Directed by Olivier award-winning director Bijan Sheibani and designed by Rae Smith (War Horse).

This play span for a time frame of one day whereby we saw six barber shops each in a different city.

Barber Shop Chronicles is a heart-warming, hilarious and insightful new play that leaps from a barber shop in Peckham to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra over the course of a single day. With the main plot set in a barber shop, Peckham London.

It makes the case for the barber shop as a liminal space that unites the diaspora, as people breeze in to share stories, share a joke, share their love of Chelsea FC, and sometimes bear their souls.

For generations, African men have gathered in barber shops to discuss the world. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.

The play influenced my research by allowing room to hold a political platform for African men. It saw for each shop to become a newsroom, political platform, local hotspot, confession box, preacher-pulpit and football stadium.

The play worked well along side the work currently showcased at the Round House and is the centrepiece of ‘Fades, Braids & Identity’, a season ‘championing the work of black and brown artists’.

Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars, that can’t be seen, David Bowie, ‘Lazarus’, from Blackstar (2016)

Birmingham Body Image Blog 1:
Tristan Antoine (MA student, Birmingham City University)
Tristan Antoine
I’m excited to be starting a work placement today; for ten weeks at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery on Edmund Street. There probably aren’t so many 50 year olds doing work placements; this is though part of an MA in Innovation and Leadership in Museum Practice. I write this primarily to consolidate and reinforce my understanding, but share it to provide a second function towards engagement.
I met a lovely group in the ‘engagement team’ and attended two meetings. The first was a general team meeting which gave me something of an overview of roles and responsibilities and on-going projects, including: the ‘Big Store’ project – a development of a new collections store for Birmingham Museums Trust; the’ Inspire Youth’ art project – an open submission exhibition to be launched in February for a July display; discussions around a wellbeing event; an Asian youth culture exhibition; a project around the Pat Benson boxing academy; feedback on community consultation with regards to retro gaming.

And the second, a more focused meeting around the forthcoming ‘Birmingham Body Image’ (working title) project. I learned about the concept of gallery 15 at BMAG being a space for exploring and testing experience and interpretation. Story Lab is flexibly-structured community collaboration, a co-curated space. As well as the exhibition in the gallery space at the end of the project, Story Lab inhabits a range of community spaces as the process of consultation grows – schools, community groups and so on. It’s a space for shaking things up – traditional museum hierarchies, developing more diverse view-points which better reflect the ethnicities and cultures of the city of Birmingham today; a space for taking risks – trying out innovative approaches to contextualisation and provocation, capturing new stories and social histories, and testing with audiences. And if it is to achieve all of these, it will, I hope, be a place for making mistakes, because if we’re not making mistakes, we’re not growing and learning.

I hope to be pitching in where appropriate and useful. My understanding at the end of day 1 (and I might be wrong here), is that community groups are currently being identified. The spectrum of representation is important, and my experience in other realms suggests, given that spectrum, the methods and modes of engagement will need to be sensitive and tailored to the individuals.
We know the theme is Birmingham Body Image and the museum’s co-curators want a singular narrative to come from the community collaborators. Within this narrative will be considered all sorts of contexts I’m sure: historical, socio-economic, cultural heritage, gender, age, aesthetics, religion, politics, health…. Likewise, community co-curators will be given the opportunity to explore some of the collection, identify and select artefacts and write interpretive information for them.
For now, I’m spending my time reading the briefs and other associated documents to discover what my contributions might be and what I hope to benefit in terms of the wider MA course. I am hoping to encounter and promote demystification of practices in museums and galleries, the democratisation of them, and empowerment of the public. So best crack on!

Just trying to keep my customer satisfied’

‘Just trying to keep my customer satisfied’
Amy Thompson
So, we are now in week 8, and wow how time flies when you are having fun. This week we have started the third and final strand of our Innovative Museum Practice in Museums and Galleries module, where we are starting to look at Leadership and Heritage Site Management.

The week started off with Gurminder Kenth, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Manager, telling us about all things management at the museum. We covered everything from health and safety, and facilities, through to staff management and what qualities are vital to being an excellent museum manager. The lecture was then followed by, a short but sweet tour of all things customer service, by Pat Ferrins, Visitor Services Manager at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. She showed us the fundamentals of good customer service, as well as why customer service is so important to ensuring the survival of any cultural site no matter how big or small.

For Thursdays practical session we headed over to one of BMTs heritage sites, Blakesley Hall. This beautiful Tudor hall is one of the oldest buildings in Birmingham, and was built in 1590 by Richard Smallbroke. The session was hosted by Stephen Spencer, Museum Team Manager at Blakesley Hall, and we started off by meeting in the newly added conference room. This excellent addition to the hall, Stephen explained, had helped to ensure the hall could offer more corporate event space, with the conference room being an ideal area for wedding receptions, or for local community groups to meet.
‘…knowing your audience is crucial, heritage sites still rely on local people.’ – Stephen Spencer Museum Team Manager Blakesley Hall. After talking about all things facts and figures, we moved on to the tour of the hall.

Both the volunteers and staff have an immense amount of knowledge about the history of the hall, covering everything from its Tudor beginnings, up to more recent history including the halls links to World War I. With Stephen showing us a Word War I exhibition he curated that has been running in one of the upstairs rooms in the hall for the past three years. For the display Blakesley Hall collaborated with the Imperial War museum to gather images and items to showcase the history of the local area.

Story telling through the history of Blakesley Hall is a crucial part of visitors connecting to the hall, and therefore feeling a sense of ownership to the history of the building. This is why the hall runs numerous large events throughout the year including re-enactment days, falconry day, apple picking day, as well as the Ale Festival, Plague and Pestilence for Halloween and a wide range of Christmas events. These events not only showcase the amazing building that is Blakesley hall to a wider audience, but also its history to local people, as well as providing a platform for local businesses.

Partnerships with local community libraries, groups, schools and organisations allows Blakesley to contribute to its surrounding community, and in turn enables local people to have a say in the development of the hall. To ensure the building is accessible for all a family room is being created within the hall. This will be aimed at younger children, and will provide traditional Tudor games, as well as the chance to dress-up, and watch videos about the history of the hall. It is hoped this extra facility will make it easier for families with younger children to access the hall, and to learn about its history. Over 120 surveys were filled out by visitors at the hall to help inform the process of the development of a family room within Blakesley hall.

Another important part of Blakesley hall is its grounds, which are free for the public to visit. They offer a serene, tranquil environment in the heart of a suburban area of Birmingham. I can imagine it would be a lovely place to relax on a warm summers day and to forget about the city which surrounds you.

As well as the grounds being free, the site also hosts regular free access days to the hall, and these are held at key times throughout the year. With a large section of the population living in surrounding areas being from lower socio-economic groups, it is extremely important to ensure free days remain at Blakesley as they are a vital part of Blakesley hall remaining connected to its local community.
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The Times They Are A Changin

Print-Media-Table-SpreadAltered-PerspectivesShifted-DimensionsWeek 7 of our ILMP has focused on understanding Birmingham Museum Trust’s diverse audiences. Exploring engagement methods that trigger public visits and the importance of nurturing visitor loyalty whilst being inclusive to all. Which is no mean feat in a city as wonderfully diverse as Birmingham (1.1 million citizens) in many ways a microcosm of the world. During our Monday session Janine Eason, BMT Director of Engagement provided us with a thorough overview of current demographic visitor data, encouraging statistical debate and highlighting positive trends, shortfalls in target audience reach such as C2DE families, BAME and 16-24s participation. Growing and Diversifying Audiences is part of BMTs five strategic aims. Every visitor counts with bench mark data regularly collected and analysed throughout the year to ensure that improvements in visitor diversity within the defined target groups are being met. Generally the goal is for a 50/50 split of visitors from inside/outside of the city boundary. Peoples individual needs, reasons for visiting Birmingham museums are diverse; from the family audience wanting a quality day out, school trips, international culture vultures, on the flyers to cultural enthusiasts (60-70% visitor share). Interestingly Birmingham is the fastest growing Tourist city in the UK, with 36 million tourists per year, a lucrative market which BMT actively markets too and can capitalise upon still further with its world class collection. It’s essential not to stereotype the visitor profile, but understanding audience segments is useful in growing visitor appeal within poorly represented groups. I was surprised to learn that Trip Advisor reviews only influences 2% of BMT visitors, for other less established city based attractions, I am sure it’s much higher. BMTs digital engagement reach is significant with over 145,000 followers across BMTs varied social media channels. The key focus of BMT social media is relationship building, individual teams are allowed to passionately share what they are working on, unrestricted by the desire for a uniform corporate voice; which would inhibit perceived authenticity and the special online connection with the public.
During Thursdays practical session led by Amanda & Cherelle (BMTs marketing officers) we started with an open discussion about key audiences and why and how they are drawn to Birmingham Museums. An array of targeted BMT print Ads and marketing material had been sprayed across the meeting room table for us to analyse and comment upon. Commissioned Ads need to be mindfully designed with their target audience in mind, with careful consideration given to wording, font type, visual composition to project just the right call to action. BMT Ads feature in mainstream and niche publications. In order to imagine the visitor experience from another person’s perspective we were each handed strips of paper with a unique visitor profile and then engaged in an ‘Audience Walk’ around BMAG stopping in 6 key spaces. As a group this simple collaborative audience empathy tool exercise generated some interesting new shared insights which could be used in the future to optimise the BMAG visitor experience for specific audiences and potentially increase trust revenue streams. Much like a shopping centre, individual BMAG galleries/spaces offering will inevitably appeal more to certain individuals sensibilities, akin to shops, especially based on the way they present their wares. Within the museum field and especially at BMT imaginatively catering for a diverse audience is a must, there can never be a one model fits all approach. Hence the particular focus on co-production within BMAG gallery spaces, especially the innovative new ‘Story Lab’ gallery funded by ACE that we all explored, with open invites for visitors to air their views through scribble walls, online conversation on twitter…

All the Small Things

Charoltte BranaghanWe are in week 6 now and the time appears to be going so very fast. We spent most of the week at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and had a focus on Interpretation and content development, something I personally am very interested in. With BMT as the focus for our primary sources of evidence, it was interesting to see how development occurs and the long this process it takes to complete. The Interpretation of an object can be swayed a certain way depending on how the visitor choses to take that information in, as well as the designers way of getting it across. For BMT itself, it takes pride in being able to allow numerous different levels of interpretation in most of its galleries. For instance, if we take the Staffordshire Hoard Gallery there are videos, object handling, basic texts etc. Even the structure and architecture of the room affected the way in which visitors absorb information. Our seminars are always filled with discussion and a point made on Thursday by Katie, our lecturer, made me think. How can smaller institutions, with far less funding, successfully interpret their exhibits in a meaningful manner with only basic text and display cases. Does this then go on to affect visitor numbers and exhibit popularity? This is definitely something I plan to look in to in greater detail for my larger essay this term, at least one component of it anyway. Personally I also quite like the idea of BMT using different organisations such as ‘Dust Kickers’ to test out their existing exhibits and find out how they can develop their interpretation methods even further. When I was younger it was very ‘uncool’ to like history but it is so exciting to see this being flipped upside down and younger generations taking an active role in our cultures representation. In all it has been a very interesting week and everything I have learnt has really helped me to understand the depth that is needed for almost all elements in an exhibit.

Do not go gentle into that goodnight

Week 5 of the course saw us being taught about learning and programming methods employed by museums, especially BMT, as well as education in the cultural sector in general. It was interesting to see how museum educational processes had advanced since I was in primary school when it was common to simply just draw or describe an object presented by a museum. Children nowadays have a much more immersive experience where they are able to handle certain objects, photograph them and even catalogue them; making children seem as if they were part of the museum staff. You would hope this would give children a deeper understanding of museum roles as well as object histories, whilst applying real world practicalities, a key part of modern learning. One thing in particular that Andrew, who led our session, said stood out to me. It related to the Faith Galleries at BMAG, in that it can hopefully teach children to be more understanding or appreciative of other cultures, that there are other ways to view life. That surely is education in a nutshell, to make the world a more understandable place.
I was also lucky enough to experience a talk from artist/curator Gavin Wade from the Eastside Projects in Digbeth. His approach to art, bookmaking and printing really opened my eyes to ways of art making that I had not really considered before. The idea of creating something tangible for an audience, really resonated with me and has somewhat inspired me for my curatorial module. It has led me to look at the works of Hans Peter Feldman who’s style of photography displays are intriguing, as well as the likes of 60s/70s news magazine and furniture catalogues which represent an aesthetic that has always captured my imagination from a graphical point of view. These are areas of interest I will certainly pursue in one of my upcoming projects of creating a proposal for an exhibition.

Ryan Bagnall

Don’t let me hear you say life’s taking you nowhere, angel

Tristan Antoine, October 2017: Blog: Museums and galleries I have visited:

Three weeks into the course it is inevitable that one looks to past experience to make sense of current learning. Almost as if starting a new job, an audit, or period of reflection is useful to me; consolidating existing knowledge and understanding and identifying some of the opportunities for development. I have had cause to be reminded of museums and galleries I have been to -some I had forgotten about. This list is hopefully the first instalment of what will, I hope, eventually be a comprehensive record of my gallery/museum experience world-wide. This process not only took longer than I imagined, but also brought back many memories of experiences, shows and even individual exhibits. Interestingly, unlike many UK kids today who have some experience of museums whilst at school, I don’t remember going into a gallery or museum before my foundation course. Some on the list I (have, or) do visit often, others, just once and it can stay that way! But why? What was it about those one-off experiences that I didn’t consider returning? The list exposes areas of the UK that I haven’t explored so much or at all; I doubt it is because there are no museums/galleries in these areas?

North West Tate Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, Merseyside Maritime Museum, International Slavery Museum, Manchester City Art Gallery, Manchester Museum, Whitworth Art Gallery, Museum of Science & Industry, People’s History Museum, Salford Museum & Art Gallery, The Lowry

Yorkshire – York Castle Museum, York Art Gallery, National Railways Museum, Royal Armouries, Leeds, National Media Museum Bradford, Cartwright Hall Art Gallery Bradford, Bradford One Gallery, Salts Mill, Bradford Industrial Museum, Leeds Industrial Museum Armley Mills, Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute, National Coal Mining Museum, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Hepworth Gallery Wakefield, Bronte Parsonage, Jorvick Viking Centre, Graves Art Gallery Sheffield, Millennium Gallery Sheffield, Ferens Art Gallery Hull, Eureka! Halifax, Cliffe Castle Museum Keighley, Thackray Medical Museum Leeds, Kirkstall Abbey & Abbey House Museum Leeds, Eden Camp Museum Maltby, Leeds City Museum, Hull Maritime Museum, The Deep Hull, Doncaster Museum & Gallery, Bolling Hall Bradford, Royal Pump Rooms Harrogate, Manor House Art Gallery and Museum Ilkley, Temple Newsam Leeds, Leeds Discovery Centre, Craft Centre & Design Gallery Leeds, Ingleborough Museum, Peace Museum Bradford, Smith Art Gallery Brighouse, Bankfield Museum Halifax, Mercer Art Gallery Harrogate, Wilberforce House Museum, Knaresborough Castle & Museum, Bracken Hall, Skipton Castle, East Riddlesden Hall, Harewood House, Horsforth Village Museum, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Lotherton Hall, Nostell Priory, Rievaulx Abbey, Bolton Abbey, Robin Hood’s Bay and Fylingdales Museum, Sewerby Hall Museum and Art Gallery, Whitby Abbey, Bolton Castle Wensleydale,

Tyne & Wear – Laing Art Gallery Newcastle, Shipley Art Gallery Gateshead, Hatton Gallery Newcastle, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art Gateshead, Segedunum Wallsend, Livivng Museum of The North Beamish, Alnwick castle, Housesteads Roman Fort

Midlands – Birmingham City Museum & Art Gallery, Black Country Living Museum, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Wolverhampton Art Gallery, Thinktank Birmingham, Museum of The Jewellery Quarter Birmingham, Aston Hall, Ikon Gallery Birmingham, Barber Institute of Fine Art Birmingham, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Derby Museum & Art Gallery, Nottingham Contemporary, New Walk Museum Leicester, Warwick Castle, Snibston Discovery Museum, Hardwick Hall, Royal Air Force Museum, Cosford, Worcester Museum & Art Gallery, The Commandery Worcester, Royal Worcester Pottery Museum, Kidderminster Carpet Museum, Harvington Hall, Worcester County Museum & Hartlebury Castle, Dudmaston Hall, Worcester Cathedral, Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings, Compton Verney, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum Coventry, Mead Gallery Warwick Arts Centre, Shrewsbury Castle & Museum & Art Gallery, Potteries Museum & Art Gallery Stoke-on-Trent, Ruskin Glass Centre Stourbridge, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Museum of The Gorge Ironbridge, MAD Museum Stratford, Kidderminster Railway Museum, Ironbridge Open Air Museum of Sculpture, Leamington Art Gallery and Museum, Ludlow Museum, Ludlow castle, Museum of The Staffordshire Yeomanry Museums Collections Centre, Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery, The Worcestershire Yeomanry Cavalry Museum, Worcestershire Regiment Museum

East – Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Stained Glass Museum Ely, Ely Museum

South East – Royal Pavilion Brighton, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Museum of Eton Life, National Museum of The Royal Navy Portsmouth, Mary Rose Museum, HMS Victory, Osborne House Isle of Wight,

South West – Museum of Oxford, Bodlian Library Oxford, Ashmolean Museum Oxford, Modern Art Oxford, Pitt Rivers Museum, Chiltern Sculpture Park, Blenheim Palace, Fashion Museum & Assembly Rooms Bath, Roman Baths Museum, No. 1 Royal Crescent Bath, Cotswold Motoring Museum, Gloucester City Museum & Art Gallery, The Waterways Museum, Gloucester, Poole Museum & History Centre, The Poole Pottery, Tate St Ives, Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture garden St. Ives, Mariners’ Gallery St. Ives, Axe Valley Heritage Museum Seaton, Hereford Cathedral, Arnolfini Gallery Bristol, Winchester Cathedral, Bloxham Village Museum, Berkley Castle, Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum

London – Banqueting House Whitehall, Barbican Art Gallery, British Library, British Museum, Tate Britain, Tate Modern, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Photographers Gallery, Museum of London, Courtauld institute, Victoria & Albert Museum, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Royal London Hospital Museum, St Thomas’ Operating Theatre & Herb Garret, Dulwich Picture Gallery, Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, Sir John Sloane Museum, Freud Museum, Geffrye Museum, Guildhall Art Gallery, Hayward Gallery, Horniman Museum, Huntarian Museum, Mall Galleries, Institute of Contemporary Art, Museum of The Order of St. John, Merton Abbey Mills, Royal College of Physicians Museum, Royal Museums Greenwich, Royal Maritime Museum, The Queen’s house, Kew Palace and Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, The Design Museum, The Saatchi Gallery, The Foundling Museum, Wallace Collection, Sion Park & House, Petrie Museum of Egyptology, Serpentine Gallery, Bankside Gallery, Royal Festival Hall, White Cube, Newport Street Gallery, Imperial War Museum, V&A Museum of Childhood, London Transport Museum, V&A Theatre Museum, Pollock’s Toy Theatre Museum, Wellcome Collection, Bethlem Royal Hospital Archives and Museum, Cutty Sark, Kenwood House (Iveagh Bequest), Osterley Park House, Royal Academy of Arts, The Clink Museum,

Scotland – Aberdeen Art Gallery, Robert Burns House Dumfries, John Paul Jones Birthplace Museum Kirkbean, Gracefield Arts Centre Dumfries, Dumfries & Galloway Museum, RSS Discovery Point Dundee, McManus Gallery & Museum Dundee, Science Museum Dundee, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Duncan of Jordanston Galleries, Broughty Castle & Museum, The Grey House (Macintosh) Dunbarton, City Arts Centre Edinburgh, Museum of Edinburgh, National Portrait Gallery Scotland Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery Edinburgh, West Highland museum Fort William, Centre for Contemporary Arts Glasgow, Museum of Modern Art Glasgow, Burrell Collection Pollock, Glencoe Folk Museum, Iona Heritage Centre, Iona Abbey, Sterling Castle, Scone Castle, Glamis Castle, Black Watch Castle & Museum Perth, Blair Athol Castle, Glasgow School of Art, Tennament House Glasgow, Transmission Gallery Glasgow, Transport museum Glasgow, Kelvingrove Museum & Art Gallery, Kelvin Hall Glasgow, Mull Museum, Ullapool Museum, Hunterian Museum Glasgow, Macintosh House Glasgow, Perth Museum, Fergusson Art Gallery Perth, People’s Palace Glasgow, St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art Glasgow, Verdant Works Dundee, Sterling Smith Art Gallery, Dean Gallery Edinburgh, McLellen Galleries, MacRobert Arts Centre Sterling, Tramway Arts Centre Glasgow, Inverary Jail, Isle of Arran Heritage Museum, Scotland Street School Museum Glasgow,

Wales – National Slate Museum, National Museum of Art Cardiff,
Tristan Antoine

People are People

I started Week 2 by engaging myself in active group discussion about our thoughts on why people take their time to visit Museums. That was the easy part, as we all share a passion and enthusiasm for the sector but we also thought through the perspectives of audiences who would be reluctant to visit and their reasoning. This helped us gain a basic understanding of the kind of issues that can arise from working in such an environment. In our first lecture, I learned about the various types of museums and how their purpose can influence the contents of their collection. More importantly, I became aware of the huge role that the audience plays and their increasing contribution to the exhibitions.

To finish off the week, we had the pleasure of a brief tour with the conservation team. It’s always fascinating to have a clear idea of the work that they undertake, from a practical point of view of seeing material deterioration first hand and handling some of the less delicate items. It really became clear how vital the role is that this team plays in the general upkeep of the environment and overall, I am looking forward to discovering more in week 3.
Raegan Shaw