Taking place at dusk above the River Thames, Fly By Night pays beautiful homage to some of the First World War’s unsung heroes: the military pigeons that played crucial roles delivering messages between distant personnel. The call of a whistle provides the signal for over 1,500 trained pigeons to emerge from their coop and soar, swoop and glide through the skies, with the leg bands that once carried vital messages replaced by tiny LED lights to create a glorious spectacle in the evening sky. This public artwork was originally presented by Riley and Creative Time at New York City’s Brooklyn Navy Yard in 2016.
More than 100,000 pigeons contributed to the British war effort, carrying messages from ship to shore, from battlefield to command post, and from pilots to forces on the ground. Some 95 per cent of messages arrived safely, changing the course of battles and saving dozens of lives. Illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature, Fly By Night will commemorate the courageous yet often forgotten role of these urban creatures.
A purpose-built coop in Thamesmead provides the pigeons’ home for 11 weeks before the performances of Fly By Night, which also features a programme of events and activities exploring the forgotten wartime history of the Woolwich Arsenal munitions factory and Crossness Pumping Station.
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, LIFT, Greenwich+Docklands International Festival and London Borough of Bexley. Hosted by Peabody. Originally commissioned by Creative Time