Schools and youth groups flock to join The Big Hoot

When The Big Hoot swoops into Chichester and Arundel next summer, the whole community will be involved. As part of the public art trail, staged as a collaboration of local charity Chestnut Tree House and Wild in Art, local artists will design and paint the owl statues, with businesses from the area providing sponsorship. Many thousands of people will engage with the art trail while the owls are on display.

As part of the trail, schools will engage with The Little Hoot, a learner programme which will see them fundraise and decorate their own miniature owl statues. And we’ve already had lots of interest from local schools and youth groups.

Image of owl statues at the school.

Chichester Free School

Rob Angell is Assistant Principal of Chichester Free School (CFS), who were the first to sign up. “This is such a fantastic opportunity to get involved with the charity and our local community,” he says. “It will inspire our young people to feel more connected to their environment, learn more about their local community and understand the needs of the people within it.”

CFS is an all-through school, with learners aged four to 16. The school’s values, “nurture, challenge and inspire,” are exemplified through this project.

“By participating in The Little Hoot, I hope the pupils will learn more about themselves,” says Rob. “And of course, we want to engage their creativity, empowering them to take pride in what they do and how they do it. I also hope that there will be opportunities to get to know some of the other organisations and schools involved, potentially building some careers links with local business, especially important for our secondary pupils.’ As well as encouraging creativity and communication, boosting opportunities to have fun with art and literacy, The Little Hoot will build bridges between the school and local artists. Through the connection with local children’s hospice Chestnut Tree House, it will also help pupils engage with important topics such as illness and bereavement.

Louise New, Executive Principal, added, “Chestnut Tree House has been one of our chosen charities over the past couple of years and the children have been raising money, so there’s already a sense of working with them and understanding what they do. We have experienced loss in the school, much more so over the past five years, and Chestnut Tree House is very close to our hearts.” 

For CFS, the most inspiring thing about the programme is experiencing the internal buzz around the school being part of such a major local cultural event – but, Rob adds, “For the pupils, I think the most engaging moment will be that final reveal of the complete owl statue and knowing that they are part of something. I’m looking forward to that.

“And the impact will continue through the money we raise and the focus on the good work that Chestnut Tree House does. That, I think, is something that will continue long beyond The Big Hoot.”

Image of the guild guide troupe with their owl

Girlguiding Sussex West

Girlguiding Sussex West has channelled its considerable energies on behalf of Chestnut Tree House before – funding two full days of care at the hospice through sponsored Reindeer Rambles. Sussex West has 180 units with about 2,500 girls and 700 volunteers and members range in age from four all the way through to adulthood.

Kirstin Bosley, lead volunteer for the project, says: “Our promise is what unites everyone in guiding. Part of our promise is to be active members of our community and help others and, alongside the theme of taking action from our programme, we want to encourage girls to voice their opinion and help their community.

“We are keen to raise awareness among our members that there are young people with life-limiting conditions in our communities and that Chestnut Tree House provides care for them and their families.”

To ensure every member in the county has the opportunity to get involved, Girlguiding leaders will be using the Little Hoot resources and educational framework to launch a county challenge. Girls will be encouraged to raise a minimum of £50 per unit, in whatever way they please. And, of course, in true guiding tradition there will be a Girlguiding Sussex West ‘Little Hoot’ challenge badge.

“We’re hoping that people from Chestnut Tree House will be able to visit some units to talk about the care the hospice provides,” says Kirstin. “Some of the girls will be able to visit the hospice itself, exploring the Woodland Walk and seeing just how many resources are provided for life-limited children, so they understand a lot of fundraising is needed to keep hospices open and running.

“We are a charity ourselves, but it’s a great thing for our members to realise that there are other charities that need that support.”

The centrepiece of participation in The Little Hoot is the owl statue itself, which is decorated by the children. But with so many Girlguiding members taking part, it took some thought to work out how they could design the sculpture collaboratively. “What we decided in the end was that we would ask each unit to design a feather, which be transposed onto the sculpture by an artist. Then we can incorporate all the divisions’ symbols and logos – and it will represent all of us,” says Kirstin.

Find out about the Big Hoot

Does your school or youth group want to get involved next year in Chichester and Arundel's first large scale art event? Have your chance of displaying your own artwork to the public? And fundraise for an amazing cause? Find out how:

About the Big Hoot's Little Hoot