Whilst decorating two trees outside Panasonic with ribbons yesterday, we noticed the familiar screech of the Peregrine Falcons that roost on top of the BT building behind the Cultural Quarter, now perfectly framed by the vacant plot on Piccadilly.
They’ve been a fixture there for several years, but have recently reared a successful brood thanks to the installation of proper nesting boxes.
In a 2014 Sentinel article, Craig Slawson, manager of the Biological Records Centre at Staffordshire Wildlife Trust, said: “Peregrine falcons are rare particularly due to a decline caused when harmful pesticides were used.
“The poisons concentrated in the predators and they laid very weak egg shells. A number of birds of prey became very rare but to some extent they have recovered.
“Peregrine falcons are not common although I am not surprised that they have laid eggs on the BT’s buildings.
“In built-up areas they do like tall buildings because they imitate their natural habitat.
“It’s very good news. There are probably only a handful of pairs breeding in Staffordshire.”
Considering the excellent view from Piccadilly we decided to see if either of the charity shops on the street had any binoculars- luckily they did! So we set about creating Peregrine Watch.
Using strips of bedsheets from St Vincent’s charity shop we made a sign on the heras fencing and attached a storage jar containing the binoculars, along with some information about what they’re for. It immediately engaged passers by of all ages. This, along with the other interventions we have made within feet of it (Ribbon trees, CQ tourist information, Window poetry and the photography exhibition) foot traffic significantly slowed and people were noticeably dwelling in the area. It felt very much like the beginnings of the atmosphere we are trying to encourage.
We had conversations with lots people today who approached us to ask why we were doing this. One man apologetically approached us to ask if we knew how he could get involved in photography in the area. We’re putting him in touch with the Photographers Collective North Staffs. This encounter was made possible because, for today, this was our office.
We were also joined in our office today by textile artist Cathie Powell Davies who advised us on what we could do with excess charity shop bedding and did a little of her own work. At the moment, having a personal presence on the street seems to be a key factor in connecting people to creative offerings- those not familiar with the arts need guidance, reassurance and above all permission to engage. Lone and nomadic artists like ourselves also need space to connect with other creatives for support and inspiration.