Project Pigeon is very happy and excited to be working on a unique archive about the history and culture of pigeon fancying in the West Midlands, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Please see below a press release with more information about the project. More news to follow over the coming years……
HLF West Midlands, News Release
Pigeon project off to a flying start
Birmingham still boasts more pigeon fanciers than any other UK city and now an archive charting this historic working class past-time will be produced for the first time. The Birmingham Pigeon Archive project has been made possible by a £43,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
City-based Project Pigeon will be working with volunteers of all ages to recall the times when, following the birds’ role as message carriers in the First World War, competitive pigeon racing began in earnest. It will look at the time when there were pigeon lofts in many residential streets and thousands of the birds were transported by train around the country to be released to race back home. Today there are still hundreds of fanciers in Birmingham keeping thousands of birds between them.
Anne Jenkins, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “This project will chronicle a major aspect of local working class history and will also span generations by giving young people the chance to learn media skills while interviewing their elders.”
The project will also cover such local claims to international fame as the breeding of the uniquely acrobatic Birmingham Roller, a type that originated in 1920 in Bordesley Green after local fancier William Penson noticed one of his birds perform a backflip while in flight.
Today there are hundreds of Birmingham Roller clubs around the world and fiercely fought competitions to pick the birds that perform the most dramatic tumbling.
But with pigeon fancying in decline the project sets out to document this fascinating part of West Midlands’ social history. Interviews with 30 fanciers – including generations from the same families – video footage, photographs, documents and memorabilia will be gathered by volunteers of all ages.
Once completed the archive will be deposited at the Birmingham Library Archive and also at Bletchley Park Museum which houses an Animals in War exhibit featuring the work of carrier pigeons during two world wars.
The two-year project will also use the information gathered to create a radio play about pigeon fancying which, it is hoped will be broadcast in the region, if not farther afield.
For Project Pigeon, Director Alexandra Lockett said: ‘‘Project Pigeon is excited about working with different communities and generations to document and celebrate the rich culture and heritage of pigeon fancying in the West Midlands. This unique and important archive has been made possible through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.’’
For further information please contact Vicky Wilford, HLF press office, on; 020 7591 6046 / 07973 401937, email email@example.com or Phil Cooper, HLF press office, on: 07889 949173. www.hlf.org.uk
Alexandra Lockett, Director, Project Pigeon, on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors:
The Heritage Lottery Fund
Using money raised through the National Lottery, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) sustains and transforms a wide range of heritage for present and future generations to take part in, learn from and enjoy. From museums, parks and historic places to archaeology, natural environment and cultural traditions, we invest in every part of our diverse heritage. HLF has supported more than 30,000 projects, allocating over £4.5billion across the UK, including £319million to projects in the West Midlands alone. Website: www.hlf.org.uk.
Throughout September Project Pigeon and New Art Gallery walsall will be celebrating the Black Country’s pigeon fancying culture with a series of free events:
Saturday 3rd September, 2-4pm
Join our expert panel of speakers and find out about the historic and contemporary relationship between man and pigeon, how pigeons have been messengers, a source of food, aided scientific research, been athletes and have featured in many great works of art and literature.
Saturday 10th September, 11-5:
An exhibition of over 50 breeds of pigeons including high flyers, Birmingham rollers and fantails. Find out which was Queen Victoria’s favorite breed, which pigeons Charles Darwin used to keep, which fly for 24 hours and vote for your favorite one!
Saturday 17th September, 11-5:
Free film screenings of:
11am Selected chapters from Jim Jenner’s Share the Blue Sky
12pm Birdy, the story of a Vietnam veteran who, in his disturbed state, believes he is a pigeon (cert 15)
2pm Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, is the story of an assassin that communicates via pigeon (cert 15)
4pm – A series of short film screenings: Pigeon Impossible by Lucas Martel; Pigeons in War, a training video for soldiers; a clip from House of Friends, featuring a pigeon club in Brierley Hill; and Pigeon Archive by Lyndall Phelps, footage from a camera attached to a pigeon.
Saturday 24th September, 11.30- 4pm
Auction day of racing pigeons by Heart of England Auctions/ Mark Evans 1pm and of rollers by Wolverhampton Tumbler Club at 2pm followed by a pigeon release from the gallery’s terrace at 3.30pm
No need to book, just drop in
Since February 14th Project Pigeon has been busy breeding pigeons ready for the 2011 young bird racing season. We now have 29 lovely racing pigeons looking for sponsorship, each is a potential winner. Project Pigeon also has 10 Birmingham Rollers available for sponsorship, for those of you who are less competitive (these pigeons don’t race). These pigeons were selectively breed by a Hall Green bus driver in the early 1900’s, he saw one of his pigeons backflip in the sky and bred this trait into birds creating the Birmingham Roller.
Two lucky members of last year’s syndicate took home £4.60 each in prize money and an official certificate, things can only get better this year!
Membership is £20 per year for which there are many benefits, including:
- It makes for good conversation- ‘I own a pigeon…’
- Your name/ company name will be stenciled onto the loft
- A syndicate starter pack including photos of your pigeon, a certificate, race programme, newsletter, a feather and training programme
- You can choose your pigeon- we have blues, chequers, blackens, whitens, mealys and lavenders. You can give your pigeon a name if you would like to
- Weekly email update – you get to hear Project Pigeon’s news first
- A quarterly newsletter, with photographs, a diary, progress reports, pigeon stories in the news and so on
- You will receive an Aston and District Pigeon Flying Club Results Sheet for every race you enter
- For gardeners- as much pigeon poo as you want (an excellent fertilizer)
- You can come on training tosses with Project Pigeon
- You have the opportunity to come and watch your pigeon return from a race and be clocked in
Please see a list of available pigeons at:
Please email email@example.com to let us know which pigeon you would like support
Don’t miss out this year!
The 2011 old bird racing season kicks off this Saturday 16th April. The pigeons will be flying from Bath, 75 miles (1402 yards) from Project Pigeon’s loft. The birds will be marked and collected by a transporter on Friday night and will be released with thousands of other birds from Birmingham on Saturday morning.
The time of release is not known by anyone until the birds are in the air. They should take about an hour and 10 mins (we hope! About a mile a min). I will be at the pigeon loft (Milk Street, Digbeth) from 9am to 3pm (anxiously waiting!). If you would like to know the exact time of the pigeons arrival (or the first pigeons arrival!) please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your phone number and I will call you on Saturady morning when I know the pigeons have been released. I would guess it will be between 9.45am and 11.30am. But if you just want to come and see the loft and see all the baby pigeons that we have etc then come at anytime between 9am and 3pm. Please be quiet when you come into the space just in case we are at the critical moment of getting the birds in from the race and clocking them in!
Some Project Pigeon Syndicate pigeons will be racing so fingers crossed that our members pigeons do well!
Project Pigeon’s debate on BBC 5 live radio last night:
Don’t forget that Project Pigeon’s 1st workshop- Introduction to Pigeon Fancying- is this Saturday (19th Feb) between 2pm and 4pm at Project Pigeon’s Loft on Milk Street, Digbeth. We have some very special guests coming to give short talks too – top Birmingham flyer Ernie Crozier and top Walsall breeder Ray Fletcher will talk to you about their experience of pigeon keeping. We also have a heater, a sheltered area and will have lots of tea, coffee and hot chocolate so you’ll be comfortable for the workshop! It’s suitable for children too. Let us know if you can make it by emailing: email@example.com
Come and find out about pigeons!
2pm-4pm Fridays and Saturdays, February – April 2011
Project Pigeon’s Loft, Milk Street, Digbeth, Birmingham (in Boxxed’s backyard opposite Birmingham Backpackers under a viaduct)
Places are free but please book in advance by emailing:
Saturday 19th February: Introduction to pigeon fancying
Find out about the history of pigeon fancying, meet some pigeon fanciers and find out about why they keep pigeons, meet Project Pigeon’s birds and watch some pigeons fly.
Friday 25th February: A pigeon’s home and life
This workshop will be focused on the different seasons in a pigeons life, from racing season to breeding season. We will also look at the different kinds of pigeon lofts there are.
Saturday 26th February: Day to day pigeon loft management
How to keep your pigeons clean and happy – from cleaning the loft to giving the pigeons a bath.
Friday 4th March: Making nest boxes and perches
A woodwork session where we will design and make essential items for the inside of pigeon lofts and make any loft repairs.
Saturday 5th March: Racing pigeons, Birmingham rollers and tipplers
There are many kinds of pigeons, racing pigeons are used in racing, Birmingham rollers in sequence flying and tipplers in endurance flying.
Friday 11th March: A pigeon’s diet
Like any athlete a pigeons diet is very important. In this session you will find out about all the vital vitamins, minerals and foods needed to keep pigeons on top form.
Saturday 12th March: Veterinary skills
Vets in the UK know little about racing pigeons, and if you took your pigeon to the vet every time there was something wrong it would cost a lot and wouldn’t be practical. Learn about what kinds of injuries pigeon get and how you can help your pigeon.
Friday 18th March: Breeding
Come and see and learn about squeekers (baby pigeons)!
Saturday 19th March: Training and racing
How do pigeons find their way home? How do you train a racing pigeon? How do you win a race?!
Saturday 2nd April: Making a magazine about pigeons
Help Project Pigeon design a magazine based on what we have learnt during the workshops.
Saturday 16th April: Come and watch a live pigeon race!
You might have been to the horses or to the dogs but have you ever seen a pigeon race? Now is your chance! Please email if you intend to come to this because the time of the race will only be known on Saturday morning – the morning of the race.
And we were in the Sunday Mercury at the weekend, have a look here!