10,000 hand-painted birds to mark lockdown at historic mansion

A huge art installation featuring 10,000 birds hand-painted with images and memories of lockdown is to take over the lawns of a stately home as the vast mansion reopens its doors to the public.

The wooden birds were decorated by people of all ages in Rotherham and surrounding villages before being installed at Wentworth Woodhouse, which has been closed since March.

Many feature heart-felt messages, such as “the first hug of loved ones will always mean the most”, and moving tributes to those who lost their lives during the coronavirus outbreak.

Ron Thompson and Julie Edwards, artists from Planet Art and creators of The Flock, said they were inspired by people seeing and hearing birds in their gardens during lockdown.

Ms Edwards said: “I think because it went so quiet during lockdown, something that everyone seemed to focus on was the conversations you were having with the birds, as a family.”

She continued: “We felt that we couldn’t ignore Covid, we couldn’t ignore that time because everyone was turning to art, everyone was turning to crafts, to keep busy and keep their mental health on the right track, so we felt it was important not to ignore that.”

Ms Edwards added: “We’re able to fly a bit now and let’s hope we can continue to do that, let’s keep on top of the virus and hopefully we can all stay outside and still do things for a bit longer. It’s been a tough time.”

Keeley Stephenson, officer manager at the house, said it had been an amazing project to be involved with.

“With the lockdown situation it became absolutely part of what we wanted to do about helping to celebrate coming out of lockdown and being able to fly free and that symbolisation of the bird and getting the messages from people,” she said.

Front of house officer Liz North said they had heard many stories as a result of the project, adding that “some of them have been really, really beautiful and very heart-warming and inspirational to hear”.

The Flock will launch on Saturday when the house reopens to the public, and will run for a month, with visitors being asked to book slots to view the installation.

Wentworth Woodhouse – once Britain’s largest private house – was built between 1725 and 1750 and its 600ft-long Palladian East Front is wider than Buckingham Palace.

It was bought for £7 million in March 2017 by the Wentworth Woodhouse Preservation Trust, which is now renovating the structure in a huge project that could cost £200 million.

For more information visit wentworthwoodhouse.org.uk