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Coup for pigeon fanciers as city archive is launched.

Birmingham still boasts more pigeon fanciers than any other UK city - and now an archive charting this historic working class past-time is to be produced for the first time.

The Birmingham Pigeon Archive project has been made possible by a pounds 43,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

City-based Project Pigeon will be working with volunteers of all ages to record the period when competitive pigeon racing began in earnest after the birds' role as message carriers in the First World War. It was a time when pigeon lofts were commonplace in residential streets and thousands of the birds were transported by train around the country ready 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.

The archive will be deposited at the Birmingham Library Archive and also at Bletchley Park Museum near Milton Keynes which houses an Animals in War exhibit.

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 important archive has been made possible through the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.''

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Birmingham can claim to have more pigeon fanciers than any other city The Birmingham Pigeon Archive project will chronicle a major aspect of local working class history
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Sep 22, 2011
Words:387
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