How Newham came together to restore a stolen bronze pig called Chin Chin – and the city’s community spirit

When Chin Chin, a bronze sculpture of a pig, was stolen from the small Victorian town of Newham, the sense of community was also lost.

The city’s beloved mascot had held pride of place on its stone perch outside Newham’s general store for 10 years, before mysteriously vanishing.

Local Fran Spain, chair of the town’s Big Pig committee, says it was a disgrace, especially for the children.

The local general store sold pork paraphernalia to help raise funds to replace Chin Chin.(Provided)

“It was the most beautiful, the most beautiful and the most cuddly of the little pigs. It was so sad,” Ms. Spain said.

“The children were rubbing his back and giving him a pat.”

Chin Chin may have been small, but the Bronze Pig had become a big part of the identity of the town of Macedon Ranges, northwest of Melbourne.

Created in 2010, the sculpture was a nod to the town’s former pig factory, created by the Newham family in 1889.

The award-winning facility processed pigs from across the region until it closed in 1936.

A black and white photo of a building.
Thomas Newham turned the town’s flour mill into a pig factory in the 19th century.(Provided)

Chin Chin then inspired the O’Pig Arts Festival in Newham in 2014, an event that drew 5,000 people to the city of 506 people.

With the Macedon Ranges a hub for creatives, the Pig Festival naturally focused on the arts, and locals painted pigs to sell for charity.

A small bronze sculpture of a pig.
The Bronze Pig was a nod to the city’s history and inspired a new chapter: a festival of the arts.(Provided: Newham General Store)

But this year, with no sign of recovering the stolen sculpture, Ms. Spain took action.

She started a fundraising campaign to replace Chin Chin, and Newham came together to raise thousands of dollars for the cause.

An outline of a pig on colored paper in rainbow colors by a child.
Residents say the kids loved Chin Chin.(Provided: Luke Spielvogel)

“It was a way to bring the whole community together,” said Ms. Spain.

“We missed a lot of events, which were postponed due to the pandemic, so ‘bringing the pig back’ brought some life back to the city,” Ms. Spain said.

Luke Spielvogel, one of the new owners of Newman’s general store, where pork paraphernalia was sold to help raise funds, said the community struggled during the pandemic.

“During some difficult years, Chin Chin has been a catalyst to revitalize this sense of community,” he said.

“The general store is a focal point and a hub for bringing people together.

A bearded man wears a beret and a jacket.
Luke Spielvogel, one of the owners of the Newham general store, says it has been a difficult few years for the community. (Provided: Luke Spielvogel)

Eighteen months after the sculpture’s disappearance, a new sculpture has been installed outside Newham’s general store, even as the community continues to fundraise to pay for it.

A small greenish sculpture of a pig in front of a building.
Newham brought his mascot back to gather the locals.(Provided)

Roy Martin, a jeweler who worked with different types of metals, made the mold for the new Chin Chin.

“I have an antique porcelain French piggy bank and I was inspired by it,” he said.

Chin Chin 2.0 was started by his friend and Castlemaine artist Phil Mune.

Mr. Martin said it was not easy to make a bronze pig.

“We make a wax in the mold, then the wax is melted, then we pour bronze,” he said.

“It’s done with a green patina, so it looks like a piece of bronze that’s been in a European city for 100 years.”

It took about a month to do, and Mr. Martin says the tedious process was worth it.

“We all took a little while to do it.”

Two men are leaning on a stone, one of them with a drill.
Roy Martin donated his time and expertise to the project.(Provided: Stephen Mitchell)

It is hoped that Chin Chin 2.0 inspires the return of the city arts festival, but more importantly, brings people together.

Every precaution has been taken to ensure that Newham does not lose Chin Chin again.

“We welded stainless steel rods under the legs, drilled through the rock and cemented it,” Mr. Martin said.

“They should take the 300 kilogram stone with them.”

Comments are closed.