Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary is a very peaceful place.

Well it was, until the mayor’s wife visited the newest addition: Barney the parrot.

As she came closer, to inspect the parrot’s beautiful plumage, Barney saw her gold chains and regalia.

He said “You can fuck off.”

Everyone hoped it was a mistake, a one-off, something the bird had said by accident.

Until the next day, when the local vicar arrived.

Barney took one look at his dog-collar and said “You can fuck off and all”.

The parrot was reported to the authorities.

Two policemen came to investigate.

Barney looked them over and said “Fuck off, wankers”.

The policemen said Barney was a threat to public decency, he’d have to be moved away from children and the elderly.

So he was placed in a quieter part of the sanctuary.

This worked well until a troop of brownies happened to see him.

The little girls were fascinated by his pretty colours, but when Barney saw their uniforms he shrieked “Bollocks”, and kept repeating “Bollocks” until they went away.

Barney had to be put in solitary confinement.

People were only allowed to see him by special request, and had to be 18 or over.

Barney had been donated to the sanctuary by a lorry driver who was moving to Spain.

The lorry driver kept Barney in the same room as his TV set.

The lorry driver hated any sort of authority.

Whenever anyone in uniform came on TV, he said exactly what he thought of them.

Which is where Barney picked up his language skills.

Geoff Grewcock, who was in charge of the sanctuary, wanted to reform Barney.

He thought he’d teach him the natural language of his species.

So he put two African Grey parrots, Sam and Charlie, in the same pen as Barney.

But it didn’t quite work out as Geoff intended.

Instead of Sam and Charlie teaching Barney, it transpired the other way round.

Now, Geoff said, the pen sounds like a builder’s yard.

With all three parrots screeching: “Fuck”, “Bollocks”, and “Twat” at each other.

It seems Barney the parrot did pretty much everything wrong.

He’s naughty, he’s outrageous, he’s a bad boy.

And yet Barney is the only bird at Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary that’s ever been written about in the national press.

Barney has had articles in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Times, and the BBC.

In fact, Barney has put the Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary on the map.

Visitor numbers soared, and who do you think everyone wants to see?

Here’s a clue: it’s not all the perfectly behaved birds that are exactly like all the birds in every other wildlife sanctuary.

It’s the one who’s naughty, who’s done everything he shouldn’t do.

The one who isn’t like any other bird at any of the other sanctuaries.

Because people aren’t interested in the same old thing they could get anywhere else.

What fascinates people is what’s different, what’s interesting, what’s controversial.

And sometimes to be different you have to be a bit naughty, a bit outrageous.

Instead of obeying all the rules like everyone else.

Which is a really good lesson for all of us who work in advertising.

If we don’t want to be ignored, we could all do with being a bit less obedient.


A bit less like the mayor’s wife and the vicar, and a bit more like Barney the parrot.