"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Big Hoot Owls : Part 1

This Summer has seen the most amazing project in the City of Birmingham called "The Big Hoot Birmingham 2015. The project has been produced by Wild in Art in partnership with Birmingham Children's Hospital, sponsored by various organisations and companies and supported by Birmingham City Council. 89 Large Owls and 122 School Owlets have been scattered throughout the City and a trail has been published so that people can visit and see the owls in their various locations.

A team of 83 artists from Birmingham, the Midlands and further afield has designed and painted the large Owls from a white, blank 3-dimensional model. In addition 25,000 children and young people from 114 schools have designed and decorated 122 smaller owls. Some of the owls are humorous, some wise, some pay homage to Birmingham's landmarks, architecture, people and places celebrating diversity. Others were inspired by literature, tv and films.

The Hooting Owl trail has finally closed and this week an auction will be held when the large owls will be sold to raise money for Birmingham Children's Hospital whose Star Appeal is to raise 3.65 million pounds to build a new centre for children and young people who suffer from rare or undiagnosed medical conditions.

I did see quite a few of the owls over the course of the summer but rarely had my camera with me so last Saturday D and I went along to the Special Farewell Weekend at Millennium Point in Birmingham where most of the Large Owls from the Trail were all on display in one place.

The event was very well organised with timed tickets being allocated. Even so there were hundreds of people milling around wanting to see the owls for the last time and everyone wanted to take photos so it wasn't easy to get pictures! We made our way to the very top of the display where it was quieter and then worked our way back down.

Our first view of all the owls on display.

First of all I have to show you my very favourite owl. D said I would love it and he was right! I really did want to bring it home with me.

Its called Midnight Moths :)

The artist was Alyn Smith who was inspired by the night sky, nocturnal owls and moths. The moths are shown as silhouettes and all are native British species. Glow in the dark paint was used to make the owl more atmospheric at night-time.

As you can see even the rear views of all the owls were painted!

Swirly Whirly Birmingham Owl-land

celebrating Birmingham's architecture, parks and people.

Tea T-owl

showing traditional British tea-time treats and a typical tea towel design.

Love Owl

inspired by diverse communities living together in the City.

Another one of my favourite Owls - The Green Owl.

This owl is a tribute to Birmingham's green spaces and is based on the ancient Green Man. Symbolic foliage contains images of small animals and bugs.

Owl Aboard

depicting a quirky Birmingham world where owls flock to catch the train.

Hedwig Owl

doesn't really need explaining - think Hogwarts :)

Delivered by Owl

is covered in celebratory stamps showing Birmingham's achievements for example famous bands, attractions and inventions.

One Giant Owl for Owlkind

celebrates the wonder captured when you look at the night sky, stars and planets.

Oozells Owl

is a tribute to Brindley Place in Birmingham City Centre.

A Word to the Wise (another one of my favourites)

is inspired by the word of a poem "A Wise Old Owl sat in an Oak" (Anonymous Punch 1875). The foliage is reminiscent of the Arts and Crafts Movement's simple but stylised representation of nature.

Rewind and Come Again

refers to the impact of the Big Hoot Trail scattered throughout Birmingham during the Summer.

The Bone Ranger Owl -

inspires the viewer to read up on Birmingham's history and what life means. The skeletons of small rodents refers to the first x-ray image which was taken in the City.

The Birmingham Childrens' Hospital Owl

The artists was inspired by visits to the hospital as a child. Designs show the red bricks and slate roof of the Victorian hospital.

Tessallated Owl

Triangles in bold, bright colours are a reminder of diamonds, rubies, emeralds and other precious stones.

I See A Darkness

features night-time and the eye represents a full moon.

Mr Architect Owl

celebrates the mix of Birmingham's old and new buildings including the new Selfridges Building and Library.

Poddy Owl

celebrates the vibrancy of the Bordesley Green area of the city and reflects the local Women's Group OCCIC.

Under the Glow of Moonlight

The main feature is the striking eye which looks into the owl's night journey under the moon, across the night sky and across undiscovered oceans.

Blodeuwedd Owl

depicts a mythical story and refers to a Welsh tale about a beautiful lady who was known as Blodeuwedd or "Flower Face". She betrayed her lover and was turned into an owl.

Handsworth Park Owl and Pussy Cat

The design came into being after a series of drawing workshops with children and is inspired by owl mythology.

The Birchfield Sable Owl

is inspired by a poem by Jade Richards called the "Soul of Birchfield"

You Can Call Me Owl

is inspired by Birmingham's contribution to the development of the once familiar and iconic telephone box.


is a patriotic owl wearing the Union Flag.

Twit Choo Choo

shows Birmingham located at the heart of the country and thus the rail networks. It was designed by Joseph Hewston, winner of the Cross Country Design an Owl competition.

Dotty Owl

is covered in Dots similar to patterns used in Aboriginal art in natural earthy colours inspired by landscapes. The shapes formed by the dots joined together represent people travelling towards each other.


designed by members of St Thomas' Community Project in Garretts Green which represents pride in their community and has references to Sheldon Country Park Fair.

Fleet and Free

is the motto for Birchfield Harriers, a famous athletic club. The design includes Union Jacks and famous athletes. The message is to Aim High, Work Hard, Focus, Be Committed and you can achieve your goals.


features a photorealistic image of an Eagle Owl.

I'll feature the rest of the Owls in Part 2.


Toffeeapple said...

Phew, I just caught up on your posts since September 29th! What a wealth of reading, thank you.

I have never heard the tale of Blodeuwedd and I am full blooded Welsh. I shall have to investigate further. The Owl Trail was very interesting, as were your other posts, particularly about Ludlow, a town that I love, the misericords and the Apple Day.

I like to save your posts up, to read them as chapters in a book.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much for your very kind comment :) So glad you enjoyed all the posts!

It was interesting about Blodeuwedd - I hadn't heard the story before either - it was mentioned in the souvenir guide I bought. My curiosity is aroused too and I will also be trying to find out more :)

Margaret Adamson said...

what a fascinating and fun post.Very creative Owls

Ragged Robin said...

Margaret Adamson - Thanks very much Margaret.

David said...

What a wonderful idea with some fantastic & imaginative designs on show for everyone to enjoy. A few years ago Hull did a similar thing with Toads (something to do with Philip Larkin I think) and a few are still on show in the city and around the local area.

I like pretty much all of the Owls but I have to say I agree with your choice as regards the Midnight Moths one, that is a pretty awesome design to say the least!

Look forward to seeing more :-)

Ragged Robin said...

David - Thanks so much :) I would have loved to have seen the Toads in Hull. There have been a lot of Shaun the Sheep models on display in London this year too I believe. Its certainly a very different idea. Wish now I had gone to see more when there was a trail.

I thought you might like the Moth one! Its the auction tonight - it will be interesting to find out how much they will all go for. I suspect most will go for several thousand with ones like the Dr Who one going for a lot more!

Deb said...

What a great project! I like the wise owl too and the 'Glow in the Moonlight' owl. :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Deb - Thanks so much :) I loved the way they were decorated back and front :)

Toffeeapple said...

Blodeuwedd is one of the stories in the Mabinogion, which I have never read, so would date from the 12th or 13th Century.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so very much for that information - that's very interesting indeed. I haven't read it either but D has a copy in one of his bookcases - I suspect he hasn't read it either but will try and find the book and look for the story.