ADAM KENDALL shares his memories of a favourite event from the season just completed: the North Wales FFCC show

THE alarm sounds. I can just about make out it’s 5am and time to creep round the house to shower and change, without waking up three young children and my better half. So begin the hushed footsteps and slow turning of keys. Usually I fail at one of these hurdles and an apology text is on standby! 

Ready to go, coffee in cup, I collect my father Kevin and the birds that are loaded in the car – usually boxed at about 6pm the night before. I’ve never found boxing the night before to hinder the birds for a Sunday showing. We do sometimes travel and stay over on a Saturday and so box birds on the early afternoon of that day, before travelling to the show for an evening staging. We have experienced both positive and negative doing both and in truth I cannot say which is best. Nine times out of 10 the birds will hold true to form providing the correct training has taken place. 

For me to spend a Saturday and Sunday away from my family is currently just not feasible, but the Saturday night before a show, usually with fanciers in the same hotel, is a great evening and one I look forward to more as the years progress. The Fife show scene gives an abundance of these opportunities, some of which are taken weekly by some fanciers (you know who you are!) 

For those travelling with partners or family, finding suitable lodging is a must. Trust me: looking for non-birdkeeping events near to shows really does help appease the other half, if like my partner they are much happier at a food market or nearby retail park. 

Driving to the show

Two hours of bird-related chat with my dad normally start with a standard short exchange about the week just gone, family, and then what went well/wrong at the previous week’s show! The journey then revolves around the birds we hope will do well, the judges we hope those best birds get judged under – and in truth the ones we hope they don’t!

 Birdkeeping is a matter of perspective and as fanciers you usually get on with those who share the same fundamental principles around your respective type. That is as true in the Fife fancy as in any other. The acceptance around winning and losing is a delicate balance that can both delight and frustrate. Consistency is a must for the fancy and how to achieve greater consistency is discussed in all show halls across the UK and Ireland. Maybe my next article can be about it! 

When I wrote this, 2019 had been up and down for us on the show bench. We had a tremendous breeding season culminating in what we felt was our best set of birds we’d ever bred. That in itself is no guarantee of any success in the Fife world, due to the hotly contested competition each year. So 2019 had been a slow burner, but by the North Wales show in November we were hopeful of a strong outing. 

A varied show team

The team consisted of 20 birds, ranging throughout the colour sections. We are a good-sized stud, though all held in one shed, and aim to show our Fifes in all the colour sections. Many UK studs are specialist sheds devoted to clears or darks, or that split is seen between partnership’s sheds. With the introduction of the FFF Fancier of the Year (FOTY), I have seen a shift in specialist studs moving to cover a far greater range of colours, which has benefited the fanciers and shows in question. 

North Wales is one of the largest shows in the Fife calendar and for us holds a special place as it was the first event where we managed to take best in show (BIS) when we were novices in 2008. Yet novices taking the major awards is not something unique to our stud. Top fanciers such as Tom Campbell and Jimmy Roberts were regular BIS winners as novices and more recently Grimmer & Hornby have been taking the award, too. Since 2007 we have managed a further BIS and another best champion at this event, and that is why it’s a show not to be missed for us. 

The show is held in a large sports hall and is run by an excellent group of dedicated Fife fanciers who put on a fantastic event year on year. I have fond memories of the old hall: those steps, normally the rain, the door banging and the boxes in the corridor outside. But what great times! 

Stewarding at the show

For the 2019 event I had the pleasure of stewarding with Kieran Connolly from Ireland for renowned panel judge Matt Eld (no, he did not pay me to write this comment.) The classes came thick and fast and a rewarding sight was of the excellent winners on show. 

The show was a successful one for us: we managed best 10 per cent variegated, best heavily variegated (HV), second best self green and best flighted, with the HV taking second best champion and the 10 per cent taking best champion and best in show. It was a surprise to do so well and win a number of the main specials. What always pleases me is to have consistency in the cards and classes across all the judges. Going back to trying to cover all the colour sections and then winning specials in three of them, along with a flighted special, made a memorable day. 

Boxing up is always a touch chaotic but never a problem. Goodbyes are said and the journey home begins. Two hours reviewing the show, although my dad normally nods off! Until next week, as I always say, you’re as close to losing as you are winning. With the Fife fancy the way it is, next week will bring a new set of fanciers the delight of winning and so the interest in the show scene grows. 

I hope you enjoyed the 2019 season and wish you good luck in 2020.

A family experience

FOR those who keep birds on their own, a show is the place where you can communicate with like-minded people about topics that don’t draw a wry smile, such as the intricacies of hens and cocks. Try having a phone conversation in a busy public area dealing with this subject matter. Even in 2019 it draws a look. 

As a family set-up with birds, we have a very different experience of birdkeeping to many of our peers and I feel very lucky to be able to share my hobby with my sister and father. I have to also mention my Mom who helps in all aspects of the birds other than showing and is the favourite member of the Kendall stud if you ask most of the hobby! Our partners also help. Without them we just couldn’t keep the birds in the way we do. 

Insights of stewarding

FOR anyone who runs Fife shows I’d make this plea: support your shows not just with exhibits and buying raffle tickets, etc, but with help on the day. If every fancier could dedicate one day during the show season to one show it would make a huge difference. 

I find stewarding a very rewarding part of any show day and in fact my sister and I steward at every show we attend where they need the help. You see your own birds reacting to the show in ways that explain many of the wins, close calls or non-placings that can cause frustration come 1-2pm when exhibitors enter and see the results. By seeing them at the right time you find out why some birds are serial misbehavers when the shortcomings in training sadly come to bear. 

Listening to the judge’s explanations and understanding these decisions play a huge part in my enjoyment of the show scene. I also like the chat between stewards. If you’ve never experienced stewarding, try it. You may get the bug and want to do it more often.