Ipswich Big Hoot art trail – where are the sculptures now?
Think back to 2022, and you may remember when Ipswich was taken over by a flock of colourful owls.
The Big Hoot art trail raised more than £270,000 for those living with life-changing illnesses.
St Elizabeth Hospice, which hosted the event, commissioned artists to create 50 owl sculptures of varying themes for a free art trail that ran through the summer months.
With names like Skool’s Owt and Owl Hands On Deck, through to Frida K’Owl’o and Frutti Hooti, it added a dash of colour to the town centre.
You’ve probably seen the owls out and about since the event ended, as a huge auction took place in October 2022, which sold the birds off to the highest bidder.
Some were bought by businesses, while patrons purchased the rest.
Here’s what happened to nine of the Big Hoots, and where they are now:
The Owl and the Pussycat
This owl was located outside The Key Café in St Margaret’s Street.
The Owl and the Pussycat was created by artist Traci Moss and took inspiration from the Edward Lear poem of the same name.
It is now in the possession of Diana Spiers, whose husband was in the care of the hospice charity four years ago.
Now, she keeps it at her home as a memento.
Diana said: “The last year has been great as I get to see The Owl and the Pussycat every day from my dining room window looking at me.
“The Hoot has a ginger cat design on it and also an owl and one day the cat was sitting in the garden near the sculpture while and owl was watching on from a neighbour’s tree – very fitting.”
This agriculturally-inspired owl has taken up roost at the home of Richard Burrows.
During the event, it was perched outside Scrutton Bland’s offices in Crown Street.
It was designed by Cathy Simpson.
Mr Burrows described Owl-otments as a ‘most welcome’ member of the family.
He said: “Our owl sits in a very central place in our garden, waiting to greet the guests, and so far I don’t think anyone has visited us without paying attention to it, and complimenting us on its welcome.
“We will continue to support St Elizabeth Hospice, who looked after a special friend of ours in his final weeks, with care and love, which we all much appreciated.”
Inspired by the work of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, this big hoot has taken pride of place in the home of its new owner.
Designed by Marnie Maurri, Frida K’owl’o was stationed outside financial firm Curtis Banks’ offices in Princes Street.
Now, however, it is owned by Robert Bates, who bought it after the trail ended.
Regarding the Big Hoot, Mr Bates said: “The trail really benefited the local community and did a lot of good.
“We loved how popular the art trail was and we really enjoyed walking around the town to see the many sculptures and their designs.
“All the designs were great pieces of work and our very own Frida K’Owl’o certainly creates a reaction when people come to our home.”
Owl Hands on Deck
Ipswich has a rich maritime history – and this hoot paid tribute to that.
Owl Hands on Deck took its place at the town’s iconic waterfront, outside the former Cult Café, now Mix, at the University of Suffolk.
The owl was designed by Angela Ashford, but was bought by Ipswich-based Fred.Olsen Cruise Lines at auction.
Georgina May, from Fred.Olsen, said it was a delightful addition to the team, and now welcomes all customers who visit – alongside an Elmer’s Big Parade statue from the hospice charity’s previous art trail.
She added: said: “Our wonderful Hoot has also been out on the road, having taken a trip to the Excursions 2023 show with our sales team, where he met hundreds of people and became an engaging and exciting talking point.
“We love to support our local community and being an employer within Ipswich, it felt only natural to support a cause that is so important to many of our colleagues, as well as many members of the local community.”
Dorothea, formerly Mechanicowl
As the charity that organised the art trail, it was only right that someone from St Elizabeth Hospice owned one of the big hoots.
The owl formerly known as Mechanicowl, now Dorothea, is now in the possession of chief executive Judi Newman.
During the event, it was located in Westgate Street.
Ms Newman, whose mother was keen to support the Big Hoot event and joked about buying one before her death in 2022, said she was pleased to see so many people enjoying the trail.
Dorothea is now front-and-centre at her home.
She said: said: “At first, our three dogs were not at all sure about our Hoot but they have got used to her now.
“I had planned to put her near my veggie patch in the back garden, but when she was delivered, I realised that she was too beautiful to hide away so she is actually in the front garden.
“I bought it in memory of my mum, and Dorothea keeps a watchful eye on me through my kitchen window as I’m washing the dishes.
“As I work at the hospice, I had been aware of all the preparation and hard work behind the scenes to bring the Big Hoot art trail to Ipswich. So by the time the owls had landed, it was really exciting to see it come to life and we are so grateful for everything it brings to the hospice.”
She added: “It made me so happy to go through Ipswich seeing grandparents and grandchildren walking the trail together, taking fun photos and choosing their favourite owls.
“By the time the auction came, it is hard to say goodbye to them all but we know they continue to bring joy in all their different new homes.”
Mabel and Friends, Night Owl and A Hoot to Suffolk
Kate and Archie Adams scored a jackpot at auction and are now the proud owners of three of the owls.
During the Big Hoot, Mabel and Friends was located in Christchurch Park, while Night Owl perched outside St Elizabeth Hospice’s Zest charity shop in Queen Street, and A Hoot to Suffolk sat in Dog’s Head Street.
Regarding the owls, the pair said: “We have loved having them at the house. They make us smile every day – a very positive thing.”
After Kate’s mother, Sheila, died in 2022, they decided to use some of the money she left them to purchase the Hoots.
She would have loved them, they said.
The pair added: “Sheila’s mother had an owl on her family coat of arms and Kate also had an owl tattoo recently as well.
“Everyone who knows us in our local village love them. They say they are lovely and are very happy that we supported an excellent cause.
“Many delivery drivers have also made some lovely comments about them.
“All the hospice’s art trails have been wonderful and we feel very honoured to have given the three of the Hoots a good home – and also so pleased that the money went to a wonderful cause.”
Our final entry was designed by Alison Mayston and was perched outside Ipswich School during the trail.
Now, Zentag-Owl is owned by Kay French, who picked up the owl, alongside a blank ‘Little Hoot’, during the auction.
Ms French said family and friends loved the owl – with it causing quite the surprise if they were not aware she owned it.
She praised the Big Hoot and said it brought joy and colour to the town.
Ms French told of how the family also enjoyed the auction night, and that they didn’t quite know what to expect on the day.
Ms French added: “My two grandsons adore [Zentag-Owl] and always point him out to people, they are 2-years-old so he must look enormous to them.
“We have had extensive building works done on the house this past 18 months and as a result have had a lot of deliveries, workman and trades in the house.
“Almost every single one has either taken photos or had their photo taken with them to show their families.
“It feels fantastic that we have been able to support such a wonderful cause.
“We have personal experience of St Elizabeth Hospice’s services, so it means so much that we have been able to give a little back.”
Celia Joseph, the community relationships fund-raising manager for St Elizabeth Hospice, said she could not believe it had been over a year since the Big Hoot trail.
The entire hospice team were thrilled to see people enjoying the trail, as well as seeing all the ‘brilliant range of creative designs’, she noted.
Looking to the future, St Elizabeth Hospice is making plans for another event, following the success of the Big Hoot, and the previous two sculpture trails.
“We are hoping to have another art trail for 2025, so watch this space for more details,” Ms Joseph added.