Shape of the City

In the 1960’s, Hope Drew’s grandfather walked around Birmingham and photographed some of the most iconic aspects of the second city’s skyline. Years later, his granddaughter decided to follow in his footsteps – literally.

The startling contrasts between the images captured have been printed for the public to see, thanks to Project Birmingham’s organised artistic event in the Medicine Gallery. 

Having an interest in a process called psychogeography (the idea of exploring urban environments through creative means), I wrote poetry to accompany each of these photographic comparisons. The idea was to provoke a stream of consciousness that could connect each set of photographs, as well as provoking an emotive response through a meandering metaphysical journey. Hope and I ordered each of the prints into a kind of ‘route’ that could be physically taken through the city centre, should people decide to replicate it for themselves (which I strongly encourage!).

Seeing people move from one set of images and poetry to another – examining a project that was worked on by Hope and I for months - has been a surreal experience. Talking with various people about Shape of the City, thus learning of their own unique understanding of Birmingham, has been eye-opening and has allowed for the kind of interactions that will serve as a heart-warming reminder of how much like home the second city has become to me. I am so grateful to all the people who have taken a moment from their day to really see the history behind Birmingham’s skyline, as well as perhaps viewing places they have travelled past, through or along hundreds of times before in a different light. 


Project Birmingham gifting me with this opportunity to showcase my work – to really take a risk and produce a style of poetry that may not be traditional, but is hopefully enjoyable – has been an incredible opportunity I will never forget (I’m sure Hope would also say the same!). They are a community, driven by a love of the secret heart of Birmingham and a need to make sure that artists/musicians/writers/illustrators/photographers starting out, wanting to share their work, have a place they can turn to in order to gain some invaluable experience in a city that is slowly but surely revealing to the rest of the country a fathomless pool of artistic talent. 

I have personally been involved with Project Birmingham for over eighteen months now and, in such a short space of time, the team has continued to grow and flourish. The community is constantly expanding; this latest event has proven this through the sheer number of young artists and students who have flooded in, all determined to volunteer and help however they can. As I prepare to finish off my degree and move away, I think that Project Birmingham’s passion for bringing creative ideas to fruition – no matter the odds - is one of the things I will miss the most. 

I will most definitely be returning to Birmingham as often as possible to see what other exciting events they have on the horizon. 

- Emmy Hawker
EMusicChoices -