The famous statue of ‘Jesus in Jeans’ on the front of St Philip’s Catholic Church, Uckfield is now pigeon-free, thanks to a halo of ‘flames.’
The £355,000 seven-foot statue, by Lewes-based sculptor Marcus Cornish, resulted in controversy and interest from across the globe when it was revealed in 2009. It was unveiled by The Pope’s ambassador to this country, the papal nuncio Archbishop Faustino Sainz Munoz, and the Bishop of Arundel and Brighton blessed it.
But birds soon found the statue a comfortable place to roost so the area below was soon plastered with bird droppings. The droppings are acidic and can damage painted, stone or wooden surfaces as well as making public areas slippery and unhygenic.
The church’s maintenance committee, helped by priest Father Stephen Hardaker, found a firm which could help. Cleankill Environmental Services from South London, which has expertise in controlling pest birds, was called in to assess the problem and came up with a solution.
Director Jon Whitehead, explained: “The sculpture has a hollow back which created a perfect home for around 20 pigeons. They would nest inside and rest on the halo creating an unsightly and unhygienic mess.”
So the firm used a special product called Bird Free Gel which they fixed to the statue at certain points, including the halo. The gel appears as flames to the birds so they are discouraged from landing.
The church’s maintenance head Alan Duncan said: “We are all so pleased that the problem has been solved. We were at a loss as to what to do next. At one point we put anti-bird spikes on various resting places, painting them gold to match the halo. Unfortunately, the pigeons were ‘most comfortable’ with the additions!
“The service we had from Cleankill was excellent and very professional, including many after-care visits.”
Cornish’s sculpture was funded by money left by Winifred Gregory, 87, a member of the congregation who passed away in 2008. Christ wears jeans and a shirt billowing in the wind while his hair and beard are neatly and fashionably trimmed. Marcus Cornish said: “The sculpture is simple and direct and I hope it sums up the feeling that Christ is always with us and that we are not to be afraid. The clothing is loosely contemporary in order to connect Christ to his people now as much as to his past.”
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