All in a flap as owls land at University's new sports centre site

A very special visitor swooped into the University of Birmingham on Thursday to officially announce the institution’s participation in this summer’s citywide public art event, the Big Hoot.Big-Hoot

One of the owls who will be dotted around the city dropped into the new University sports centre to take a look at progress and find out more about how the community will be able to use it to stay active when it opens next year.

The Big Hoot is a public art project and charity initiative coming to Birmingham this summer. The large-scale art event will see around 90 individually designed giant owls place at locations around Birmingham, creating a trail which will encourage residents and visitors alike to discover new parts of the city as they visit as many owl locations as possible – while reaping the health benefits of pounding the pavements of the city.After ten weeks of the owls being on display, they will be auctioned off to raise funds for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – which is one of the University’s partners within Birmingham Health Partners.

The University of Birmingham is sponsoring the project which will encourage families to explore the city as they discover the owls, and staying active whilst doing so.

The University’s owls have not yet been revealed, but Thursday’s visitor soon got into the swing of life on a construction site, donning a hard hat and high-visibility jacket before taking up his perch inside the entrance to the centre.

Researchers from the University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences also popped by to see who was ruffling feathers, and were delighted to lend their support to the Big Hoot’s aims.

Dr Anna Phillips, Reader in Behavioural Medicine, said: “Getting families to exercise together is so important, and activity like going for a walk together can be a really simple way of staying fit. We can learn a lot from owls – after all, you never see an obese owl. This is because they burn off the energy which they consume while flying around at night.”

Dr Sam Lucas, Lecturer in Exercise and Environmental Physiology, added: “Owls are hunter-gatherers, in a way that humans have not been for a long time. But just as the owls expend their energy by hunting food, we need to find ways of building our exercise into our daily lives. This doesn’t necessarily mean finding 30 minutes a day to do an activity, but being more active generally, like walking or cycling to work, or taking the stairs instead of the lift.”

Charlie Langhorne, Director of Wild in Art, said: “It’s great to have the University of Birmingham on board with The Big Hoot. Our public art projects have a proven track record of heightening the profile of our host cities and we’re confident that this will continue in Birmingham, as visitors and residents alike discover the city through this unique and visually stunning artistic trail.”

Elinor Eustace, Deputy Director of Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “We’re delighted to have University of Birmingham involved in The Big Hoot. Thanks to them and our other corporate partners 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 owls will land on July 20, and will be in residence throughout the summer – and will still be around the city to meet newly arriving students in September. They will be able to be visited at any time. To keep up-to-date with all the news on the University’s owls, visit www.birmingham.ac.uk/bighoot

Notes to editors

For more information contact Kara Griffiths, University of Birmingham, +44 (0)7812 671797

Photo caption: Dr Sam Lucas and Dr Anna Phillips meet the visitor to campus.

Images are available to download of Dr Anna Phillips and Dr Sam Lucas with the owl on site or the owl alone.