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Birdmen is an insight into the diminishing world of the pigeon racing community within the UK. The photographs focus on the people involved as they go about their day to day activities like looking after their birds, training, race day, liberations, life around the allotments and so on.

Birdmen. A Photo story by Zak Waters/LightMediation Contact - Thierry Tinacci - LightMediation Photo Agency - +33 (0)6 61 80 57 21 thierry@lightmediation.com


2346-31: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A birdman shos off his favourite bird.


2346-01: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman enjoying a cup of tea in his loft.

2346-02: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Man and wife team waiting for their bird to arrive back from race.

2346-03: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Exercising the birds is part of the daily routine.

2346-04: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Over 20,000 birds being 'Liberated' from the transporters to start a race.


2346-04: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Over 20,000 birds being 'Liberated' from the transporters to start a race.


2346-05: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Over 20,000 birds being 'Liberated' from the transporters to start a race.

2346-06: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A typical loft on an allotment site.

2346-07: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman watching his birds exercising from his loft or shed.

2346-08: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Humour and enjoying a good joke is an important part of the Birdmen community.


2346-52: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Cleaning the lofts.


2346-09: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Taking the birds on a makeshift trolley to the transporter where they will be driven to the race venue.

2346-10: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Bird at the entrance of its loft.

2346-11: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman pointing out one if his favourite birds.

2346-12: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Tony who is disabled with his helper sorting his best birds out for tomorrows race.


2346-08: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Humour and enjoying a good joke is an important part of the Birdmen community.


2346-13: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdmen trying to entice his birds back into the loft as they come back from a race.

2346-14: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Preparing and selecting the birds before a race.

2346-15: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Men at their club house register their birds for a race.

2346-16: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Waiting at the club house to register their birds for the race.


2346-17: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Registering and logging the birds at the club house for the race.

2346-18: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Relaxing and having a chat in the loft.

2346-19: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Sitting in the loft and inspecting his birds.

2346-20: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman at home with his collection of trophies from winning races.


2346-21: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Striking the race clocks to start the race. All clocks must be set at the same time and are set the night before a race starts. Great lengths are taken to ensure that there is no cheating.


2346-21: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Striking the race clocks to start the race. All clocks must be set at the same time and are set the night before a race starts.

2346-22: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A young pigeon.

2346-23: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Setting the clocks at the club to start the race timers.

2346-24: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Sometimes waiting for the birds to come back from a race can end up as a party. The social side of the Birdmen community is


2346-42: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A Birdman with his favourite bird.


2346-25: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Training and exercising the birds.

2346-26: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Old boys watch the skies for their birds to come back from a race.

2346-27: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman checks over the race timers before they are all set at the same time.

2346-28: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. The Birdmen like to photograph their best birds.


2346-35: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman checking his vegetables in a poly tunnel as his birds fly the skies.


2346-29: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. The Birdmen community buy and sell their birds at auctions.

2346-30: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A symbolic tattoo.

2346-31: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A birdman shos off his favourite bird.

2346-32: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Taking the empty baskets home after registering the birds for the race.


2346-41: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Thousands of birds being Liberated or released to start a race.


2346-33: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Registering the birds for the race.

2346-34: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Selecting the birds for the race.

2346-35: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdman checking his vegetables in a poly tunnel as his birds fly the skies.

2346-36: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A patriotic Birdman sets his flag up for the start of a race. Some of his birds were named after memebers of the Royal family.


2346-45: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. There is always one bird who wants to do his own thing.


2346-37: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A patriotic Birdman and family. Some of their birds were named after memebers of the Royal family.

2346-38: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A high flyer is used to entice the birds back from a race as they fly in.

2346-39: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A high flyer is used to entice the birds back from a race as they fly in. A number of family photos depicting past pigeon

2346-40: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Waiting for the weather to improve before the birds can be liberated or released to start the race.


2346-02: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Man and wife team waiting for their bird to arrive back from race.


2346-41: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Thousands of birds being Liberated or released to start a race.

2346-42: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A Birdman with his favourite bird.

2346-43: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birds returning from a race above the symbolic Liver bird of Liverpool.

2346-44: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. A Birdman selecting his birds for the race.


2346-50: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Waking up in the lorry and checking the weather the morning of the race. The start of the race can be held back for days if the weather is bad.


2346-45: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. There is always one bird who wants to do his own thing.

2346-46: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Stamping his telephone number on the birds wing before the race incase the bird gets lost and found by a member fo

2346-51: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Waiting at the club house to register their birds for the race.

2346-49: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Boys enjoying fish and chips as they wait for the transporter to arrive to ship their birds to the race venue.


2346-13: Birdmen is an insight into the world of pigeon racing in the United Kingdom. Birdmen trying to entice his birds back into the loft as they come back from a race.


Birdmen. The Birdmen community is almost unknown thought the UK, but every weekend during the summer months the skies are full of pigeons racing home. Look up and you will see them in their thousands going North and South from race points as close as 80 miles or as far away as 600 miles. On a windless day their average speed is around 40 mph but with the wind behind them these little 12/14 ounce bundles of bone, feather and muscle can reach speeds of up to 90 mph and maintain this over long distances. Head winds do not stop them any more than rain will, given a reasonable start. Only fog and poor visibility will hinder them and even then some will get through. The homing pigeon has a long and illustrious history. Darwin gives the earliest known record as in the fifth Egyptian Dynasty (circa 3000 BC) some five thousand years ago. Leaving pre-history behind we know that they were used for communication purposes in the siege of Mutina in 43 B.C. The court of Akber Khan in India (1,600 A.D.) never moved with less than 20,000 pigeons, the Sultan of Bagdad had a "pigeon post" system in operation in A.D. 1150 and Ghengis Khan used them for communication purpose as his conquests spread. Julius Caesar used them in Gaul, they were used in the siege of Leyden in 1574 , the siege of Venice in 1849, the siege of Paris in 1870 and pigeons did the Rothschilds fortune a power of good by getting the result of the Battle of Waterloo to them well before anyone else knew about it. They also did a truly magnificent job during World War II saving thousands of lives on land and sea. I grew up in the North of England and when I was young, most of my friends'

fathers had allotment gardens, where they grew vegetables and flowers for annual prize shows. A number of them also had what we called sheds, where they would keep their pigeons. For many years I had no idea of the significance of the large batches of birds flying in apparent synchronicity, circling and twisting, and the complexities of the birdmen's passion. The Birdmen community is now rapidly on the decline. The most significant factor in the decline was the winding-down and eventual collapse of major industries, including coal mining, shipbuilding and repair, and steel making. Whole communities, particularly in the north of England, were affected by enormous economic and social difficulties. Skilled men, whose families for generations had been in employment, were faced with redundancy, job lay-offs and the prospect of lower paid non-skilled work. This led to high unemployment, debt and relocations, not just within the UK, but also around the world. I was a witness to this economic decline. I watched, throughout my childhood and early teens, people stripped of their identities and dignity as their world was torn apart by the economic downturn that took away everything. I also witnessed men killing their birds in depression, anger and frustration because they had no money to keep them and no one else had money to buy them. Over the last ten years membership in the UK has dropped again to under 46,000. The men find it increasingly difficult to attract new members, not just from outside the sport, but also from within their own families. Their sons and daughters are not interested in taking part, finding themselves with wider interests and new horizons. Ironically the sports' popularity worldwide has rocketed. In the USA there are many big purse races with prize

money reaching $50,000, and buyers from the UAE are frequent visitors to England and mainland Europe, where birds can be auctioned for as much as ÂŁ100,000. Pigeon racing is all about love. For the men it is the love of the sport and for the pigeons the love of each other and home. Two pigeons once paired will stay with each other for life, which is why, when a bird is released in at a point 600 miles from its home, it will strive to be back beside its partner often achieving this in under twelve hours. The birdmen's success in pairing compatible birds together, as well as keeping them fit and healthy is the key to producing a successful racing pigeon. The birdmen are the last of a working class breed, through whom you can chart not only the decline of traditional industries in the UK but changes in the life of a community that is fast becoming lost forever. I hope to educate people on an interesting part of British culture which in my view focuses on the last of the real industrial men and their lifestyles. I hope to reach many parts of the community which may be aware of the sport, the Birdmen and its decline.


Birdmen.  

Birdmen is an insight into the diminishing world of the pigeon racing community within the UK. The photographs focus on the people involved...

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