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Your Honour: It's in her nature to keep campaigning; Joy Fifer MBE talks to Peter Rasmussen.

Byline: Peter Rasmussen

Joy Fifer

'It has been quite an exciting year,' Joy Fifer says, understating in the extreme. For 61-year-old Mrs Fifer from Moseley, the year 2000 ended with her receiving an MBE in the New Year's Honours list for her untiring commitment to the Moseley Bog Management Committee. However, far more dramatic and serious events played a bigger role.

Joy Fifer, who has lived in Birmingham her whole life, was close to not even making it into the new year. Fifteen years ago she was diagnosed with two rare diseases that slowly weakened her lungs. However, she refused to let her illness set the pace of her life.

'I am not very good at sitting still in my chair and I just wanted to get on with my life as usual. Even though it meant that after crossing a room I was so much out of breath and coughing so much it made me throw up.

'People always say 'oh, you are so brave' but really bravery doesn't come into it. If you have no choice, you just do whatever you have to do.'

In July of last year, after two and a half years of waiting for a transplant, Joy's lungs were so weak that she was given only weeks to live.

'Even tapping my fingers on the keyboard of my computer made me out of breath,' Joy recalls. Then, at the eleventh hour, a phone call from hospital informed Joy that a transplant could be on the way. And, soon after, an unconventional operation went ahead. The two lungs of one donor were split between Joy and another woman. This was in August and today Joy is slowly regaining her strength.

'I am not one to look at the dark side. Normally if people find a lump they think 'I've got cancer'. If I find one, I think 'I've got a lump, it's nothing'.'

Mrs Fifer's involvement in the Moseley Bog began in 1980 when she and other local residents found out that planning permission was being considered to build on part of the Bog, a wild area which had so far been left to itself while the city evolved around it.

'I first found out about it when my children showed me. Back then it was a place where local animals and children went, not proper adults,' she laughs. The Bog contains a wide variety of plant and animal life and, at the prospect of it being lost, Mrs Fifer called a public meeting.

'It is no use waiting till things have become rare and then putting a fence up around it. Some people think one orchid is great, but I think we should keep the variety and the wilderness of the nature.' At the meeting, Joy Fifer found out that she was far from the only person who was worried.

'I rented a room at the local school for the meeting and it was packed with people. Both BBC and ITV turned up, so I ended up spending the whole day filming,' she remembers.

The meeting resulted in the setting up of the Moseley Bog Management Trust. Its first goal was to persuade the council to buy the land on which the Bog is situated, securing that nothing would be built on the site. That goal was reached after six years of campaigning. In that period, Joy also worked professionally with nature preservation.

Joy and her husband Alan have four children, and Joy raised them at home. Therefore she didn't go looking for a job until 1983 when the Birmingham Wildlife Trust offered her a position doing promotion. She worked for the trust until her illness was diagnosed in 1985. Although she then had to give up her full-time job, she continued to do what she could to safeguard the Bog.

'New things keep coming up all the time, there is always something to do,' says Mrs Fifer, explaining 20 years of work in the organisation of which she is now the president.

One of the later projects has included the preservation of a bronze-age site which has later been found in the rural woodland: a woodland which was already there when a young J R R Tolkien lived in the area as a boy. He later said that the Moseley Bog was a big part of his inspiration when he wrote The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. For that reason, the Moseley Bog Management Committee is now working with other organisations to set up a Tolkien Centre on the site.

Because of her illness, Joy Fifer herself hasn't been for a walk in the Bog for the last year and a half, but her love for the place is far from fading.

'It really is an amazing and magical place, you feel things when you are walking through there,' she says with smile. 'No wonder Tolkien was inspired.'

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Joy Fifer keeps in tune with nature by campaigning for the preservation of the Moseley Bog
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 13, 2001
Words:835
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