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thousands of fanciers were preparing to swoop
on Blackpool this weekend, organisers of this
years’ annual show were breathing a collective
sigh of relief.
It is not often that an avian pandemic threatens
the first big event of the year.
But this year, the threat was all too real for
organiser Peter Bryant.
This year the British Homing Pigeon Show at the
Winter Gardens almost fell foul to deadly H5N1
But after hours of lobbying and ploughing through
legal red-tape, Government ministers finally backed
down letting the show carry on, with strict conditions.
And it’s a good job too, as hundreds of
pigeon owners, handlers, vets, buyers and bidders
will be packed into various auction rooms over
the next two days.
More than 2,500 birds will be on show at the event,
dubbed the crufts of the winged world.
The show raises hundreds of thousands of pounds
for local hotels and traders and is a hit with
the exhibitors who flock back to the resort every
From humble beginning in a few church halls, the
event started in Doncaster in 1973 but soon grew
and moved to Birmingham before flying up the M6
to Blackpool and it has come back home to roost
in the town every year since.
Apart from the main hall of the Empress Ballroom,
various auctions will take place in hotels and
pubs across Blackpool with some birds raising
up to £2,000. More than 40 volunteers are
employed for the weekend.
Brian Mead, chairman of the show committee, said:
“This year the preparations have been dealt
a blow with the bird flu problem.
“We thought at first it wouldn’t happen
what with the mass media blowing it all out of
proportion, but it has, it’s been a rush
but we are so glad to be back in Blackpool.
“There will be about 2,500 birds here with
around 20,000 people checking them out. It’s
a big operation to put together but it’s
always worth it in the end.”
Exhibitors fly in from as far afield as Malta,
Germany and Spain to take part in the annual show
- which, in its 29th year here - has raised more
than £250,00 for Help the Aged.
Max Hinde, 70, from Urchester Flying Club in Northamptonshire,
has brought six Jannsen (C) pigeons for show.
He said: “I have been breeding pigeons for
about 60 years and this is my 10th year at the
show. It’s a great event and a real showcase
for the sport and Blackpool really is the home
for racing pigeons.”
After the outbreak of bird flu, the Department
of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA),
put the pigeon show in the high risk category
but after much lobbying, down-graded it to the
Peter Bryant, event organiser, said: “When
it gets to the stage of the birds going on show,
the hard work is over. This year has been particularly
difficult but lots of hard talk has got the show
on the road.
“It;s fantastic to be back in Blackpool,
for a short time we didn’t think it would
do but DEFRA finally saw sense and gave us the
by: Nick Hyde