Flying Boots

flying boots flower lady - Herne Hill
Herne Hill flying boots art
Herne Hill flying boots railton road
Herne Hill flying boots half moon pub
Herne Hill flying boots project
Herne Hill flying boots artist

This fifteen-piece art trail around Herne Hill tells the stories of some of the neighbourhood’s more colourful residents and happenings. Following a terrible flood in 2013, the Forum coordinated local businesses, the Council and MP to encourage Thames Water to offer compensation for the damage caused. The Flying Boots installation by Caroline McCarthy encourages locals back into their traditional shopping parades with curious glances back into the neighbourhood’ past. The Traders chose the artist and approved the work and the Forum acted as Fund coordinator and project manager.

What we did

The Flood left 58 businesses with losses in excess of £6.7m. Trade never fully recovered, so a new public artwork “Flying Boots and Eyes on Fire”, created by artist Caroline McCarthy, alongside the Contemporary Art Society, aims to give Herne Hill and visitors alike a further reason to visit, explore and shop in Herne Hill.

The 15 steel-cut drawings connecting Herne Hill Station, Railton and Milkwood Roads and Half Moon Lane, the areas most flood-affected. From flying boots to fiery eyes, a stopped clock to Bono’s bad haircut.  The drawings are inspired by local events, stories of determination and protest, threat and survival: all collected from local archives or stories told to the artist by members of the community.

Collectively, the artworks celebrate the strength, resilience and ‘can-do’ community spirit of Herne Hill.  ‘Flying Boots’ were thrown to drive away jewel thieves in Half Moon Lane whereas; the glint of battle in the ‘Eyes on Fire’ recalls the protest by local matrons to gain afternoon access to the walled garden in Brockwell Park. The images also reference world famous poets, writers and actors with a connection to Herne Hill such as Dylan Thomas, Michael Crawford, Judith Kerr, and U2 who performed in the local Half Moon pub.

Caroline McCarthy, Artist, commented “Early on in my research I realised that there was a long-standing history in the area of determination, empathy and passion; of local people willing to stand up to authority and expressing their love for their community. Whether saving a pub or a squirrel, resurrecting a cinema, demanding rights, planting trees, ‘Flying Boots’ is in recognition of this spirit and the art trail is a representation of the local community’s sense of history.”

Barrie Westwell, The Illlusioneer, Herne Hill: “The devastating flood was a huge set back, it took over 2.5 years to fully recover and re-build the business, with some businesses permanently destroyed.  The art trail is a permanent way to really bring together all of the extraordinary and ordinary stories about Herne Hill and its fantastic community.  We hope everyone will enjoy it from children to visitors, young and old, and encourage visitors to explore everything Herne Hill has to offer, and learn more about its past and future.”

You can follow the art trail from any point in Herne Hill, but if you want to learn more about the art trail, the stories behind each of the pieces of art work, there is a map in the station or more information can be found on Or tweet your own local story both new and old using #flyingboots @hernehillforum.

We hope the art trail will intrigue locals and attract curious visitors. It is an additional reason to explore the large number of independent stores that trade on and around Herne Hill.

George Hornby, Chair, Herne Hill Forum


  • Date of completion2019
  • Budget£60,000
  • Funding SourceSouthwark Council’s Herne Hill Flood Compensation Scheme
  • ParticipantsSouthwark Council, The Herne Hill Flooded Traders Steering Group, the Contemporary Art Society
  • Project TeamCharlotte Ashworth, Tricia Keracher-Summerfield, George Hornby