I never tire watching peoples’ faces as people walk past the decorated glass mural that frames Café Artum. Taking centre stage for Friday evening in the cosy-café on Steelhouse Lane, three local musicians performed for The Process, Stage 3.
Project Birmingham is seeking to reinvigorate the city’s cultural consciousness.
As you step from the bustle of New Street and climb the wooden stairs through to the Medicine Bakery, continue on to the gallery space inside and enjoy a spectacular exhibition free of charge; a feat made possible by Project Birmingham.
Eight pieces from emerging local artists pack the gallery space, breathing new life into the former Royal Society of Birmingham Artists. The combination of mediums and styles on display serve to reflect the vibrant and varied nature of life within the second city; as photography shares space with poetry, illustration faces film, and painted doors fill the area in between.
In addition, you are invited to contribute your own interpretation of the city. There is the opportunity to share your favourite spots, eateries, retailers and music that represent Birmingham to the all-encompassing you. As a result, a ‘sense of place’ is created by the local public, as well as the artists. There is also the chance to support local artists and businesses; the gift shop is full of products created by local artists, such as t-shirts and postcards, alongside locally brewed beer.
The exhibition is immediate. Your eyes are drawn to the 160-year-old industrial cell door that once resided in Winson Green Prison, placed at the centre of the room and surrounded by quotes from a former guard, hanging from a canopy of wire. As you venture through the room, navigating past the individually painted wooden doors, it becomes evident that the cohesion of the exhibition mirrors the cohesion of the city itself. Past and present are thrust together; decades-old photography is displayed next to contemporary images and illustrations of the city, the cell door from the 19th Century is enhanced by the presence of the wooden doors, each painted with separate interpretations of what modern day Birmingham is like to live in. The history of the city is utilised to celebrate life within Birmingham.
Birmingham’s rich artistic and cultural heritage is also commemorated. An investigation into the prominent Birmingham Surrealist Group lines the wall alongside a film exploring the historical and contemporary understandings of the hijab. You are encouraged to take your time with these works, as each provides an interesting and unique viewpoint on the history of the city. Both pieces represent the varied communities and experiences that influence the creativity that is on display within the walls of the gallery.
Regardless of how diverse the art is, each piece presents an understanding of the city that serves to unify the exhibition and showcase the promising talents that Birmingham has to offer.
- Tom Glover
Photography by Izabel Sladecekova & Laura Chen
Hey, Birmingham's the answer
They're ready to dance with the amps up
And when they get that space it's the Limelight
You can see that its gonna be a good night
And that they pump the music its beating
The place you want to be meeting
I guess that food gettin' eaten
Celebrating an amalgamation of Birmingham's often overlooked talent of chefs, musicians and artists, founders of Project Birmingham Rob Ashby and James Cronin put the city's culture in the limelight.
With no idea what to expect, we piled into the car armed, as all good journeys should be, with an 8 pack of Corona. Some brief traffic and a toll road later, we arrived in the surprisingly sunny city of Birmingham. It often feels like the city gets a bad rep, with people wincing at the name, screwing up their faces at its mention: 'Why are you going to Birmingham? It's grim.'
This stigma is the stimulus behind Rob & James' venture; they want to bring together a collection of the second city's finest cultural creativity to prove that Birmingham is more than just curries and a questionable claim to hold more canals than Venice. (Technically true, proportionately inaccurate).
For us, this negative attachment was quickly relieved as we relaxed with drinks in James' flat with the sun shining through from the balcony. Weather can easily change the mood, and this summer day led pleasantly into an inspiring night. 112 space was a short walk from the centre, where we stopped to get supplies for this BYOB event. The venue itself was well located: private but not isolated, secluded but not cramped.
A painted wooden door led us to the courtyard/smoking area which would later provide grounds for drunken yoga workouts and slurred conversation. Up the warehouse steps took us to a long rectangular room bordered with a buffet table, original artwork, sofas and a DJ area. Naturally heading straight for the food, we were presented with a mix of Catalonian style dishes that had been put together by friends of the organisers. Served on a pay-as-you-feel price rate, it was lovely to snack on tomato tostadas and chickpea salad as we settled in to the evening.
It was clear that a lot of thought and effort had been put into the night, as food was carefully chosen to fit the theme of doing something different: cured meats, feta sandwiches with caramelised onions and DIY chicken skewers, which were roasted peppers and onions with a toothpick to hold everything together. For those who are always found in the kitchen at parties, this table cut out the middle man and meant no FOMO as you could snack along without missing any of the action.
Light music and a click-frame projector provided the background for initial mingling and introduction to the venue, with the sofas helping to give a relaxed feel to the night. The capacity was max 65 which meant that there was space to dance and air to talk which was a refreshing change from the average sweaty club or gig night. Even so, the place was comfortably filled with a well chosen guestlist which made the night feel that extra bit special and unique. The guys had clearly worked hard to make the night exclusive yet welcoming, and they succeeded.
Music began around 10pm, by which point the liquid supplies we'd brought were taking positive effect and induced some floaty dance moves and encouraging cheers towards the different acts. An emotional cover version of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallelujah' brought everyone together swaying and singing along harmoniously. I personally may have found this slightly exaggerated but this was clearly an issue of cynical nature as the entire crowd happily belted out the lyrics free from any sceptical inhibitions.
The 2nd act was an upbeat indie guitar and soloist John Hemsoll, whose happy tunes were not dissimilar to those of Jake Bugg - so a friend commented. Merry and inoffensive, we shuffled away and gave due applause and whistles after each song. The temperature was warm and the room was full of excitement so the outdoor smoking space was a cool breather between sets.
Later into the evening, the lights dimmed and the gallery became a dancefloor for us to boogie away to the rare groove sounds of Futurepast Zine before calling it a night just after 1am. Limelight brought an eclectic mix of individual talent nurtured by group skill to an interested crowd of party-goers and fun-lovers. Event two: a success. Looking forward to the next round.
Limelight 2 // Project Birmingham
112 Space, 111-119 Bishop Street, Birmingham