Collective A by Sam Williams and Bournville College Art & Design students
Developed by artist Sam Williams and art & design students from Bournville College. Over a series of workshops the students worked with Sam to develop a socially engaged art project that was informed by research into community, technology, utopias and dystopias.
They formed a 'community' entitled CollectiveA and decided upon on a series of shared beliefs or issues in society that they wanted to explore and came up with an idea that challenges the 'isolation created by technology' (particularly people being more engaged with social media than on a face to face level).
The first part of the project invited participants from Bournville College to sign up to via Whatsapp messenger to receive 7 instructional tasks over 7 days:
1. Take a photo of your location right now.
2. Tell us about an act of kindness you have experienced.
3. Record a short video clip of you saying 'hello'.
4. Send your favourite song lyric or make up your own.
5. Send in a '5 minute self-portrait'/ selfie / something you have created that you're proud of.
6. Send in a screen grab of the last thing you wrote on social media.
7. Create a new rule for society.
Participants then had 12 hours to respond.
After the 7 days were over, participants were invited to the LPAP | SPACE to see the results of the experiment and were asked to take part in a series of participatory and performative activities, which included den building, photography and writing. All communication/instructions to the participants continue via Whatsapp throughout the session.
The Kipper & The Corpse by Stuart Whipps
Text by Anneka French
Stuart Whipps first made work in Longbridge in 2004 while he was studying for a degree in photography at the University of Wolverhampton. He graduated in 2005 and began comprehensively photographing the Longbridge plant following its closure and the loss of 6,500 jobs. His photographs were awarded the Observer Hodge Award in 2006 and this facilitated a trip to China to continue the work. The tools, tracks and intellectual property rights were purchased from Longbridge by the Chinese carmaker Nanjing Automotive and in 2007 Whipps travelled to the new factory in Nanjing to document the site, the workers and the first cars coming off the production line. A selection of photographs from Longbridge and Nanjing were exhibited and published in 2008.
Since 2014 Whipps has been an artist in residence with the Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP). During this time, the area has been developing from a brown field site into a new town centre with large scale retail, leisure and education facilities. His work for LPAP builds on the legacy of his earlier research through a number of different projects. Conversations with former plant employees and local residents have been vital to the research process and have resulted in a number of public events. These include an open day at Greenlands Select Social Club as well as public discussions about the history of the plant.
One of the largest projects Whipps has undertaken is the restoration of a 1275GT Mini made in Longbridge in 1979. This has been possible with the help of several ex-employees from the plant including Keith Woodfield. Many of the processes of stripping down and replacing or repairing the parts were initially viewable for twelve months in a glass-fronted cabin-come-workshop in the carpark of Bournville College. The car was also exhibited in various galleries across the country as part of Whipps’ participation in the touring British Art Show exhibition. The (dis)assembly of the Mini provides an echo of the changes experienced by Longbridge itself. The display of the car in various states of repair highlights the significance of this part of British manufacturing heritage to a wider audience. For instance, Whipps’ participation in the Staffordshire Mini Fair via an exhibition of the car’s shell has been a further catalyst to develop dialogue with different groups of people.
Archival research has been crucial to Whipps’ working practice. With a desire to understand some of the reasons for the closure of the plant, Whipps began collecting material connected to the factory from 1979, the same year he was born. That year was also a pivotal time for the UK and for Longbridge. Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister in May 1979 and in November came the sacking of the talismanic communist union convener Derrick (red Robbo) Robinson at Longbridge. Whipps has photographed some of the car parts from the Mini with newspaper cartoons about British Leyland in the background. In 1979 alone there were nineteen cartoons in the national press that referenced British Leyland. Looking back now, they serve as a shocking reminder of the negative depiction of workers in the national media in the 1970s. The intention in representing them here at Longbridge in 2017 is to think about the nuanced way that political and social ideologies are formed and the real-world consequences these have. In many ways a newspaper cartoon can tell us more about society than a front page headline.
The title of the exhibition, The Kipper and the Corpse, comes from a Fawlty Towers episode first broadcast in 1979. Amongst the usual calamitous affairs of Basil Fawlty comes a rant in response to a strike at British Leyland. His words continue to resonate with labour conditions in the UK and in many other places. Fawlty attempts to wake a dead man for breakfast in his hotel room and says:
Another car strike. Marvelous, isn't it? The taxpayers pay them millions each year, they get the money, go on strike. It's called socialism. I mean if they don't like making cars, why don't they get themselves another bloody job - designing cathedrals or composing viola concertos? The British Leyland Concerto – in four movements, all of them slow, with a four-hour tea-break in between. I'll tell you why, 'cos they're not interested in anything except lounging about on conveyor belts stuffing themselves with my money.
Whipps describes the photographing of individual car parts as a kind of ‘forensic examination’ of the car. The coloured backdrops to some of the photographs are informed by a research effort to identify the name of every paint colour that has been produced at Longbridge. For the 2016 Longbridge Light Festival, Whipps used this research to make an audio installation ‘Longbridge Colours: Sound’. This listed the colour names in voices local to the area within the tunnel of the A38 bridge. The tunnel is the future location for a number of permanently-sited artworks Whipps has designed that will enhance this new public gateway for pedestrians and cyclists in Longbridge’s town centre. Whipps’ designs will incorporate elements of Longbridge’s past in permanent public artworks close to the site of the glass cabin and these will be installed and opened later in 2017.
Text by Anneka French
Longbridge Light Festival 2016, The Shadow Factory
Thanks to everyone who came, supported and participated at Longbridge Light Festival 2016! The festival received record visitor figures with 6,000 people attending the one night event!
The theme of the festival was the “Shadow Factory”, a historical reference to the nationwide Shadow Scheme developed to aid production for the Second World War. The Longbridge Car Factory was said to have been painted to resemble terraced houses and streetscapes from the air by local artists, and the scheme was led by Lord Austin, founder of the Austin Motor Company.
Birmingham and internationally based artists presented a dramatic series of spectacular light and art installations across the town centre, alongside family workshops, live music, pop-up art and theatre performances. A ‘festival ‘night-market’ was also delivered for the first time, presenting a host of market stalls and award-winning street food, which proved a big hit with visitors.
We hope you enjoyed the festival and would love to hear your feedback from this years event, please do fill out a quick questionnaire here and have the chance to win a £50 Marks and Spencer Voucher!
Longbridge Mass Observation
by Sarah Taylor Silverwood, text by Anneka French
Sarah Taylor Silverwood, LPAP artist in residence, began her ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ project through observing and recording the everyday comings and goings of Longbridge. Drawings, texts, songs and other pieces of information recorded by both Sarah and a diverse range of local residents now make up what might be called a living archive of and for Longbridge.
While Sarah’s project is a snapshot of this moment in time, ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ directly references Mass Observation (MO), a social research organisation established in Britain in the 1930s. The organisation carried out a pioneering study of the everyday lives of people using original techniques and collected data via categories such as ‘the private lives of midwives’ and ‘shouts and gestures of motorists’. Its recorders were ordinary citizens who volunteered, empowered by the permission to study and sometimes be critical of their own communities. The study was democratic. Its inherent subjectivity made the data highly valuable but it was inconsistent and difficult to analyse. Sarah was interested in this aspect of MO, so aimed to focus on the importance of process and collaboration rather than creating something that could be used for data mining.
Sarah has taken a number of key themes from the original MO and has developed a blueprint for data collection in Longbridge in the shape of a paper worksheet on which people can collect personal observations across twenty-four categories. These include ‘cooking’, ‘fearing’, ‘working’, ‘politics’ and ‘happiness’ which have elicited a range of fascinating and creative responses. She has utilised a variety of other data collection methodologies, gathering opinions, reflections, ideas and facts from members of the public, Turves Green Girls’ School pupils, users of Frankley Plus Children’s Centre and students from Longbridge College among others. These have been facilitated by questions and invitations positioned in newspapers, on beer mats, on social media, on portable wooden structures at Longbridge Light Festival, other community events and a host of other sites. One day diary entries have been produced with young people and children in particular, opening out possibilities for considering the personal experience of recording thoughts with pen and paper for community members more familiar with digital correspondence. These methodologies have been means to begin conversations about Longbridge with its own residents.
The project, developed from an initial micro-residency last summer, has since gathered incredible momentum and has grown into what Sarah describes as an expanded archive. It is currently available to access publicly both online at LMO2016.tumblr.com and via a temporary exhibition in the LPAP | Space. The physical exhibition comprises six black archive boxes of the collected documents, an index and a live soundtrack of songs that visitors can customise by selecting their favourite record, digital file, CD or cassette tape to play to activate the archive of music. These elements of the archive are accompanied by stools and tablecloths that display the symbols used as starting points for the categorisation of information, a series of small framed drawings of people in Longbridge by made by Sarah and larger wall drawings of pedestrians that return the subjects almost to their original human-scale. The exhibition is marked by Sarah’s distinctive, clean and precise drawing aesthetic, using her handwriting as well as printed texts to pull out key aspects of the project’s development and outcomes. ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ considers what Longbridge might be at this present moment.
Text by Anneka French
Longbridge 1979 discussion, led by Stuart Whipps
As part of artist Stuart Whipps on going LPAP residency he has been speaking to people who worked at the Longbridge Car Factory in 1979, the year the 1275 GT Mini he is restoring was built.
On Thursday the 18th August he held an informal discussion of what it was like to work at the factory in 1979, the conversations that arose revealed the camaraderie of the work force at the time but also the stresses and strains of the disagreements between the unions and management put on the workers.
The Play Factory, workshops with Bournville College by Samantha Williams
In the lead up to Longbridge Light Festival 2016 artist Samantha Williams worked with students from Bournville College to support the creation of 'The Play Factory'. 'The Play Factory' was an interactive installation that considered the effect the Shadow Factory scheme and the war effort had on play and leisure during WW2. Rather than producing ammunition and aeroplanes, 'The Play Factory' produced joy and encouraged participation from both adults and children alike.
Williams used board games, street games and toys from this wartime period as inspiration for the activities for LLF, offering professional development opportunities for Bournville College art students to get involved in the creation of the work.
St John the Baptist Church Roof Fundraiser
The LPAP team supported parishioners of St John the Baptist Church in Longbridge with their efforts to raise money for a new church roof. LPAP programmed a night of live entertainment from a Jazz trio, Northfield Notes Choir and comedy from Lovdev Barpaga and Mrs Barbara Nice.
Longbridge Light Festival Parade Workshops by General Public
Artists General Public worked with community groups, schools and individuals within the Longbridge area to create hand made placards and banners for the Longbridge Light Festival Parade, which was titled 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'. Participants were asked to create banners and placards that said what was important to them.
For more information about General Public visit www.generalpublic.org.uk
LONGBRIDGE TV has been created for Longbridge Light Festival, by artists Sarah Taylor Silverwood and Emily Warner. The artists have been working with Longbridge residents to create content for a unique Longbridge TV station.
For more information about the project visit longbridgetv.com
Wild Longbridge proposes that we can change the landscape we commute in through the creation of a collective garden at Longbridge train station, that by clearing, growing and planting together, we can enhance the environment we use everyday.
We are extremely grateful for the community's support in volunteering to help transform Longbridge train station. If you would like to take part in this community garden project at Longbridge train station we would love to hear from you. Please contact stephen@WERK.org.uk
This project is developed by Cathy Wade in partnership with Incredible Edible Longbridge by Northfield Ecocentre and London Midland. It brings local residents together within a series of events created collaboratively: herb and plant growing, insect ecology and the development of micro wildflower meadows.
Alternative Longbridge History Walk 2015 - 2016
The Alternative Longbridge History Walk have been created with the support of Longbridge Residents, historians, archeologists and with the help of Ben Waddington. The walks explore areas of Longbridge with historical importance.
The first walk which took place in September 2015, it was led by Mike Hodder - former Birmingham City Council planning archaeologist and local historian Steve Wright.
Mike Hodder talked a group of 30 people through physical evidence found in Longbridge that shows how people used to live. By reading pollen build-up in layers of datable river silt, a picture emerges of how the landscape was gradually thinned of trees, allowing heath plant species to prosper. The tree removal demonstrated early human activity in Longbridge, before any written records began. Steve Wright revealed a story dating back to the English Civil War in relation to Hawkesley House and a visit to Longbridge from King Charles I.
The group was also introduced to Alan Taylor, 96 years old and president of Austin Village Society. Alan gave a talk about the history of the Austin Village and how it came to be transported from America to Longbridge.
The second walk took place in August 2016 was led by Longbridge resident and historian Steve Wright. Steve led a walk that explored areas of the former Longbridge Car Factory that were developed as part of the 'Shadow Factory Scheme' developed in the lead up to WW2 to help support the war effort.
Tran-si-tion International Conference, 2014
Tran-si-ion International Conference provided a platform to highlight best practice within regeneration schemes, urban design, strategic planning, placemaking and art within a social urban context.
The conference had been developed in response to the transitional complexity that Longbridge has experienced and is currently facing as it regenerates. For nearly a century the area was dominated physically, socially, economically and visually by one of the largest car factories in the world until its devastating collapse in 2005.
The Longbridge story is echoed across the world, with numerous cities and communities facing challenging economic and sector shifts, redevelopments, regeneration and master planning. Tran-si-tion provided an exciting showcase of innovative keynote speakers sharing their vision, approach and experience within an array of diverse urban projects through strategic planning, urban design, architecture, policy, technology innovation, large scale artistic interventions, placemaking, lighting and regeneration.
See a review of Tran-si-tion International Conference by Rebekah Bainbridge here.
Longbridge Light Festival 2014, Back to the Future
Longbridge Light Festival (LLF) was created as part of Longbridge Public Art Project by WERK in celebration of the amazing history of Longbridge and its bright future through light and art.
LLF 2014 was attended by over 5,500 visitors who participated within a full evening programme; 21 site specific light and art installations co commissioned by Claire Farrell (WERK) and LLF guest curators Chris Poolman and Elizabeth Rowe including 20 fringe events with film screenings by Flatpack Film Festival, interactive workshops and sci fi cycling routes.
'...the atmosphere and positivity that could be felt in Longbridge town centre was amazing. Visitors were fully immersed in a journey of exploration across the site; an exploration of technology, interaction, imagination, regeneration and community, whilst never forgetting the physical, social and cultural history of the factory that once stood there. The perfect welcome back to Longbridge.' - Read a full review of Longbridge Light Festival by Rebekah Bainbridge here.
LLF will return again in October 2016!
For more information please visit www.LongbridgeLightFestival.co.uk
Luke Perry: Memory Map & Workshops
To inform their concept development for the A38 roundabout commission, Redhawk Logistica and Luke Perry spent time based at Austin Sports & Social Club, exploring Longbridge’s rich heritage and getting to know residents. Luke Perry held a workshop at the Club where over 50 local residents, many of whom worked at Longbridge car factory, were involved in a process of storytelling and sharing their memories with the artist.
Perry held a similar workshop at the Pride of Longbridge event in Cofton Park, where he photographed visitors at the event asking them to write down what Longbridge means to them and what makes Longbridge a source of pride. The resulting photographs are both funny and moving. They also show the important role Longbridge played, and still plays, in people's lives.
People wrote things such as: “You were an assembler, a small part in a large machine”, “As a boy I slept to the sound of the hammers”, “You have to understand the enormity of the place” and “Often in the history of Longbridge it is the workforce that gets neglected and forgotten”. The artist found the workshops illuminating and inspiring. Perry said "for all of the strange and confused political history of the site, it is the ordinary working people that are remembered with most strength and fondness."
The workshops and stories gathered have informed the artist's work and as a direct result created the 'Memory Map' which was exhibited in the LPAP | SPACE.
Collective Collage Workshops
Redhawk Logistica facilitated a series of 5 ‘Collective Collages’ that explored various eras of car production at Longbridge. These were created with different groups of local residents via workshops at Austin Sports & Social Club, Northfield Library, LPAP | SPACE and Pride of Longbridge. The designs and methods of advertising used to promote models such as the Princess and the Metro were researched in these sessions, creating images of free association from which people could read personal, social and political narratives via the cars themselves.
The completed collages were exhibited in the LPAP | SPACE in 2014.
Photographic artist Stephen Burke led a series of photography walkshops with members of the Longbridge community in and around the area. These explored ideas of physical and conceptual boundaries alongside the changing physical identity of Longbridge.
We were pleased to be able to host the wonderful Knitted Knockers at the LPAP | SPACE in 2014, this meeting was the first formal get together for the charity members. Knitted Knockers is a charity that provides 100% cotton knitted prosthetic breasts to support ladies who have undergone mastectomies and lumpectomies.
To find out more about the charity and the great work they do please visit www.knittedknockersuk.com
'Wind' performance by Anna Schimkat
A partnership with Halle14 (Leipzig) created an open call opportunity for an artist based in Leipzig (Birmingham’s sister city) to create new work for Longbridge Light Festival in October 2014.
The commission was funded by Birmingham City University to support WERK’s ongoing EU sister city and international partnership development to create artistic and knowledge exchange opportunities.
Leipzig-based artist Anna Schimkat spent time in Longbridge, whilst being in residence with Grand Union gallery and studios in Digbeth throughout September and October. During this period the artist developed new work for Longbridge Light Festival, meeting local people and exploring Birmingham’s cultural offering and art community.
While in Longbridge Anna also performed 'Wind’. 'Wind' is a collection of recordings of wind from around the world which have been merged into a composition. The recordings have been made in Italy, Syria, Germany, France, Canada, Spain and Great Britain - the roaring interference noises are the same but the reference to their point of origin gets lost with abstraction. The primarily “unintentional noises” hover between musical arrangement and a collage of sound.
Listen to 'Wind' here.
See more of Anna’s work here - www.annaschimkat.de
Digital Longbridge Workshops
Artists-in-residence Juneau Projects have been working with community groups in Longbridge exploring the theme of ‘Digital Longbridge’. The artists have held workshops where participants have been able to make wearable items such as badges and pendants created through a laser cutter. Participants were asked to first draw their designs by hand and these were scanned into a computer. Participants then worked on them using design software to convert their drawings into a format the laser cutter could read.
The artists have been really impressed with the way people have risen to this challenge. This research will allow them to create a tool kit for people wishing to make their own designs for the project, whether they are a school, college, community organisation or individual. The artists are planning to set up a system that allows people to use the tool kit to submit their designs for laser cutting, then come to the Light Festival to collect their badge cut from wooden ply.
If you are part of a community group in Longbridge and would like to take part in a workshop please email info@WERK.org.uk for more information.