All posts tagged: England

All change, yet again.

I was in Birmingham last week, the city of my birth. And just to remove any confusion, I’m talking of Birmingham in the West Midlands of England. Every time I visit there has been change. The city seems incapable of standing still for just one minute. Perhaps that’s how it should be, afterall, Birmingham is known as the driver behind the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19thC. and was for many years, the home of manufacturing in the UK earning it the aphorism of “The City of a Thousand Trades”. It’s not an old city. Its growth, fed by the industrial revolution, came as a result of hundreds of thousands of ‘immigrants’ from the farming communities in surrounding counties. My own forebears on both sides were “Aglabs”, agricultural labourers, from Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, together with true ‘immigrants’ from Ireland. Birmingham is a crucible, and always has been. With that growth comes continual change. As a reason for change, added to that of growth, is development – in the shape of technology, working methods etc. …

Just a little of Birmingham’s brutalist architecture.

Three Brutalist building in Birmingham. Two of which have gone. The first is the now-demolished Birmingham Central Reference Library designed by John Madin and constructed in 1974. It lasted 41 years before its recent destruction. The second is the signal box at New St Station (comprising 2 images), designed by Bicknell & Hamilton and W.R. Healey and completed in 1965. This is listed and so remains. The third is 103 Colmore Row, the Nat West Tower, as it was known. Designed by John Madin. It opened in 1975.  It was demolished in 2015-16 and is to be replaced by another, taller tower.

Fairground attraction 1970’s

Back in the late 1970’s, I would wander around my home city of Birmingham, camera in hand. At the time it was all Black-and-White work, self-developed and printed in a makeshift darkroom. I had different cameras to choose from, nothing exotic. I used twin lens reflex and 35mm. These images were from my 35mm camera probably on *400asa film hence the grain. *(I must check as I have the original negatives somewhere) The images below were from a sojourn to an impromptu fairground, many popped up like this around the city. This one appeared in Hay Mills, adjacent to the A45 near to Small Heath.

Differing opinions.

For me, a satisfying image has shapes and layers. I was at the SteamPunk festival in Lincoln on Saturday. This image was from the lower half of the city (where there were fewer SteamPunk attendees). I was drawn by the incongruous hat of the SteamPunker – a white military helmet surmounted and enclosed by an Octopus. I use that as the front layer and slightly out of focus, with shoppers passing in the next layer.  The layer which first attracted me contains the Irish Dance Busker making eye contact with the delighted little girl.  Finally, in the last layer of interest is the shop attendant peering out of the window. I find this image satisfying even though it’s far from perfect containing as it does elements others may believe detract from the image. As you maybe aware, my images are just for me so you may not agree. That’s OK. That’s what makes this art form so interesting – alternative views of the same thing and differing opinions.

Full Circle.

An exhibition of Images by Emma Bowater and James Millichamp. Taking their inspiration and source images from the built environment, particularly urban decay and dereliction these two artists have worked to produce the images for this show. At first glance, you would imagine this exhibition is by one artist, such is the consanguinity of their approach to the work and the resulting images. The exhibition notes speak about their images much better than I could, so… “We have always shared a fascination for the built environment, and particularly urban decay and dereliction. Over the past year we have been working together to exploit this theme through various processes, cross-pollinating and stimulating each other’s practice. Through painting, drawing, print and cyanotype we aim to capture the atmosphere of a space, alluding to the history lost through the process of decay. A disused building can act as a symbol for the temporaneous nature of mans’ achievements, or as a metaphor for emotional abandonment. Through the works, we seek to document the vacant and transient environments of architecture. …

A visit to the Barbican in the City of London.

I don’t know about you, but I thought the Barbican in London was simply an arts centre – “simply an Arts centre” there’s an understatement for a start. Just how wrong can you be? My wife, Sue, knowing I like Brutalist architecture bought me a ticket for a guided architectural tour of the ‘complex’ and complex it is. Not only is it an arts centre – by the way, this section of the development was finalised and built last – but it is a housing project comprising around 2000 flats.  First, throw away all preconceptions of what a ‘housing project’ of this size would look like. The project was conceived in the late ’50s by architects, Chamberlin, Powell and Bon. They planned and delivered a high quality, wonderfully detailed living space, and due to the management of the terms of the letting or sale of the units, it has remained so ever since. Strict conditions apply regarding what the occupants can and cannot do –  but I’m getting in front of myself. If I may backtrack; The area …

Skin Heads. Birmingham, ’70’s/’80’s

Recently, I was trying to decide on a picture to put in place at home. Knowing Sue, my wife likes this image I decided on this. It was taken at Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham in the late ’70s, maybe very early ’80s. It shows two of a group of Skin Heads standing on the Waltzers, a fairground ride at the ‘Tulip Festival’.  Both are wearing tight Levi jeans and ‘Doc Marten’ boots, one with a ‘Ben Sherman’ check shirt and with a ‘Crombie style’ overcoat over. And each, of course with the required shaved head haircut, Various pins and badges are worn on the lapels, one being a Nazi Swastika. On occasion, wrongly I’ve printed it without the badge. I print it here without any editing – as I believe it should be. The image portrayed by the skinheads is underlined by the “Love and Hate” tattoo across the knuckles of each hand further enhancing the anarchic, hard man ‘Fuck you’  image they choose to put out. It is a picture of its time reflecting, as it …

A nail in our cultural coffin perhaps?

Designed by the architect Sir Reginald Blomfield R.A. The Usher Gallery, on Lindum Hill, was officially opened on the 25th May 1927 with a solid gold key by the Prince of Wales.  The gallery was built as a result of a bequest by Lincoln jeweller James Ward Usher.  Usher never married and devoted his life to collecting, travelling far in search of particular items to enhance his collection. He never sought public honours but was offered the position of Sheriff of Lincoln in 1916.  In 1921 he died at the age of 76, and as was his wish he bequeathed to the City his collection of watches, miniatures, porcelain and silver. He also left a considerable amount of money for a gallery to be built in order to house his collection. Now, in 2019, the County Council wishes to turn the gallery into a wedding venue – despite the fact they do not own the building. This seems to be against the wishes of the original bequest by Usher. It’s certainly against the wishes of …

Do we stay or do we go?

If, like me, you are sick to the back teeth of hearing the word Brexit I’m afraid this piece is not going to help much. But, but, but – yes. it’s worth the repetition – if we relent in our efforts to push back, then we can blame nobody but ourselves, for not trying to reverse what has transpired to be an uninformed, corrupted and consequently, bad decision. One million of us joined together in London yesterday to protest against what we see as madness. I owe it to my grandchildren to try to protect their future. It would be hard to look them in the eye and say I did nothing. That’s enough of the ‘why’ of it. Here are some pictures of how the day panned out from the people walking through London before the march until my crocky old bones could literally stand no longer a few hours later. I didn’t get to the end. Sorry. As to whether we should stay or go… you have your own opinion – and long may that …