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Workshops set up to help pigeon fanciers

Birmingham | News | Published:

Workshops have been set up in the West Midlands to teach people the traditional art of pigeon fancying.  

Workshops have been set up in the West Midlands to teach people the traditional art of pigeon fancying.

Ian England and Alex Lockett set up Project Pigeon in Birmingham two years ago and now want to pass on the skills they have learned to other people.

The couple from Moseley have a loft on Milk Street, near the city centre, and were asked to set the project up by the Birmingham curatorial group Insertspace.

"We were only supposed to run the project for seven months but we were both keen to continue with it," says Ian, 28, who works at Walsall Art Gallery as a gallery assistant.

"Neither of us had any experience of pigeon fancying, the closest we had got was keeping chickens."

Ian and Alex researched pigeon keeping for a year and joined Aston & District Flying Club in a bid to pick up some tips.

The project has been supported by Arts Council England and The Rea Garden.

"Members of the club gave us a lot of advice and bred 20 pigeons for us to look after," says Alex, 29, who works as programme assistant at Ikon Gallery.

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"There are 45 members in the group and they were invaluable, telling us things like the best thing to feed pigeons and that the traditional day for bird mating is Valentine's Day.

"In the last year we have raced our pigeons a number of times and have come forth in one race and sixth in another, which we were chuffed about because it is such a big group."

The workshops start on February 19, with an Introduction to Pigeon Fancying, and continue until April 16 with a pigeon race. The classes teach people about loft management, diet, veterinary skills, breeding and training for racing.

"Birmingham is a great place to hold these workshops because pigeon keeping is popular in the city and across the Black Country," says Ian. "The first workshop will give people an overview of it and we will be inviting experienced pigeon fanciers along to talk about their experiences. Without the club in Aston we wouldn't have a clue about pigeons and we want to pass on that knowledge."

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Now the couple are keen to get more schools and groups involved in the loft, as studying pigeons can help boost geography, history and science skills. Ian added: "We had some ex-offenders visit the loft and we found that it really helped their empathy skills. There are even whistles that can be attached to the pigeons so they make music as they fly around — which children love."

A year ago Ian and Alex held an exhibition where all the artwork was delivered by pigeon.

A GPS system was attached to one pigeon, giving an insight into its fascinating ability to return home and members of the public were invited to watch them arrive back at the loft.

Alex says: "Anyone who is interested in learning more about pigeons can come along to these free workshops and we are looking for volunteers who want to come down to our loft in Digbeth and help out."

* For more information email projectpigeondigbeth@gmail.com

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