuroraFest this autumn. 

Morberg, Beckmann, and Lucas will be heading to England for 10 days in mid May for art preparation, video and display set-ups, statue installation, media interviews, launch ceremonies, public relations and general promotion for Thompson. The campaign in London will end in July, when the statues will be transferred to Wolverhampton. The contest and promotion will continue until September.

After the campaign, Paul Darke will gift one statue to Spirit Way Inc. and have it flown to a military base in Manitoba by the Royal Air Force. The Thompson Chamber of Commerce is planning to invite a business group from Wolverhampton to visit Thompson in the following year for a “Wolves, Polar Bears, and Northern Lights Tour”.

Corporate sponsors and funders have responded in a very positive manner and have contributed over $100,000 to this promotion campaign as the UK has been identified as one of the top target markets for Travel Manitoba. Canada is also rated as the top country in the world to visit in 2017. These trends align themselves with this innovative promotion campaign for Thompson.

When Beckmann was asked why this was necessary, he stated, “For decades Thompson has wondered how to tap into thousands of visitors who pass by annually

 on their way to Churchill. These people are wildlife viewers who are also interested to learn about wolves and northern lights. The UK campaign with support of corporate partners is the smart and timely thing to do. We jumped at the chance.”

President Morberg reiterated that we must thank the travel partners who have donated to this project such as Travel Manitoba, Churchill Wild, Calm Air, Winnipeg and Thompson Airport Authorities, Frontiers North, and Via Rail that see the benefit of raising Thompson and Churchill’s profile overseas for wildlife and wilderness experiences to our north. 

“We were also happy to see that the City of Thompson finally was able to contribute”, Morberg stated, and continued, “There are legacy benefits for Thompson that will come as the year goes by. The Provincial government has made tourism and economic development a priority in the North. After years of effort by a group of volunteers, we have prepared the most market-ready tourism initiative that align with what private partners and the government are looking for.”

April 23, 2017


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