Get ready for the summer of the owl in Chichester and Arundel!

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It’s going to be a fabulously fun and colourful summer in Chichester and Arundel as 30 big and 30 small owl sculptures swoop into town, providing a free day out for the entire family.

The Big Hoot 2024 will be Chichester and Arundel’s first large-scale outdoor art trail – all in aid of Chestnut Tree House, the children's hospice for Sussex, Brighton and south-east Hampshire caring for children and young adults aged 0-19.

Becki Jupp, chief operating officer, can’t wait. The owls will appear overnight for the start of the trail on July 10 and will remain in position until September 1. The 30 big owls have each been designed by a different artist. You’ll also have the opportunity to view the owlets, designed by local schools and youth groups as part of the project’s Little Hoot learner programme: “We have been working with an organisation called Wild in Art who put on a lot of trails. Most of the art trails that you see across the UK are put on by them in association with a charity partner, and their MD approached me a long time ago and wanted to see if we would be interested in putting on an art trail with them. Having seen the success of other art trails not just for the charity involved but also for the area involved it seemed like a good idea. It was a yes from me particularly given the challenge of fund-raising and the fact that it was something new that we haven't done before. We have seen the success of the Brighton trail with the Martlets hospice, and the idea of having an owl in the trail came from the connection with Chestnut Tree House and woodland creatures. We have a fully accessible woodland walk that the children and their families can enjoy. They really love it and they love talking about the woodland creatures and so an owl just felt right.

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“The most important step was getting together a team internally to start working on the trail and we've been working on this for at least 12 months. It has been an awful lot of work. The next step was to get the sponsors. Each owl has its own sponsor and once we had the sponsors we had the really exciting job of choosing the artists. We wanted to get as many artists as possible to submit their design and then we went through a big exercise to pick our favourites. We wanted ideas that resonated with us and we were looking for things that were topical. We were also looking for things that were different. Some are beautifully decorated and some are highly unusual. We have flowers and night skies. We have all sorts of things and we also have lots of things that reflect the local areas.”

The Big Hoot 2024 - Judith Berrill is one of the artists (pic by Andrew Whitman)The Big Hoot 2024 - Judith Berrill is one of the artists (pic by Andrew Whitman)
The Big Hoot 2024 - Judith Berrill is one of the artists (pic by Andrew Whitman)

They had more than 100 submissions for the 30 big owls which are currently in a big warehouse waiting to be put out overnight in readiness for the first day of the trail: “I think it is going to look amazing. They will be appearing across Chichester and Arundel, and it will be great fun to go around either town trying to find them. There will be an app that you can download and there will be a trail map and you can walk around and tick them off. It is just going to be such a great thing to enjoy in the summer holidays, and on each owl there will be a little reward if you scan the owl on the app on your phone.

“We are hoping that it will raise a significant amount of money most of which will come from two events at the end. From September 13-15 we will have a farewell weekend where we will gather all the owls together in Arundel where people can see them collectively. It will be the first and only time that you can see them all together standing next to each other and then we will be auctioning them off a couple of weeks later. Fundraising is getting increasingly difficult. Hospices are facing a massive crisis. It costs £5,000,000 a year to run this hospice and of that we get 17 per cent from the government. The other 83 per cent has to come from fund-raising, from donations, from corporate, from the shops that we run and from things like this. In the past couple of years it's become increasingly difficult with the cost of living crisis and so on but we are hoping we might be able to raise a six-figure sum with this.”