Influenced by the Library of Birmingham’s mantra of ’re-writing the book’, fusing the traditional old-fashioned library space with new cultural mediums and concepts, the idea of re-writing classic novels (or at least utilising the main themes/plots) within a Birmingham setting materialised in my mind. For my first experiment, I took inspiration from Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a satirical text which focuses on a Spanish man so enamoured with chivalric tales that he himself becomes a knight, imposing his own fictional perceptions of the world on less-than-forgiving ‘sane’ society. This book choice was also important as Don Quixote itself features a main character who ‘re-writes’ himself into his beloved books of chivalry and re-fashions a new world from its existing forms and shapes, imbuing his surroundings with a unique vision. This is what I believe to be the role of the new library; to provide people with the tools and inspirations to alter their own lives, use their imagination, realise their own creative potential and to be the main character in the epic saga of their own lives. So, without further ado, I present my first part… Continue Reading…
Archives For June 2013
In my last blog post I mentioned how I miss the pen. Sliding a finger along screens and electronic gadgets seems to have replaced the old pen to paper, yet I have found a little gem in Birmingham that celebrates the good old fashioned pen.
Tom Hunter has been commissioned by GRAIN Library of Birmingham to produce an exhibition that showcases his photography of Birmingham. The project is called FINDINGS and features photographs of 50 places across Birmingham’s Colmore Business District and the Jewellery Quarter.
One of his photographs features THE PEN MUSEUM
THE PEN MUSEUM is a former pen factory turned museum where you can learn the history of pen making. Steel being a famous industry of Birmingham; the museum promotes the legacy of the steel pen trade.
The museum is situated in the Jewellery Quarter in an architecturally appealing Grade II Listed Building, partly why I assume Hunter chose to photograph it.
The volunteer lead museum boasts a large collection of objects and activities relating to the Steel pen trades and the history of writing, including machinery, museum trails and a Victorian School room. There is even the opportunity for visitors to make their own nib.
The museum is the only one of its kind in the UK and is free to explore so do try to check it out.
You can have a look at the Pen Museum photograph on Church Street Square, in the Colmore Business District.
FINDINGS also features many other buildings around Birmingham; from St Chads Cathedral, to Jekyll and Hyde bar, to Yorks Bakery Cafe. What’s more it is displayed in an out of the ordinary fashion: temporary partitions or ‘units’ have been placed around St Paul’s Square and Church Street Square presenting the images, giving the passerby the opportunity to freely explore the photographs.
And if they weren’t awe-inspiring enough; all of the photographs were produced using a pinhole camera. I don’t know much about photography myself, and for the like-wise out there: pinhole cameras are a simple square wooden box without a lens or a shutter. The box has a small hole in it that allows the light in to capture the image on a film held inside. Going back to the early days of photography, yet the results are anything but dated.
Hunter has said that his photographs are ‘monuments to this industrial past’ and show a journey through Birmingham’s industrial heritage. I personally love that this exhibition represents the working life of Birmingham; then and now. It highlights the local businesses, the varied cultures of Birmingham, and even shows the speckled mix of old and new architecture amidst the city.
You are invited to make your own journey of discovery; it’s only around until the 19th July so catch it before it goes.
For more information, visit the Findings website:
Or find the exhibition at:
Church Street Square
Colmore Business District
St Paul’s Square
Written By Abbey Duckett.
I have an inclination that over the next 10 years we could be seeing a surge in interest and appreciation of the visual arts propelled by passionate visual artists showcasing their work in the most unlikely of places. This observation is based on recent trends I am seeing at a grassroots level, game changing projects led by people in the local community.
One such example is Project U-Neek founded by Alexandria a young freelance artist. I have recently had the pleasure of attending some of her exhibition events where she exhibits and sells the artwork of upcoming visual artists in local businesses and public spaces. Last week she held an exhibition showcasing the work of a young Artist called Adam Bolton in Harris Moore canvases down in the Digbeth and this was attended by local creatives including Hunt Emerson, a local cartoonist and illustrator known for his work on The Beano magazine.
Another example is the Espirito Brum Festival which not only brings to us some of the finest in Brazilian culture but this year they have teamed with Project U-Neek to create an arts trail in Kings Heath where work of emerging artists is exhibited in various small businesses along the Kings Heath High street.
The concept of placing artwork in unusual places is not a new one but I think its on trend and underpinned by today’s social media culture I can see how Visual Art can now begin to follow the people.
In my project, I have adopted the same idea as Abbey; that in the 10 years time, we may revert to styles of the past. A mixing of rustic looking styles with technology is already apparent today. Think of the artwork on websites like Dropbox or Twitter. Or our very own Birmingham 2022 blog! There is a trend at the moment of making things look handmade and individual.
Hidden away in the heart of Birmingham, imposing itself between magnificent greenery and lofty trees sits the Edgbaston Priory Club, home to the annual Women’s Tennis Association’s AEGON Classic. As a major part of the Women’s Tennis Tour calendar since 1982 and a valued grass court warm-up event for Wimbledon, the tournament has previously been won by many big-hitting stars such as Billie Jean King, Maria Sharapova and Li Na. Despite being a big Tennis fan (or rather someone glued to the television from the opening match of the French Open to the Wimbledon Final), I had never had the pleasure of experiencing this sporting contest first-hand and unmediated.
Even though the event was intended as a counterpart to the simultaneously-running Men’s AEGON Championship at London’s Queen’s Club, due to a lack of publicity and media interest, the tournament felt like a secret from the world’s press and popular consciousness, a little niche event only attended by those who know that it’s on and where it is. This is certainly a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it can feel like the Women’s event is not as important as the Men’s (and speaking to people who live in Birmingham it is clear that its marketing and promotion is severely lacking) but equally, the seclusion and secrecy that this allows imbues one with a sense of superiority over the unknowing masses, as if a member of a private club who meet clandestinely to enjoy the cream of contemporary Women’s tennis.
The site’s Centre Court, named after Birmingham-born 1969 Wimbledon Champion, Ann Jones, compliments the event’s hushed camaraderie with its modest capacity and intimate architecture. Soon to become a Premier Tennis venue in 2014 (to be no doubt followed by a price increase from this year’s bargain offerings), Centre Court features immaculate grass covering, comfortable seats and exquisite views from everywhere on the Court. The only thing better than the calm beauty of its leafy surroundings however was the tennis on display. The Court played host to the Singles Final between Slovakian tour veteran, Daniela Hantuchova, and 16 year old Croatian player, Donna Vekic, in a perfect encapsulation of warm-up tournament spirit, the old hand versus the young pretender, the favourite versus the underdog.
With an enthusiastic crowd behind them (but regrettably many empty seats) the two players began the contest for the prized trophy beneath a cloudy sky under which lay a blazing sun that always threatened to force itself through but only did so sporadically. Despite a vast difference in experience and age ( a 14 year gap between the two competitors) this gulf did not readily show itself and even when Hantuchova broke Vekic’s serve in the 5th game, Vekic fought back valiantly to level the match once more. After a tight first set in which Hantuchova eased into the lead through a tie-break victory, the loyalty of the Birmingham crowd was heard with extravagant individual chants of ‘Come on Donna’ and louder cheers when the young Croatian picked up breathtaking points. As the second set unfolded, it was clear that the court’s intimate setting helped Vekic to recover from her first set defeat as she unveiled a stronger game imbued by continuous encouragement from the crowd. However, despite Vekic’s best efforts, Hantuchova’s wealth of experience led to an improved game as she looked to capitalise on her opponent’s fragility and naivety and clasp her hands around the trophy. Finishing 7-6, 6-4 after a ferocious battle, both players were gracious and respectful in victory and defeat much to the delight of the passionate crowd. We may not have been watching Shakespeare at the REP but with the Ann Jones Centre Court as the stage, both heroines performed wondrously until Daniela Hantuchova stole the show with a powerful second set offering leading to a rapturous applause from all around the modest stadium, red-defining the world Classic in the process.
Low on attendance but high in passion, lacking in publicity but drowning in enthusiasm, I am sure the AEGON Classic in Edgbaston will continue to grow year on year especially now that its venue status has been upgraded. There is, however, something heart warming and special about its modesty and its set up in the middle of Edgbaston’s grandiose greenery that may disappear if Women’s tennis begins to grow into the same sort of phenomenon as the Men’s game. I guess the debate between secret and elect or commercial and mainstream will rage on as long as some of the rallies on Ann Jones but one thing’s for certain, this year’s Classic served up an ace and demonstrated that, at least for the time being, there was no love lost for Women’s Tennis in Birmingham, or at least those savvy enough to attend.