Our Give a Hoot! wish tree in location at Leeds Playhouse.

Dreams and wishes for the future of Leeds have been shared by creative older people from across the city as part of a MindWell wellbeing project linked to Leeds 2023.

Our ‘Give a Hoot!’ campaign called on anyone aged over 60 to share their hopes for the city by making an owl to add to a ‘wish tree’ during a two-week takeover at Leeds Playhouse. The initiative was part of the ‘1001 Stories’ event, a celebration of older people’s creativity for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture.

Dozens took part, creating owls by any means – with the only rule being that they fitted in the palm of a hand – before they were hung onto a spectacular ‘wish tree’ for all to see.

“As the mental health website for people in Leeds, we wanted to encourage older people to get involved in a relaxing, accessible activity which can ease anxiety and promote general wellbeing.”

Siobhan Drane, MindWell’s engagement specialist

Submitted wishes included calls for cleaner streets, better bus services, more local activities, less crime, a litter campaign, and one for a future where “all older people feel respected and included”.

Siobhan Drane, MindWell’s engagement specialist, who helped organise the project, said: “We’re delighted our ‘Give a Hoot!’ campaign has been a success.

“As the mental health website for people in Leeds, we wanted to encourage older people to get involved in a relaxing, accessible activity which can ease anxiety and promote general wellbeing.

“We wanted to create as many owls as we could, to show that older people give a hoot and have something to say about the future of the city.

“A huge thank you to everyone who created an owl and shared their hopes, wishes and expectations for the city.

“The tree made a fantastic feature and dominated level two of the Playhouse. There was a lot of excitement about it.”

She added: “We enjoyed meeting so many of you and let’s hope our wishes come true.”

The ‘Give a Hoot!’ campaign was inspired by origami – the ancient Japanese art form of paper folding – and its story of 1,000 cranes.

According to the myth, folding 1,000 origami cranes will grant the folder one wish.

The story became popular after Sadako Sasaki, a young girl who survived the bombing of Hiroshima, began folding cranes while she was in the hospital hoping to recover from leukaemia. 

Although she did not reach her goal of folding 1,000 cranes before she died, her story continues to inspire others to fold cranes as a symbol of hope and peace.

Instead of cranes, the ‘Give a Hoot!’ campaign chose owls to represent the people of Leeds due to the bird’s link to the city – featuring on the Leeds Coat-of-Arms and on many buildings and signs. 

During the campaign, two free drop-in origami workshops were held at the Playhouse, hosted by artist Jane Gibson of the Arts and Minds Network, for people to learn how to fold origami owls and make their wishes.

A group of employees from the Leeds office of Zurich were also on hand as volunteers, to support the campaign and those taking part. 

Leesa Boiston Green and Lisa Higson

The campaign and workshops were part of 1001 stories, a two-week takeover of Leeds Playhouse by older people, for Leeds 2023 Year of Culture. 

Aiming to celebrate age and ageing, 1001 stories was a collaboration between The Performance Ensemble, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds 2023, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds Older People’s Forum, to put the voices of older people centre-stage by gathering 1001 stories from those aged 60 and over and creating new artistic work based on those stories.

We plan on continuing our Give a Hoot! campaign with other groups to hopefully reach our target of 1000 owls. If you would like to run your own origami owl workshop, download our campaign pack or get in touch for more information.

Getting creative can have great benefits for everyone, no matter what age we are. Visit our Get creative section to learn about the many wellbeing benefits of being creative and find ideas for other activities and groups in Leeds.

Keep up to date

We are sending out a monthly newsletter that will tell you more about: 

  • Campaigns
  • Content updates
  • Engagement opportunities including volunteering, workshops and events
  • New resources
  • Website developments

Sign up to our newsletter