The pupils of Grangetown
High have been busy getting to know their newest and tallest classmate – a 7-metre-tall
giraffe outside the school.

The giraffe is a huge metal
sculpture made by a local artist. The school’s headmaster noticed the
sculpture in the artist’s garden as he drove past one day, and thought it
would be perfect for his school. ‘I knew everyone would love it,’ he said, ‘because
our basketball team is known as the Grangetown Giraffes, and they wear
giraffes on their shirts. So I asked them to write a letter to the artist, asking
how much it would cost to buy the giraffe. He was very kind and git it ready
to deliver in six weeks – all for nothing! He arranged for it to arrive one Sunday
morning, so that the pupils would see it when they got to school on the
Monday – at that stage they had no idea that we were getting it.’

The artist, Tom Bennett,
was university professor of chemistry before he retired in 2006 and only took
up metalwork, a couple of years ago. But he has always been a keen artist. ‘I’ve
always drawn pictures,’ he said. ‘I can even remember doing it on my first
day at school – I drew a horse. I wanted it to be the best horse picture
ever, but I don’t think I succeeded!’

Tom’s first project using
metal was a bicycle for two that he and his wife could go cycling on
together. ‘It was the most uncomfortable bike ever cheated,’ admits Tom, ‘so I
gave up making bicycles and went into sculpture instead.’

‘The metal sculpture I ever
did was a lion, which now also lives at school. It started out as a cat, but
it just didn’t look right, so I made it into a lion and put it in my front
garden. It soon began to attract attention from passers-by. Some small
children wouldn’t walk past the lion unless they could have a turn sitting
and playing on its back. I think children feel that my sculptures look like
actual live animals, and that’s what I want.’

Meanwhile the pupils at
Grangetown High are very happy with their new classmate. ‘We’re going to hold
a competition to give it proper name,’ said one girl. ‘Everyone likes the
expression on its face, so perhaps that will give us some ideas.’