Sunday, April 17, 2011

Postcard from the pigeon loft

Pigeon racing is not something I knew a dickie bird about until I spent a morning on a writing workshop with the artists at Project Pigeon. The birds are nothing like their scrawny street cousins. Nor are they pets. These pigeons are intelligent athletes. And, as in any sport, there is money, strategy, suspicion, ritual and rumour: all the elements for dramatic fiction.

The fact we were sitting around a shed in a yard situated under the railway arches of inner Birmingham couldn't detract from the fact that the birds were calm company, the world of pigeon fancying is surprisingly fascinating and the sun was shining. I scribbled loads of notes and outlined the plot of a rather gentle thriller set in the world of pigeon racing. It's unlikely that book will ever be written by me, but I am thinking up ways to work a pigeon loft into other stories.

I doubt I'll be using a pigeon as a main character though. Their key characteristic appeared to be that they just want to be at home with the family, eating. While this translates into an impressive homing instinct which uses navigational skills to surpass any satnav and speed to outpace birds of prey, once they get home, all they do is sit there. It just doesn't make for a satisfying ending.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Postcard from the festivals

Springtime in Birmingham means a blossoming of arts festivals. The Flatpack film festival brought this vintage mobile cinema (22 seats and fully upgraded to digital, Dolby, etc) to my local park and used it to screen hilarious public information films about Birmingham in the 1960s. For free! How charming is that?

Also unusual and intriguing was the event I chose at the Fierce arts festival. I indulged in a walk with a difference around a museum. They put a blindfold on me. I had a guide to prevent me falling over and a soundtrack delivered via wireless headphones. The whole experience was disorienting, deep and memorable.

Next weekend is the first of the book festivals. Brummies obviously love reading so much that we're treated to multiple events. I'm showing favouritism by picking my highlight event before it's happened, but I'm looking forward to the historical fiction discussion.

We've been spoilt for choice for things to do and see. I only hope the cuts to arts funding don't mean next spring won't be as vibrant.