Cycling and Art combine as Swoop is launched

Posted: 14.04.15

A permanent land art installation will officially be launched ahead of the Tour de Yorkshire international cycling race this May Bank Holiday weekend.

Following on from the great success of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire last July, this year’s Tour de Yorkshire race will take place along a similar route on day three, Sunday May 3, close to the artwork, Swoop.

Created by Hebden Bridge-based artist, Jane Revitt and commissioned by Yorkshire Festival 2014, Swoop, is a flowing abstract representation of 560 starlings swooping across the hillside at Blackley in Elland. It has been designed to link the dramatic patterns made by the birds with the movement of the cyclists’ peloton where the riders flock together to save energy.

Situated on a former landfill site, made from recycled plastic, this striking permanent land art installation, measuring 150 metres long and 65 metres from top to bottom, is environmentally symbolic. It highlights the plight of starlings, which have seen a 66% decline in their numbers since the mid-1970s, and are now protected. RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch 2015 confirms that starlings in gardens are down 80% since 1979.

Swoop will be launched from the official vantage point at Elland Working Men’s Club, on Friday, May 1, the first day of the Tour de Yorkshire race. On the day there will an opportunity to meet the artist and the team behind Swoop, including the members of the Calderdale Young Farmers, led by Andrew Wood, who spent five days installing the silhouette birds onto the steep hillside in accordance with Jane’s design. Kedel Ltd, the family firm that made the starlings, will also be represented. And children will be invited to make bird feeders and starling models in a number of activities led by the RSPB.

Jane explained her inspiration for the piece: “I chose a flock of birds to suggest the speed and movement of the peloton. Starlings were the obvious choice as they are known for their dramatic flock formations. A flock of starlings is called a murmuration. Unfortunately the starling is in decline; it’s now on the RSPB’s Red List. Despite this, there have been sightings of murmerations recently near the site.”

“The site is enormous so I worked on the design using a much smaller scale in the studio. I initially worked with paper and collage until I was happy with the shape. We then had 560 birds cut out of recycled plastic, an appropriate material as it’s sited on a landfill site. They are also light-weight, which made the installation possible.

“There are nine different designs of birds varying in size from one metre to two metres from head to tail. They had to be big enough for people to see but weren’t easy to install on the steep uneven ground. We divided the hillside into five metre squares so we could translate the diagram I had of my design onto the hillside. The young farmers were great and worked extremely hard. I travelled to different viewpoints to see how the design was looking and used a walkie-talkie to guide the installers to adjust the positions of the birds until they were in the right places,” added Jane.

Robin Tuddenham, Director of Communities and Service Support for Calderdale Council and Vice Chair of the Yorkshire Festival Steering Group commented: “Last year the Tour de France and the 100 Day Yorkshire Festival were the highlight of a calendar bringing numerous benefits to the Borough. Communities in Calderdale entered into the spirit of internationalism, welcoming visitors and friends and flocking to the roadside to cheer the cyclists.

“This year’s Tour de Yorkshire provides the opportunity to be part of something special once more and Jane Revitt’s artwork marks the Legacy of the Tour de France. Swoop sits majestically on reclaimed land above Elland providing a permanent reminder of our local strengths – Calderdale’s beautiful countryside and magnificent culture.”

The project has been led by Pennine Prospects, the rural regeneration company for the South Pennines. It has been curated by Calderdale-based arts commissioner, Geoff Wood. Swoop has been funded through the Landfill Communities Fund with landfill tax credits donated by The Casey Group, working in partnership with the Environmental Bodies, Calderdale and Kirklees Green Business Network and Lancashire’s Greenbank Trust. As a large land art installation permanently on display Swoop is part of the legacy of the Yorkshire Festival 2014. The festival was supported by Yorkshire Water and Arts Council England.

Yorkshire Water United Utilities Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council National Farmers Union
South Pennines Association Lancashire County Council Pennine Heritage Kirklees Council Calderdale Council
Bradford District Council Northern Rail Natural England Environment Agency The National Trust