All of a flutter at the Abbey.


Last summer saw Bath Abbey filled temporarily with hundreds of colourful paper butterflies as part of the city-wide Forest of the Imagination Festival.

The Abbey will see the return of these exotic creations this week in a year-long installation by Bath-based artist, Anthony Head. 

iMigration 2 by Anthony Head is a large-scale sculpture, a swarm of colourful paper butterflies, spanning five metres and suspended ten metres up in the air in the Abbey’s South Transept.

An image from the 2016 installation at Bath Abbey.

The first impression for visitors is of a single group, a swarm of creatures that appear to be the same. However, on closer inspection, the viewer will discover that each butterfly is unique, with its own digital genetic code and individual wing pattern influenced by random mutations.

The artist, Anthony Head, explains: “iMigration 2 explores the themes of migration, diversity and individuality. In the swarm, each butterfly is unique, created with a variety of technologies and featuring colour and patterns designed using computer coding, influenced by the mathematics of nature. The butterflies will move gently in the air currents that fill the Abbey as if travelling on a migration.

This year’s display in the South Transept.

“In today’s world of human migration and its reporting, it’s easy to forget how unique each person is, to reduce people to anonymous groups, stereotypes, or just numbers. My hope is that once the viewer has had a chance to enjoy looking at the swarm of butterflies as a whole, they will be drawn to look closer at each one. The artwork is a provocation to not be satisfied by our world saturated by ‘mass’ media reporting, statistics and the digital consumption of news. It asks you to seek and listen to individual stories by human beings who are affected by migration. Hence iMigration.” 

Stephen Girling, one of the Abbey’s vicars, said: “The sculpture made such an impact on us and our visitors last summer that we invited the artist, Anthony Head, to recreate this wonderful experience in our South Transept.  Not only is it a visually stunning piece, it provokes us to think about the worth of every individual caught up in human migration and to wrestle with issues of justice around both forced and economic migration”.


The sculpture of colourful paper butterflies will remain in the Abbey for a year, from February 2017 to February 2018, so visitors and local residents will have plenty of opportunities to examine the artwork for themselves. 

Bath Abbey is open seven days a week for visiting (Mondays 9.30-5.30pm, Tuesdays 9am-5.30pm, Saturdays 9am-6pm and Sundays 1-2.30pm and 4.30-5.30pm) with regular services on weekdays and Sundays. For more information please visit