Secret City Arts: bringing the Big Hoot story alive

Owl-linked arts project set to soar.

Secret City Owls

Community arts organisation Secret City Arts, based in the Custard Factory, is set to soar across the city as part of Birmingham Children’s Hospital’s The Big Hoot charity art initiative this summer.

Presented by public art specialists, Wild in Art, in partnership with Birmingham Children’s Hospital, The Big Hoot will see over 200 beautifully designed owl statues, large and small, appearing throughout the city over a ten week period. At the end of the trail the owls will be auctioned off with all proceeds going to the hospital.

Secret City Arts, who work with communities to create art, stories and dramatic performances, will run two separate projects linked to The Big Hoot; the first with two groups of adults in the region and the second with schools who cater for children with learning disabilities across North Birmingham.

As part of the Culture on Your Doorstep programme funded by Birmingham City Council, Secret City Arts has been working with older adults from three community groups, the first a self-maintained group from St Luke’s Church in the region and the others at Optima’s sheltered accommodation in Attwood Green and Lee Bank, Edgbaston. The groups have been exploring stories of owls, igniting and recording their memories, tales and poems on to paper feathers. Each hand-written feather created by members of the groups will make up Secret City Art’s very own owlet which will form part of The Big Hoot’s citywide trail this summer.

Not only has this Culture on Your Doorstep project been an opportunity for local people to explore the art of storytelling. it has also given the group chance to meet real live owls from Hagley Falconry Centre to bring The Big Hoot story alive.

Mandy Ross, Artistic Co-Director at Secret City Arts, said: “There is so much excitement surrounding The Big Hoot. It has been a fantastic opportunity to tell some wonderful stories and everyone involved has loved getting together to share their memories. Those participating have really got something special out of every session; it’s given them something to get their teeth into, giving them the chance to explore the world of storytelling with Pyn Stockman of Secret City Arts.

“There have been some fantastic moments and some wonderfully rich experiences, particularly when we had real owls visit. They flew around the room, so we could see them close up, and some flew right over our heads, which was absolutely incredible. Both groups have been thoroughly engaged in the project and are thrilled to be supporting Birmingham Children’s Hospital as a result.”

The second Secret City Arts project, funded by Birmingham City Council’s Next Generation Fund is designed specifically for children and young people in the local community and will commence in May.

Chris Chiswell, Public Health Consultant at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: “It’s wonderful to have Secret City Arts involved in The Big Hoot community programme. Thanks to them and our other community partnerships we will ultimately be able to fund some important projects for the children and young people at our hospital and for that we’re immensely grateful.

“The Big Hoot is a fantastic opportunity for Birmingham, not only because it will bring in visitors from all over the UK but also because Brummies will get to be tourists in their own city, giving them the opportunity to rediscover its heritage and cultural offering.”

Ben Reed, Education and Community Manager at Wild in Art, commented: “We are thrilled to have Secret City Arts involved in The Big Hoot. The project will be a fantastic spectacle for Birmingham. Opportunities are still available for community groups to come on board and we hope local groups will recognise the cultural benefits of being a part of something special in their home town.”

Secret City Arts’ projects will cumulate in an owl picnic for all the groups to celebrate The Big Hoot experience and share their memories.

To find out more about the community programme and the opportunities available please visit or contact Education and Community Manager Ben at [email protected].