ArtsFest off to a flying start

By on 17/08/2009 in News

A unique exhibition of pigeon-delivered-art will premiere at Birmingham ArtsFest, the UK's biggest free arts festival, on 11-13 September.

Prior to the festival opening, pigeons will be simultaneously released at various locations around the country, including London and Cambridge, carrying message tubes containing various pieces of art. 

The Project Pigeon exhibition will start when the first pigeon is clocked back into the loft in Floodgate Street, Digbeth to deliver its load.

The artworks carried will range from mini banners and small items made of paper, to sound files and artwork contained on USB sticks - taking the traditional messenger birds into the digital 21st Century.  Pigeons can easily fly at speeds of 60mph, or even up to 85mph with the wind behind them, and each will carry a GPS locator so their journeys can be logged and displayed as part of the exhibition.

To mark the start of ArtsFest, a Pigeon Liberation will be held in Victoria Square on Friday 11 September at 5:30pm, and the loft exhibition will be open throughout the festival weekend.

The artists involved in the project, Alexandra Lockett and Ian England, have been researching for the project for over a year, and are now keen pigeon keepers themselves.  They have built a pigeon loft from reclaimed materials to house their own brood, and regularly hold workshops with groups from the Birmingham Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Program.

Alexandra said, “We are keen to raise people's awareness of these amazing animals - they have been used throughout history for people to communicate across long distances and have saved thousands of lives, particularly in the two World Wars.”

Cllr Martin Mullaney, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Sport & Culture said, “Birmingham has a thriving artistic community, and projects such as this really demonstrate the creativity and original thinking that such a community can produce.  ArtsFest is a great platform for emerging artists, with high visitor numbers and plenty of opportunities to raise the profile of their work.”

ArtsFest, the UK's biggest free arts festival, runs from 11-13 September in Birmingham city centre.  It is organised by Birmingham City Council, with support from sponsors, partners, arts organisations and volunteers.  For more information go to or contact the ArtsFest team on 0121 464 5678.


Media contact:
Emily Malcolm on 0121 303 8794 or 07766 923 352

Notes to Editor:
Images available on request.

1. ArtsFest, now in its 12th year, has grown from strength to strength and is now one of the highlights of Birmingham City Council's annual events programme.  This unique festival last year attracted nearly a quarter of a million people to the city to see thousands of artists perform for free.

ArtsFest helps to make the arts accessible to all and to widen people's experiences of cultural activity.  With everything from street art to opera, cutting edge theatre installations to bhangra dance and plenty in between, the festival offers audiences a wealth of amazing opportunities to enjoy a huge range of artistic experiences for free.   

The best of the region's emerging artists perform alongside internationally renowned companies, and many find it to be an unparalleled platform from which to launch and establish their artistic careers.

2. Project Pigeon artists Alexandra and Ian met at Reading University and moved to Birmingham in 2007 after graduating.  They have worked as artists, curators and educators both in the UK and Internationally, most recently at Birmingham's Ikon Gallery, New Art Gallery Walsall and The Museum of Garden History in London.  Full CVs are available on request.

The Project Pigeon launch will occur on Thursday 27 August, with the first pigeon expected to arrive back at the loft at around 6:30pm for the live exhibition opening.  The exhibition will then be open throughout the ArtsFest weekend.

Project Pigeon artworks are by Lisa Cheung, Tom Dale, Ming de Nasty, Ole Hagen, Justin Carter, Lindsay Seers and Simon Woolham.

Pigeons have been used to carry messages for over 3000 years (both the Egyptians and Persians used them) and this project returns some of that function to these pigeons.  The message tubes used are original WWI tubes and each artwork weighs less than 10g, ensuring the pigeons come to no harm - in fact they hardly notice they are wearing them.

Project Pigeon is supported by Arts Council England, [insertspace], Aston & District Pigeon Flying Club and The Rea Garden.

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