The Big Hoot has taken the city and social media by storm dominating school holiday snaps and spawning hundreds of witty owl puns. We’ll miss the colourful creatures when they’re gone, but what’s it all for?
Photos by Kris Askey
Hootankhamun, You Can Call Me Owl, Florence Nightin’owl… it’s difficult to escape the amusing puns and vibrantly decorated owls that have become fond fixtures of the city, confusing tourists and delighting schoolchildren. From Sutton Coldfield to Northfield, 89 large owls and 122 of their offspring or owlets are gracing the pavements, brightening up the dullest of days until 27 September. There’s a bigger purpose than just raising a smile and offering up a photo opportunity though.
The Big Hoot is Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s fabulously ambitious fundraising project which they hope will raise a whopping £500,000 when the owls are auctioned off in October. With the experienced team at Wild in Art driving the project – you may remember Gromit Unleashed in Bristol – it’s taken on a life of its own and captured the imagination of Brum’s residents and visitors. Wild in Art’s biggest UK project to date is proving to be a massive hit. Social media is awash with owl images from serious snappers cataloguing the whole collection to kids on school holiday. Many of the owls even have their own Twitter accounts and the nocturnal beasts chat to one another while we sleep.
Famous faces, talented artists and local businesses have offered their support. The large owls have been designed by world renowned artists such as local lad Temper who brings a street art flavour to one of his two owls Re-tail, and Josh Billingham who has also created two owls including Fleet and Free, which celebrates Birmingham’s cultural diversity. Brum royalty Ozzy Osbourne is probably the most famous face to get involved and while he might have the least imaginatively named owl – Ozzy’s Owl, it’s creating an increased buzz about the project that only a global rock legend could muster. His son Louis was treated at BCH as a child, so it’s a cause close to Ozzy’s heart.
The smaller 122 owlets have been created by local school pupils involving 25,000 children from 120 schools embracing the wider community and giving the whole project a feel-good vibe that connects the city. It’s not all positive though. A handful of owls have been damaged either by over-zealous children or thoughtless vandals. Thankfully all have been returned to their former magnificent glory, but the almost parental backlash on social media confirms the success of the project. It’s got us hooked…
- Temper’s Re-Tail is on the Junction of New Street and High Street.
- Ozzy Osbourne’s Ozzy’s Owl is on New Street.
- Joshua Billingham’s Fleet and Free is at the Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr.
- Milan Topalovic’s Owl Aboard is at New Street Station.
- Goosensei’s Nature’s Growth is located on Church Street Square.
UP FOR GRABS
Pick a favourite, break into your piggy bank and take one home. The 89 large owls will be auctioned on Thursday 15 October at Millennium Point by Fieldings Auctioneers to raise funds for BCH. To register your interest in the auction email firstname.lastname@example.org You can also support the hospital by texting HOOT to 70099 to donate £2 or by purchasing merchandise from the The Big Hoot shop in Great Western Arcade.