Where: Bognor Regis, West Sussex
£: Free to watch (£20 to take part, applications must be made before 6th July)
What is it?
This quirky event was first held at the resort of Selsey as the Birdman Rally in 1971. Back then it was a challenge to see who could fly 50 yards (about 46 metres) which was never quite achieved. In 1978 the competition moved to Bognor Regis. With the move came an increase in the height of the take-off platform and therefore the likelihood of someone achieving the prize.
Through the late 70s and early 80s the International Bognor Birdman saw a plucky British contingent represented by Wonder Woman, The Red Baron and the Apollo Space Programme as competitors repeatedly attempted to flout the laws of physics. The event began to gather in popularity worldwide with the Swiss taking first prize in 1983 and TV crews from the BBC, Canada and the USA coming to film the event.
1984 was a historic year, when jubilant German Harold Zimmer flew 57.8 metres and walked away with £10,000, narrowly ahead of the Pope, a flying squirrel and Donald Duck! Then in 1989 ski jumper Eddie the Eagle Edwards eclipsed all his Olympic performances by managing 11 metres before splashdown.
In 1992 the distance record was smashed by local lad Dave Bradshaw whose flight of 89.2 metres is still unbeaten. Sir Richard Branson flew in the 2003 Bognor Birdman and made a huge impression on the crowds and in the 2005 the event Zoë Salmon from Blue Peter took a ducking.
In 2008 disaster struck as the end of Bognor Pier was removed because of safety concerns over its stablity. This led to a last minute cancellation of the Birdman event. The following year Worthing, another Sussex resort east of Bognor Regis, offered to host the event.
Now Birdman is back where it belongs in Bognor Regis, although Worthing is hosting its own Birdman contest in August. These days there are a number of Birdman events worldwide, including one in China, which all owe their thanks to the crazy antics of the original Birdman competition of Selsey and Bognor.
This year’s Bognor event will begin on Saturday 13th July with entertainment from 11am and flying from 1.50pm. There will be four classes in the contest; Condors, Leonardo Da Vinci, Kingfisher and Longest Distance. The Kingfisher class will be judged on costume, performance and crowd reaction.
More info: www.birdman.org.uk