Dudley the Elephant Character Costume

Dressed in workman dungarees and a branded hard hat, Dudley comprises of a lightweight ABS Head and is fully clothed with a hooped underbody to give him his cuddly shape. His timeless shape and outfit will keep this character RELEPHANT for many years to come…

Spalding Rugby Elephant Mascot Costume

This elephant is covered in a plush pale grey fur with yellow fleece on his inner ear; he has large ears and a trunk that curls down, he has an open smiley mouth with a red tongue and big black eyes. He wears his team’s kit, which is dark blue and red in colour with various sponsors across the front and on the shorts. Spalding Elephant has long dark blue jersey socks and black vinyl trainer style shoes with lime-green stripes and white laces.

Bourne Leisure Anxious Elephant Character Costume

Anxious runs the ice cream parlour, and she is an elephant who loves everything. She is a sweet-natured dreamer who loves making others happy. Anxious likes pink sparkly things and spending time with friends. Anxious represents friendship, dreams, sweet ad treats, girly giggles and pretty frocks.

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Six degrees of Welephant

I think it’s fair to say that a large portion of the UK population has heard of Welephant. When someone recently mentioned it to me, I couldn’t help but smile and drift off on a wave of nostalgia about the first time he came to my school.

6 Degrees of Separation

 

The lesson was fire safety and more importantly, how to use a fire alarm correctly. The impact of this big red elephant in his shiny yellow fire helmet was a sure fire reason why my house was safely guarded from combustible hazards and that my smoke alarm battery was regularly tested (much to the annoyance of my parents). Still in use today, Welephant is now the mascot ambassador for The Children’s Burn Trust and an iconic figure in the history of the costume character.

Welephant Shopping WEB

Welephant came to life in 1978 when the Greater Manchester Fire Service ran a children’s competition to design a character to teach young people about fire safety. A 14-year-old girl entered the competition with a big red elephant sporting a yellow helmet, black boots and a fire axe. The name she gave him was Welephant. As a clear winner, the GM Fire Service adopted Welephant and children across the North West began to learn of his existence. The big friendly elephant proved to be a successful acquisition for the GM Fire service who founded The Welephant Club for children in 1984. Being inundated with club applications, other fire departments across the country heard of its success and began to adopt the red elephant for use in their own district. Welephant went nationwide!

1st Welephant

 

By 1986, the first Welephant mascots were being manufactured right here in Manchester by Liz Milnes, founder of Situation Clothing (now Costumes with Character) and were deployed across the country for fire departments to use, promoting fire safety within schools and at family events throughout the eighties, nineties and early noughties. Costumes with Character still produce Welephant mascots to this day, albeit with a few minor adjustments to bring him trumpeting into the 21st century but he is still the same cuddly and conscientious elephant he has always been.

 

So where do the six degrees of separation come in? We’ve all heard the theory that everyone is connected to everything by six steps or less (3.5 steps if you’re a Facebook user) and Welephant is no different. Whether it was on a school visit, or at a local event, someone you know will have a story or have at least had an encounter with Welephant over the last few decades. Here at Costumes with Character, most of us have a story to tell that dates back to childhood, or to when our children were young.

 

Take for example Welephant and AlisonAlison Dermott. Alison was just a young girl when she first encountered Welephant during a firework safety campaign. Being a talented individual even at that age, Alison shone brighter than the other children and won a colouring competition, resulting in some fantastic prizes and the opportunity for a photo with the iconic elephant. It didn’t stop there, Alison’s mum even wore the costume throughout the nineties in the school that she worked for, using it to teach local children the principles of fire safety. Little did Alison know that when she joined the team at Costumes with Character, Welephant would once again charge into her life.

 

Now I’m almost sure you’re sat reading this article with a smile on your face. Not because of my witty wordsmanship or carefully crafted sentences, but because you are remembering your first encounter with the popular figurehead of fire safety. Be it at school, at a summer fete or even in front of a supermarket, Welephant has popped up everywhere and has helped spread the message that fire can be dangerous to children across the country for over 30 years. Here at Costumes with Character, we are proud to have made this mascot since its inception and will hopefully do so for many years to come.

Commentary by Liz Milnes, Costumes With Character Managing Director

When you create, manage and grow a business, the last thing you think about is your exit strategy, and this for me has been one of the most difficult challenges.

My career in costumes started in 1983 as a wardrobe mistress in a Manchester theatre. With all the experience, skills, contacts, opportunities and work ethic gained over 6 years, I founded a business in an industry I didn’t even know existed when I was studying fashion at uni 10 years before.

Making giant fluffy super heroes had never been career ambition, but after the theatre production of The Snowman, and a huge success with a sample Welephant suit for the Fire Service, I created a company and a career that I have been passionate about for over 35 years; A company and career that allowed me to grow, learn, share and evolve alongside over a hundred employees across two hemispheres.

Our sister company, Auscoz in Queensland, Australia, came to life in 2001 with a growing number of orders arising from this side of the world. I took the plunge of relocating my husband and two young daughters over to Australia, which involved a 5 year period of uncertainty whilst we tried to launch and grow the business within the guidelines of a skilled migration visa. 15 years on, this was the best decision we ever made from both a business and family point of view however it was by far the hardest and most challenging feat to date. Managing a creative business and employing staff across the world wasn’t easy – think dial up internet and fax machines!
Manchester United
Almost 20 years on, both Costumes with Character and Auscoz are considered to be two of the most successful mascot manufacturers in the world, providing mascots and characters for many of the most high-profile companies and character creators on the planet.
Clients include: Nickelodeon, DreamWorks, Aardman Animation, Lego Worldwide, theme parks, holiday companies and iconic sports mascots inclusive of the Commonwealth and Invictus games figureheads. Alongside these we also make extensively for charities, schools, universities, local councils and retail brands.

Despite helping bring all of these companies mascots to life, the thing I am most proud of isn’t having founded and grown these two companies, it is having created jobs; interesting, creative, enjoyable work in a great environment, for so many people, for so many years.

This is why succession planning to ensure jobs were protected and the company continued to grow was so deeply important to me.

It is relatively easy to be a freelancer and build on your skills and talents with every contract.

It’s not so easy to create a business, employ and train people to work together, build a growing customer base and take full financial responsibility for rent overheads and wages, often risking your home as security. Staff can leave whenever they like, but you carry the full responsibility for their livelihoods when you employ them; it results in a lot of sleepless nights.
Thomas Cook
Niche creative companies are built by employing and training a wide range of talented people.
For Costumes with Character this involved pattern makers, machinists, designers, prop makers and more, all working to specific quality standards and timeframes to ensure the customers’ requirements are understood and met.

Selling a company which relies on these skills and employees is complex, you have to ensure the staff can continue to work in the way they are used to, and their jobs and status is secure. Selling to a competitor (of which there are few) wasn’t a practical option.

The fact that some staff had worked with me for over 30 years, almost an entire working life, made it impossible for me to take the easy road, sell the building and equipment and simply close and enjoy a well-earned retirement!

This would also result in the end of CWC, which had been my life’s work, and although I was very ready to reduce my work load and enjoy more leisure time, it didn’t feel like the correct way to go.

I researched business brokers and succession planning without success.
RNLI
A chance Google of “exit strategy that benefits staff” and a website explaining the benefits of employee ownership trusts introduced me to this “John Lewis style” of succession planning.
It seemed like the ideal solution in terms of ethics, finances, company growth and job security.

Most EOT companies show better growth than traditional structures – staff embrace ownership without any financial commitments and enjoy tax-free profit share up to a limit each year.

Management training, team-building and communication strategies are in place to assist with building the business skills of the management team too.

The owner is gradually reimbursed for their shares from the profits over a period of years, and the management and director’s ‘transition and exit’ is gradual and flexible.

I am grateful to Postlethwaites Solicitors who introduced me to the concept of EOT’s and created the trust and structure for CWC. Although in its infancy, the EOT is already proving to be a great opportunity for the team. With great opportunity comes great challenge; I have full faith that with staying true to the company’s core beliefs and values and working together, the employees of CWC have every chance of making this EOT the best decision we ever made.

The lifespan of an employee ownership trust is 125 years, it would be amazing if CWC continues to grow until 2144.