It’s been waiting in the wings for weeks but the West Brom’s ‘Big Hoot’ owl has finally shaken its feathers in Sutton Coldfield town centre.
The ‘A Word to the Wise’ sculpture was unveiled as part of a ‘Sutton Owlfield’ trail designed to showcase seven giant owls in the town centre and surrounding area.
The 5ft 5ins tall ‘bird’ is perched in the pedestrianised area, welcoming shoppers at the Birmingham Road end of The Parade, a few yards from the regional building society’s Sutton branch which is sponsoring it.
‘A Word to the Wise’ was designed by artist Elizabeth Forrest, who based her design on the poem ‘A Wise Old Owl Sat In An Oak’, which appears in full on the front.
The poem, whose author is unknown, debuted in the satirical magazine Punch in 1875. The first verse of a second poem, ‘The Great Brown Owl’ by Jane Euphemia Browne (1811-1898), is painted on the back.
Elizabeth, a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, said: “In line with the timing and context of the poetry I’ve gone for a traditional look, with the foliage on the owl reminiscent of Pre-Raphaelite studies of nature.”
‘A Word to the Wise’ is one of 89 individually decorated owl statues that are part of The Big Hoot art exhibition created to raise funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Heather Wall, manager of the West Brom in Sutton Coldfield, said: “It’s such an innovative and fun way to raise money for the hospital. We’ve already seen lots of people taking photographs of their families standing by it – even the odd selfie or twooo!
“Elizabeth has created a truly stunning piece of public art and the references to wisdom and even the oak tree, which we use in our logo, make her particular owl the perfect one for us to champion and sponsor.”
The West Brom is a big supporter of Birmingham Children’s Hospital, making a £70,300 donation last year towards its cancer unit appeal. The money was from the annual proceeds of the society’s Red Balloon Appeal account.
The Big Hoot is presented in partnership with the hospital by public art specialists Wild in Art.
At the end of The Big Hoot, all of the giant owls will be sold at auction. Proceeds will go towards helping the children and young people at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Louise McCathie, Director of Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: “It’s thanks to corporate supporters like the West Brom that we can look forward to ultimately being able to fund important projects for our children and young people at the hospital and for that we’re extremely grateful.”
Charlie Langhorne, Director of Wild in Art, said: “Our public art projects have a proven track record of increasing community engagement and we’re confident The Big Hoot will attract visitors to Sutton Owlfield and all the other venues around the city where the owls have ‘nested’. In that way even more people will get to discover, or rediscover, the heritage and culture Birmingham has to offer.”
For more information about The Big Hoot, visit www.thebighoot.co.uk.
Owl fanciers can follow ‘A Word to the Wise’ on Twitter @word2thewiseowl #SuttonOwlfield and @thebighoot2015.