The 36 “stars” of the Lincoln Knights’ Trail passed their toughest test with flying colours by raising nearly £180,000 in a thrilling auction in Lincoln Cathedral.
Hundreds of expectant Lincoln Knights’ Trail fans gathered in the Nave for the sale and, after days of hot speculation, it was the Knight of the Skies – signed by the last surviving Dambuster, Johnny Johnson MBE, which attracted the big money. A mighty cheer went up when it was snapped-up by its sponsor Game Engineering for £15,000.
Jubilant Red Imps supporters also went away wearing huge smiles, after ensuring that the Lincoln City Knight, painted by artist Leah Goldberg, would be “going home” to Sincil Bank, after auctioneer Ian Walter, of J H Walter, dropped his gavel on their winning bid of £6,000.
Other big money spinners were the Lincoln Green Knight, bought for £9,200, and Knight in The Forest sold for £9,000.
The tension inside the Nave was palpable, during a fun evening. Sponsors were among determined bidders and there was plenty of rivalry, especially among companies within the building trade, including Gelders, Chestnut Homes and Gusto Homes!
But everyone was holding their breaths as the bidding price for the Knight of The Skies rose higher and higher, and there was cheering and loud applause when artist Rosie Ablewhite’s mum Di Ablewhite waved her card and clinched it for £15,000!
Di Ablewhite has been passionate about Bomber Command for years. She volunteers at the International Bomber Command Centre on open days and is researching its digital archive.
Di was accompanied by her family and friend Caroline Wood – who she met at a IBCC fundraising event. Caroline’s Uncle, Squadron Leader John Mitchell DFC, was a wireless operator and later a pilot, flying in Whittles and Lancaster in World War Two. Together they were determined to win the sculpture.
“My daughter Rosie has drawn Johnny Johnson in several pictures. Caroline and I had pooled our resources and were determined to get the Knight, which GAME sponsored. I was shaking while I was bidding but we got it just within our budget. Knight of the Skies will eventually be going into The Chadwick Centre at the IBCC,” said Di.
Members of The Lady Imps Supporters Association (LISA) rushed to throw a Red Imps scarf around the Lincoln City Knight, after clinching their favourite with a bid of £6,000.
The money was raised through crowdfunding, bucket collections at the Barnet game, and local businesses who are supporters of the club, who believed the Knight belonged at Sincil Bank. They formed a consortium which was instrumental in allowing LISA to make the winning bid!
Company supporters included Running Imp International, Selenity, Travis Perkins, Small Beer, Global Vision and Lincoln Towbar Specialists.
LISA spokeswoman Adele Would said: “When the bidding started I thought we might be in with a shout. Then I became a bit worried, thinking that could things could become a bit tricky. But we succeeded and we are thrilled.”
Adele especially wanted to thank all the fans - most of whom were expected to have tuned-in to watch a live feed of the auction - for their superb support. Everyone had been desperate to see the Lincoln City Knight returned to its “rightful home.”
Auction bidders and watchers were welcomed to the event by The Very Reverend Christine Wilson, Dean of Lincoln Cathedral.
Ian Sackree also spoke on behalf of The Nomad Trust, which will receive two-thirds of the money raised by the auction.
Mr Sackree said: “We are honoured and privileged that The Nomad Trust has been nominated to benefit from the Lincoln Knights’ Trail. We have been supporting the homeless in Lincoln for more than 30 years.”
The money will help Nomad to build a day centre to support more vulnerable people. This will also complement its night shelter offering.
Jean Ball of trail partner Wild in Art said that from the outset there was faith that the Trail would be a great success and that people would get behind it.
And Lincoln BIG Chief Executive, Matt Corrigan revealed that Trail lovers had walked 150,000 miles in order to see and photograph every Knight sculpture. If that had been done relay-style they would have gone around the world six times!
Social media statistics revealed that the Knights had attracted half-a-million mentions on Facebook alone and, across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram the Knights were responsible for 1.3 million impressions.
Matt also led a rousing round of applause in memory of two Knight’s artists – Emma McKinley who painted Guardian of The Forest and Valerie Osment who had decorated Knight Music – both of whom had sadly passed away before the auction.
Auctioneer Ian Walter said: “It has been a brilliant evening. We are pleased to have been involved and delighted that lively bidding has resulted in the Knights’ Trail Auction raising even more money than the Baron’s Auction in 2015.”
Nomad Trust Fundraising Officer Rachael Baxter said: “The Lincoln Knights’ Trail has been absolutely fantastic. We are honoured to be the named charity for the funds and we want to say a huge thank-you to the organisers, artists and sponsors for making this event and the trail so successful.”