Giant ‘Swoop’ Land Art has surprising habitat benefits

Posted: 11.05.15

Officially launched during the Tour de Yorkshire international cycling race weekend, Swoop, the giant permanent artwork gracing a hillside above Elland, is providing a perfect habitat for field mice.

Already environmentally symbolic Swoop is proving popular with small mammals, as Calderdale-based arts commissioner and project curator, Geoff Wood, explained: “We lifted some of the starlings to make sure they were secured properly and we found that field mice have made nests and runs underneath the large starling shaped silhouettes.

“The 560 starlings are made from recycled plastic, which is lightweight and doesn’t put as much pressure on the ground; they’re now offering shelter and protection to wildlife; something that wouldn’t have been possible if we’d used chalk or concrete to create Swoop.”

Created by Hebden Bridge-based artist, Jane Revitt, and commissioned by Pennine Prospects with funding from the Green Bank Trust and Yorkshire Festival 2014, Swoop is a flowing abstract representation of 560 starlings swooping across the hillside. Initially created as part of the Yorkshire Festival in celebration of the Tour de France Grand Depart cycling race in July 2014 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 and made from recycled plastic, this striking permanent land art installation, measures 150 metres long and 65 metres from top to bottom. It highlights the plight of starlings, which have seen a dramatic decline in their numbers and are now protected. RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch 2015 confirms that starlings in gardens are down 80% since 1979.

Pam Warhurst, chair of Pennine Prospects, the rural regeneration company for the South Pennines, thanked the whole team behind the successful installation of Swoop at its official launch at Elland Working Men’s Club. “I enjoy seeing this artwork every time I drive along the by-pass. Its creation has been a team effort with many people playing a part. I’d like to thank Nigel Oliver, of the Green Business Network, for coordinating the funding; Casey Group for hosting Swoop on their land; Jane Revitt, who created this artwork, and the young farmers who installed it.”

Pam added: “I’d also like to thank Kedel Ltd who did a great job manufacturing the birds, Geoff Wood for curating the project, the Yorkshire Festival and Green Bank Trust for funding it and Elland Working Men’s Club who have generously allowed people to view it from their car park, and for hosting this launch event.”

At the launch school children from Greetland Academy learnt about the artwork, met the artist and young farmers and made fat balls and other types of bird feeders in workshops organised by the RSPB. They also re-enacted a murmuration similar to that depicted by Swoop.

Jane Revitt explained her inspiration for the piece: ““We were looking for an image to suggest speed and movement. I was familiar with the site, and the image of a flock of birds came to mind immediately. I was interested in the similarity between the peloton of cyclists as they progress across the hills and the image of a large flock of birds. Starlings perform incredible aerial displays called murmurations, when hundreds or thousands of birds collect at dusk. Despite the serious decline in starling numbers, murmurations have recently been seen nearby.

“The site is enormous and I worked on the design in the studio at a scale of 1:100. The starling silhouettes are cut from white recycled plastic, an appropriate material for the landfill site. The birds vary in size from one metre to two metres in length from head to tail.”

Robin Tuddenham, Director of Communities and Service Support for Calderdale Council and Vice Chair of the Yorkshire Festival Steering Group commented: “Swoop sits majestically on reclaimed land above Elland providing a permanent reminder of our local strengths – Calderdale’s beautiful countryside and magnificent culture.”

Swoop can be seen from various places in Elland. The official vantage point is from Elland Working Men’s Club car park off South Lane, HX5 0HT, where there is also information about the project. It 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 Green Bank 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