A little birdie told me

Birds are extraordinary. They can walk on the ground and swim in the sea, just as we do, but when they spread their feathered wings and soar upward they leave us limited human beings far behind. Birds are the only creatures free to roam both the sky and the earth and for this reason many ancient cultures believe they symbolise eternal life and the movement of the soul from here to heaven.

The West End now has distinctive birds to call its own after earlier this month Little Birdwood Park came alive with activity, culminating in 300 colourfully painted wooden birds taking up permanent residency in the park’s beautiful shade trees.

Little Birdwood Park sits in a high traffic area, providing a cool oasis and a natural resting spot for customers from the adjoining Marketown shopping centre. Local residents have lamented that the park was looking shabby; they wanted to bring it alive making it a more welcoming place for the whole community.

For the West End Advisory Group it was a perfect high visibility place making project. Newcastle City Council agreed, offering their backing. Support was strong to transform the park – from school students to active retirees, from a retail giant to a not-for-profit service. Partners quickly came on board: Newcastle High School, Newcastle NOW, Marketown management, Windale Men’s Shed, Connect Ability Australia, NSW Juvenile Justice and Dulux Paints. The project was ready to fly.

Friday 11 October was B-Day (Bird Day) when all the parts of the long planned project came together. Little Birdwood Park got a new funky sign and its tables and chairs were repainted citrus, hot pink and lime and adorned with bird symbols. A group of volunteers, including the organiser of the project Kent Woodcock, had assembled the painted birds and on B-Day morning ABC radio 1233 let Newcastle know about the park’s transformation.

An arborist oversaw the installation of the art works into the trees and by late in the day they were full of birds swinging in the breeze. I watched one of the men who put the birds in place looking upward into the branches and smiling, but my attention was caught by another piece of art, the bluebird tattoo inking up his neck. It was a perfect moment of connection between body art and public art.

Novocastrians are now enjoying a cleaned up and refreshed Little Birdwood Park and delighting in the bird art adorning the trees. One local resident contacted the organiser because she was so enamoured with the birds that she wants to replicate them in her own backyard. This project was conceived and created by the local community and is just like the West End itself – quirky, playful and unexpected.

Kimberly O’Sullivan

Have you chosen the West End as your home or as the perfect place to run your business? Do you have a West End tale which deserves a wider audience? What inspires and infuriates you about the West End? If you have a story to tell I would love to talk to you! Here’s how to find me: kimberly@netspace.net.au; 0413 250 155

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