Monday, July 26, 2010

There is Beauty in the City - Spanish Exhibition

The little magnet has been making its way around the world, and I am so pleased with its progress. Since Glen Stoker became the project admin things have really taken an upward turn, and this month we see the project's first European Exhibition opening. These are the two latest images to be sent in, and are from Juan A. López Martín.They are taken in Gijon, Spain, which is great as that is where the show is taking place. See how the project is coming along here.
The exhibition will open on friday 30th july at the ezcurdia_30 gallery in Gijon and will be showing all of the images submitted to the project so far. As the project instgator I must say a massive thank you to Susana Lopez Fernandez who has, along with Glen organised the Spanish leg of the project. Susana came all the way to Stoke to meet Glen and make this happen, which shows a commitment and a belief in the project that I could not be happier to hear of.A really big Thank You to Susana and Glen for all of the work you have done to see this happening.

Susana has started a new project borne out of the many hours we spend in airports. Like "Beauty in the City" it is a collaborative project, inviting us to send our airport photos in. Next time I am at an airport I will make sure I take some photos to submit.
Have a look at Susana's project Last Call by clicking here.

SHOP project - Map of Independence

Back in June we went for the SHOP site visit, and all of the artists took part in the Independence mapping activity. It has taken me a bit of time to collate, as since then have been on a residency, project managed and exhibited in Common Ground, and applied for and got a permanent position as Lecturer in Fine Art at Staffordshire University...Phew! Anyway, today I have been collating the images and info that the artists gathered - and decided to keep it really visual, as it is going to be shown in the shop window two doors down from SHOP.
There are three window panels on that shop and on the left we will have this:
and in the middle we will have the largest part - the collated Map of Independence.
and on the right we will have this part - to let people know what it is.
Once it is ready and installed I will photograph how it looks and show it here.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Interrogation: West Bromwich CALL

HOW EXCITING! Interrogation: West Bromwich has been confirmed, and the call to artists is below - why not apply! It's going to be fantastic!

‘Interrogation: Walsall was interesting, mind-expanding and may turn out to be transformative’ - Interrogation: Walsall artist, 2009

INTERЯOGATION: WEST BROMWICH explores the impact that one artist (you) can make in one place, in one day.
The programme, organised by Longhouse and working with lead artist Anna Francis, is designed to investigate the impact of short, sharp interventions within the public realm.
The programme aims to look at what impact an artist can make by working quickly and responsively to a specific site in just one day, and provides opportunities for artists to work together within public realm spaces.
Building on the success of last year’s Interrogation: Walsall, ( where the emphasis was on exploring how an art gallery can connect with public realm space, the concern this year will be to investigate how artists are ‘bridging the gap’ between people and cultural activity as well as gaps in infrastructure, regeneration and consultation processes.
Each interrogation day will have a specialist mentor who will have expertise and knowledge in that particular day’s methodology to help guide you through your mission.
Call to Artists:
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become a secret agent for a day in order to interrogate the public spaces of West Bromwich.
Working from a top secret base in West Bromwich you will investigate the artist’s role in the post-industrial world through one of four methods:
How to Apply:
To express interest in this opportunity send:
• 300 words describing why you are right for this mission
• state your two preferred interrogation methods in order of preference e.g. choice No.1: Participation, choice No.2: Site Specific
• your C.V. and a maximum of 5 images of your current practice
• any web links
Please send your expression of interest to:
Deadline for Submissions:
12pm Monday 26 July 2010
(Please Note: Successful ‘agents’ will be notified on Monday 2 August 2010)
Important Information:
This is a professional development opportunity; each agent will receive a fee of £100 towards travel, time and other expenses, plus £20 on the day of the mission to cover any immediate costs incurred, such as materials for your mission.

Agents must be available for the full day of the missions they select (dates are stated next to the four interrogation methods above), and for a project conference day (06/10/10), when the project findings will be disseminated.

Each mission will be documented photographically and with video and results will be displayed on the Longhouse website and on the Conference Day.
For more information go to and
Mission Control:
Longhouse is an annual programme of work carried out by community arts organisation, Multistory based in West Bromwich in the West Midlands. Longhouse is dedicated to the professional development of artists working in the public realm and provides knowledge, support and funding to artists to develop their practice.

Common Ground Legacy

It is now a week since Common Ground, and we are still talking about it and thinking about it. We are in the process of collating the documentation and evaluation materials, and will be working on the publication soon. This is a very important part of the project, as this is where we will be setting out our vision for Hanley Park, which is to return to Thomas Mawson's original intentions for the park (as an arts and crafts park). We hope that through Common Ground we can set out the idea of the park as a sculpture park, much like an inner city Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The pavilion would make a wonderful gallery/visitor centre/cafe and the city's many sculptural assets (some of which are still in storage) could be displayed here. This would certainly create a fantastic gateway between the train station and the city centre - and this is what we will be showing through the publication.
The publication is not the only legacy that Common Ground has left. Katie and I were also keen to include a Geocache element for the project, so we got a tin and Katie collected an object from each artist. Then Katie found a good geocache hiding place in the park, and placed the Common Ground Geocache. Details of the coordinates and the clue were included on the map, but noone found the cache over the weekend (we checked.) The Cache went live on the Geocache website this week, and it has already been receiving visitors - who have been taking the objects and replacing them for other objects, as well as leaving their log in the little log book.
I hope the cache remains where it is for a while to come. Fancy going treasure hunting? Click here for our page on the Geocache site.

Artists' Lottery Syndicate Launch

Friday night was the launch of the Artists' Lottery Syndicate, and unfortunately I didn't make it to London for the launch, but still there is exciting news. On the very first draw we are winners! Yes, each member of the Syndicate has won themselves 22.5 pence! Here are the numbers being drawn.

Then on waking this morning there has been more good news - the syndaite won three times last night! Two X £10 wins and One X £20!
Other lottery news - the government is currently carrying out a counsultation to look into their plans to return the % of monies raised by the lottery which goes to arts funding to the original amounts (currently 16% - the Government proposes to return this figure to 20% within 2 years.) In relation to the other cuts which will affect the arts, this is little comfort.

Friday, July 2, 2010

BCCA - Day Three, Four and Five

Day Three: Got up fairly late today, in the knowledge that tonight will mean traipsing around the high street, photographing the NightLife and Night Time Economy of West Bromwich. Went to the market again to do some more interviews. Get some really good conversations recorded with Dave and some of the other market traders.

Also go back and photograph Mrs T's nail bar, she wont let me photograph her, but volunteers one of her customers.I have realised that I am not going to achieve any beautiful shop window at night photos, as most shops seem to be shuttered at night, but still it will be interesting to see what the town has to offer. I will take some shots of the High Street at night anyway.

Going along to start the drawings of each building on the High Street, which should be interesting. I have been told by the Man from the Babywear shop that all there is on the high street is pound shops, mobile phone shops and empty shops, so it will be really interesting to measure how true that is.

I am drawing the entire left hand side of the Pedestrianised area of the High Street (The Queens Square side) and I will also be annotating the entire right hand side. This will then be stitched together and will become the Shop Window Audit. Before coming to West Bromwich I had planned to do this photographically, and have even purchased a wide angle lens especially for the purpose. Now that I am here, I see that this just is not going to be possible, due to the physical layout of the High Street, with its strange rhythms, and market stall building buffered right up to Shops, it means physically you cannot get a good view of the shops, as there are too many interruptions. I think this layout is partly to blame for the decline which is being reported by people I speak to, there is not a leisurely feel to the high street, it is not a place which you wish to hang around in.

West Bromwich High Street By Night.

At around 11pm (we had to wait till then, as it’s summer) myself and Glen headed out to carry out the exploration into the High Street at night. I had persuaded Glen to come to West Bromwich to meet me, as I didn’t fancy hanging around the streets on my own, with my camera – I prefer to be able to worry about the images, rather than my safety.

I set up the tripod, and took some shots of the buildings. The High Street was deserted apart from one guy wearing a hoody, done up so tight that I wondered how he was able to see. He passed me around 5 times, and I did feel a little uncomfortable. The images I was taking show a Town which is empty, there are no focal points, nothing to look at, and nothing to do. It had an eerie feeling like a stage set.

Suddenly some crashing sounds, and an alarm and the guy in the hoody ran past carrying a wooden box.

I carried on taking photographs, and the police came past. A Chemist had been broken into, and that made sense of all the shutters and CCTV cameras.

Day Four: Aware that I am going home tomorrow I am trying to think about tying things up.

I want to capture as much as possible of the market and the high street so I can work on the material later.

I decided to go to the Market and capture a sound piece, - it goes from one end of the food hall to the other.

Then I collate a couple of the interviews with the traders to show them. I am making flyers which advertise their stalls, showing photos of them. This is in response to the rather odd images of ‘Shops from Elsewhere’ which adorn empty businesses in the High Street – it doesn’t seem to make sense really, why not use the space to advertise the existing businesses? I finished the drawings of the left hand side of the High Street.

Tonight we have decided to try an idea of going in Independent Pubs which look scarey from the outside, and which you would never dream of going into…yikes. We will take some of the BCCA matchbooks with us, to spread the word about the project.

Independent Pub Crawl:

The first pub on the list was ‘The Fox and Dogs.’ It is actually a really loveloy friendly pub, with some great reggae music playing, and a good atmosphere along with a nice pint of Red Stripe. Only stayed for one, but it was good.

Next stop was ‘The Prince of Wales’ From the outside I was expecting a very English type pub, with pork scratching and men with bulldog tattoos, but this was not the reality.

When we went inside it was actually a Bhangra style pub, with a fantastic Bhangra band performing on the little stage at the end of the room. The Landlord explained that they were rehearsing for a wedding at the weekend. The beer was amazingly cheap, and the entertainment certainly helped. The Landlord explained that he was also in the Bhangra band, and that his band had performed for Prince Charles. He even got out a photo to show us of the band meeting the future King. He was really proud of that.

Last on the list was the Sports Pub, which was a strange mixture – showing sports on a big screen, and offering Indian Bar Food. We decided to have something to eat here, and again were amazed at the prices of a pint and something to munch on. This pub had more of a commercial look than the previous two, but was certainly very popular with the locals.

I was surprised by my visit to the local ale houses – and really thought to myself that I must not judge a book by its cover – from the outside these three were places I would not have entered, but I found three pubs I would happily visit again.


Popped in at the stall to say goodbye and thanks to Monika, and just see if I could persuade the man from the frame and perfume stall to have an interview – I had been trying to catch him all week. Finally he was there, but said he didn’t really want to have his photo taken or do an interview, and actually I have interviewed 6 people now, so I think that is probably enough.

After that I went along to notate every shop building on the right hand side of the pedestrianised High Street (The Kings Square Side).

This should be useful when we look at the overview and see what exactly is on the High Street, and if the perception is correct, that all there is (and this is what I have been told) are pound shops, Banks, Phone Shops, Charity Shops and Empty Shops. I intend to colour code and see what is really there.

After this was done I packed up my stuff and left West Bromwich.