Soho Square Pigeons (Public Art)

Above: Public art called ‘Soho Flock’ mounted on a lamp-post in Soho Square.

One of the fascinating things about London is the vast array of unusual things to be seen. There are so many things to look at that you can visit a particular location several times and still miss something. Then, when it is pointed out to you, you wonder how it was that you failed to notice it.

If you visit Soho Square, you will have plenty to keep your eyes busy. The gardens in the square are probably the main centre of attraction. All around the square are interesting buildings, some dating from Georgian times which have plenty of history to be discovered. As far as lamp-posts go, those in Soho Square are not particularly unusual and, because that is the case, you may have missed a very unusual feature associated with one of them.

In 2014 the Patrick Murphy Studio was commissioned by the House of St Barnabas and Sim Smith Gallery to create an installation in Soho Square. House of St Barnabas is a grand building standing at the SE corner of the square. The result was some colourful pigeons perched on mountings attached to the lamp-posts, titled ‘Soho Flock’ or ‘Flock (Soho Pigeons)’. According to the studio’s Website, ‘they were to draw attention to the work of the charity at The House of St Barnabas through elevating the issues surrounding homelessness in urban environments. This installation is set to evoke questions about ownership and feelings of being accepted or marginalised, representing any group that struggles to find a natural home or sense of acceptance in society.’

While the wood pigeon – often found in the suburbs of London and the countryside around – has attractive grey feathers, the everyday London pigeon tends to be rather scruffy and not particularly attractive. By painting these figures in bright colours the artist makes you think rather differently about these birds. They remind you of more exotic birds – like a parrot or a cockatoo.

The colourful birds have turned an ordinary lamp-post into a mini art gallery. It is believed that the work was to be temporary and, indeed, the picture shows that the display is held onto the lap-post by simple metal clips. It has now been on there for several years and remains on the same lamp-post in Soho Square. It is a great idea and one that could be developed so that other lamp-posts at other locations carry small works of art related to other themes. London is not short of the unusual but another piece of artistic design – especially of this type – is always to be welcomed.


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