Midlands Modern from 1930 to 1980

Design, and Manufacturing in the Midlands

7th November – 14th January


Swirl Design – part of the Fiestaware range manufactured by Chance Glass of Smethwick

A showcase of products manufactured by Midlands based companies working with significant designers during the period from 1930 to 1980, highlighting innovative and modernist design. The show will celebrate this Mid-century period – a period during which the Midlands maintained its reputation as ‘the workshop of the world’.

Midlands Modern will contain work from a number of different disciplines, such as lighting, glass, ceramics and furniture. Highlighting and showcasing the breadth of manufacturing in the Midlands.

Featuring in the exhibition is the work of Lady Margaret Casson; an architect, designer and photographer. Margaret Casson had remarkable talent. She studied at the Bartlett School of Architecture University College, London during the 1930s and was one of the few women on the architectural design course at the time. Casson went on to have an accomplished career as an architect and in a number of other design related fields.

She collaborated with Chance Glass in Smethwick to create one of their most well-known and highly collectable patterns – Night Sky (1957). Along with patterns such as Swirl (1955) and Calypto (1959), as part of their ‘Fiestaware’ range during the 50’s. Fiestaware was Chance’s most successful creation: mass produced and affordable glassware for the domestic market.

 “This glassware was produced flat-rolled sheet glass with decorative screen- and transfer-prints applied prior to it being formed to shape, by reheating and slumping


Night Sky has a clear modernist vibe, with the angular, minimal silk transfers forming what seems like constellations, with golden gilding adorning the rims of the glassware. We are looking forward to exhibiting some these exquisite modernist pieces in collaboration with the Glass Museum in Stourbridge.

Returning to Parkside Gallery will be the works of Tibor Reich, one of the 20th century’s most celebrated textile designers – who notably livened up Post-war Britain with his taste in bright and vividly coloured textiles. Reich fled from war-torn Hungary in 1937 to study textiles at Leeds University. After the completion of his studies he bought a 19th Century cotton mill in Stratford – upon – Avon and established Tibor Ltd. It is more famously known as the Clifford Mill, and it is where Tibor established his career in producing and designing woven and printed textiles, ceramics, tiles and rugs.

“Reich freed colour from the pre-war 2D woven textile, and reimagined it in a revolutionary new way of weaving, that ‘brought a pattern out of texture”

Reich, Tibor (1959). “Responsibility of the Designer To-Day”. Journal of Textile Institute.

Also returning to Parkside Gallery are Brinton’s Carpets, who began manufacturing their world-renowned carpet designs in 1783, in Kidderminster. A town that is inextricably linked to the carpet manufacturing industry, and known at one point as the ‘Woven Carpet Capital of the World’.

Brinton’s market leading modernist design the ‘Bell Twist’ went into manufacturing in 1965, and celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year. The design is still a popular British domestic textile to this day, down to the large variety of shades on offer and the strong wool-rich yarn used to create the famed permanent twist. This ensures that the textile can withstand the rigours of family life.

In 1993, Britons Bell twist carpets were transformed in collaboration with notorious Punk designer Vivienne Westwood. She produced eccentric twists on traditional and modernist fashion trends – proving the versatility of Brinton’s Carpets. This collection was part of Brinton’s first advertising campaign, with Vivienne Westwood’s iconic carpet dresses at the forefront. Westwood’s’ yellow floral carpet ball gown stands in the Brinton’s office in Kidderminster to this day.

Amongst a number of other disciplines, Midlands Modern highlights the contribution of the Midlands to Modernist and Contemporary design history, championing the midlands as a creative hub that is still just as relevant today.

Midlands Modern will be on show from the 7th November untill  the 14th January. You can follow the progress of the show on the Parkside Gallery Blog and our related social media:







Top ten places and events to visit in Birmingham in the coming weeks:

The new academic year is upon us with tens of thousands of students from around the globe descending on Birmingham. We have compiled a short list containing some of the events being held around the city including some of the best places to visit in your first few weeks in the city.

  1. Digbeth Dining Club is always a great start when visiting Birmingham. These events held around the city every Friday offering a range of street food from around the world. At the end of every month there is a street closure party. Here the traders from throughout the month come together for a mash up of cultural flavours.digbeth-dining-club
  2. Eastside Projects is a free gallery space that creates public art. Starting on the 1st of October they will be running a new production show titled ‘Prototyping, Discovering, and Analysing’.  This is the second exhibition in an evolving series and will contain new sculptures made in and around Birmingham and Kingswinford. It will contain new works by Alice Channer, Nicholas Deshayes, Linda Brothwell and Des Hughes. The show will feature everything from typography, models of live/work space for cultural workers and more.  The show will take place from 1st October 2016 and will run through 10th
  3. Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is located in the heart of the city and always has various events that can be attended almost daily. There are often guided tours at weekends along with various lunch time music concerts. We suggest checking out the Abbeyfield’s Golden Gallery: Art and Soul exhibition. The show is currently ongoing till the 14th of October and highlights the therapeutic benefits art brings to older people. You can find out more about the Abbeyfield’s exhibition and other events via the galleries ‘what’s on’ page.Once you have taken in the breadth and depth of the museum and galleries, there is a traditional Edwardian tea room to relax and recuperate in.edwardian-tea-rooms
  4. Vivid Projects in Digbeth is part of the core spaces in Minerva Works. The space is curator-led and explores all forms of media arts practice. This includes, moving image, performance, digital and interdisciplinary artistic research. The space hold regular events including a new event being held on 22nd September 2016 titled ‘MAPPLETHORPE: LOOK AT THE PICTURES + POP UP POLAROIDS’. The will be a workshop between 7pm and 8pm where you can create Polaroid’s using various techniques used by Mapplethorpe. Following the workshop, a screening will take place and will feature a documentary on Mapplethorpe’s life including unique and unprecedented access to his work.stryx
  5. Stryx is also another great space to see exhibitions based in Minerva Works in the heart of Digbeth. Currently the space is running an exhibition titled ‘Short Circuit’ and features a touring group show consisting of nine new media artists and collectives, and devised by independent curator, Aly Grimes. The project’s structure aims to investigate new ways that exhibition spaces can present touring shows in the Digital Age and will manifest as a highly experimental research project susceptible to failure. It might glitch, trip, malfunction or ‘short circuit’. The exhibition is open Thursday – Saturday between 12pm and 4pm and runs till the 29th October 2016. Stryx will also be involved in a public talk at the Ikon Gallery in association with New Art West Midland ‘Curator Bursary Award. Juneau Projects will also be holding an augmented reality workshop as part of Digbeth’s First Friday on the 7th October 2016.rbsa                                          ‘Dave Walton RBSA’
  6. The Royal Society of Artists (RBSA) in Brook Street is the perfect opportunity to take in some exhibitions while exploring the city’s Jewellery Quarter. There is plenty to see between now and the 8th October 2016. The Wunderlust Craft Exhibition is currently ongoing till 24th David Walton is also exhibiting his work in ‘Portrait Study,   solo exhibition runs till the 1st October 2016. Another solo exhibition currently running till the 8th October is Jasmina Ajzenkol work with sculpture and clay based around the marine theme. Jasmina will also be holding a demonstration event on the final day that visitors can participate in.
  7. MAC Birmingham will be holding a new exhibition from Peter Kennard titled ‘Off Message’. Regarded as Britain’s most important political artists over the last 50 years, his work has become iconic on placards and banners used by activist groups.  His photomontages have been published extensively in newspapers and magazines around the globe. ‘Off Message’ is a retrospective of the artist’s work between 1968 and 2016. It will include some of his iconic photomontages include collaborative works with other artist such as Cat Phillips and Banksy. The exhibition is being curated by Craig Ashley and opens on the 24th of September, continuing till the 27th November 2016.  Opening hours are Tuesday till Saturday between 11am and 6pm.daddiescropped
  8. If you venture further into the city and head into the Jewellery Quarter you will find the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter. The perfectly preserved jewellery workshop is a hub for many various regular events. The museum holds regular tours around the surrounding areas in addition to regular workshops such as silver ring and bangle crafting. Currently there is an ongoing exhibition running till the end of the year titled ‘Collecting Birmingham: Stories that should be shared’. It is the first of four exhibition containing stories from local people in Ladywood, Aston, Soho and Nechells areas. The exhibition is exploring how working lives for both men and women have changed over the last 60 years and features various objects and also interviews from over the years. It provides and unique opportunity to look back into the part of what is now a thriving part of Birmingham. The exhibition is open from Tuesday till Saturday between 10:30am through to 5pm. There is also a Halloween spooktacular ghost walk being held on the 29th October. tempest-1800wx900h-new-990x495
  9. This year marks 400 years of William Shakespeare. The Birmingham Hippodrome will be involved in the celebrations with a special performance being held between the 1st and 8th October 2016. The Birmingham Royal Ballet will be performing a full length ballet performance of ‘The Tempest’. Director David Bintley promises a retelling of ‘The Tempest’ that features eye-catching stagecraft, mesmerising puppetry and breath taking flying.
  10. As part of the ‘Birmingham’s Film Knight’ exhibition, Parkside Gallery are putting on a special screening of ‘The Blue Lamp’ produced by legendary British film producer Sir Michael Balcon. This special screening will take place on the 29th September 2016 and is a great opportunity to see this classic movie. It’s also the perfect opportunity to explore the exhibition about Michael Balcons work, life and his contribution to the British Film Industry. There is also a brief talk from co-curator Professor Roger Shannon before the screening. It is set to provide insightful context on what his work has meant for the industry. You can book tickets for screening via our Eventbrite pagethe-blue-lamp

These are some of our highlights on events and venues to visit in Birmingham. If you have further suggestions of further events, please let us know via our Facebook and Twitter pages and we will share them too.

6 things you should know about Sir Michael Balcon, Birmingham’s Film Knight:

6 Things you should know about Sir Michael Balcon, Birmingham’s Film Knight:

 Birmingham born Sir Michael Balcon (1896-1977) is featuring in a brand new exhibition at the Parkside gallery. The exhibition is dedicated to the film producer whose work had a huge impact upon the British film industry for over half a century, he was knighted for his contribution to British cinema in 1948.


Here are six things you should know about the legendary film producer:

  1. Sir Michael Balcon helped create the original BAFTA awards. Balcons’ grandson Daniel Day Lewis has won the BAFTA award for best actor four times along with an three Oscars.
  2. Balcons’ filmography features over 300 films including cult classics such as BAFTA award winning The Blue Lamp and Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, Whiskey Galore and Kind Hearts Coronets.
  3. Birmingham born Balcon would make references to his child hood city. In the Blue Lamp, the hero protagonists PC George Dixon was named after the school he attended in Birmingham.
  4. Balcon was an integral part of the British Film Institute (BFI) and helped set up the Experimental Film Fund in the 50’s. The fund has since become part of the BFI’s regular funding for British Film Projects.
  5. Balcons granddaughter, Tasmin Day-Lewis followed her grandfather’s footsteps and has also directed and produced movies. Her work includes Private Wound (1996), The Healing Arts (1986) and The Cat and the Canary (1978).
  6. The Blue Lamp (1950) which featured Dirk Bogarde and Jack Warner won a BAFTA for the best British movie in that same year. This film was produced by Sir Michael Balcon and directed by Basil Dearden.

“Birmingham’s Film Knight – Michael Balcon” exhibition is set to open to the public in the gallery space on Monday 12th September and will continue till the 21st of October 2016.

Jesse Bruton at Ikon Gallery

Jesse Bruton is one of the founding members of the IKON Gallery and a Birmingham College of Art Graduate and former lecturer. This stunning retrospective looks back on Bruton’s development of his artistic practice from 1950s through to its end in 1972 – when Bruton turned to painting conservation.


Jesse Bruton, Devil’s Bowl (c.1965). Oil on canvas. Image courtesy of the artist

Bruton studied at the previously known Birmingham College of Art now Birmingham School of Art, where he met the artists David Prentice, Robert Groves and and Sylvani Merilion. Who along with Angus Skene, would go on to establish the critically acclaimed IKON Gallery. Their paths crossed by mere chance, as in 1963 Skene purchased one of David Prentices’ early works for £25 – humorously delivered to Skene’s house in Selly Oak, strapped to the side of his Vespa Scooter. They all felt a lack of support for contemporary art or artist from the leading galleries at the time, and out of that discontent – the idea of the IKON gallery was born.

Jesse Bruton was “preoccupied with the nature of travel” and was greatly influenced by landscape. Amongst these were the Spanish landscapes from his scholarship days, the Dutch townscapes, the Welsh mountain and Pembrokeshire coastal landscapes. Bruton worked from drawings and photographs of particular places he had visited, he translated the slopes and jagged rocks through a very minimal colour palette.

These travels can be seen within his paintings, at his current solo show at IKON Gallery, which runs until 11th September 2016. The show opens with a number of paintings that show Bruton’s brief interest in colour, and how he combined its use with multiple textures to create his early landscape works. Two of his earliest sketchbooks are shown, these prove to be the most intimate pieces as you feel closer to the artist at work.

“I wasn’t particularly interested in colour. I wanted to limit the formal language I was using – to work tonally gradating from black to white, leaching out the medium from the paint in order to enhance a variety of textures. I also felt that colour got in the way of describing the structure of the landscape …”

Compared with the previous paintings, Bruton’s later works show a shift into a minimal colour palette and composition. He depicts sloping and meandering thick white lines that cut through the black of the background, fading in and out of white, grey and black.These works were produced after the long – distance driving that Bruton undertook. They convey Bruton’s personal experience of his journeys, and a sense of isolation can be felt through the forms that Bruton has chosen, the black backgrounds of multiple paintings seem to engulf the seemingly fragile, white calligraphic forms.

The exhibition runs till 11th September and there is a full colour catalogue available in the IKON’s Gallery shop.

Jesse Bruton and Pamela Scott Wilkie in conversation with Jonathan Watkins, Thursday 8th September, 6-7.30pm – FREE

This event is an opportunity for you to hear from the artists themselves, in conversation with current IKON Gallery Director Jonathan Watkins. They discuss the earliest memories they have of the IKON gallery and their shared interest in journeys and how they represent them in their artistic practices.

The Birmingham Big Art Project voting is underway

The city of Birmingham is set to undergo a massive change in future with the development of the HS2 high speed rail line. The project is a massive undertaking that will see renewed growth within the city. While this will develop the accessibility of trade and business, it provides the perfect opportunity for Birmingham to mark the occasion with its unique style and commitment to public art.


The Birmingham Big Art project was set up to commission an iconic piece of public art that will help Birmingham’s international recognition and place the city on the world’s cultural map. The aim is to build upon the new developments within the city and provide a lasting legacy that encourages civic pride through the diverse communities in the city using public art.


The project is set to cost around £2 million pounds and will also build upon Birmingham’s already rich culture in industry, design and art. It will be the centre piece of the new Curzon Street development and more importantly the final art piece will be decided upon by the residents of Birmingham.

As we have seen with the example of the Angel of the North, public art can be a powerful symbol for a community and city. I am happy to hear that Birmingham is encouraging the public to help raise funds for the Birmingham Big Art Project. 

Empowering citizens through culture is a positive way of engaging the local community.  Whether large or small, I hope Birmingham picks a work that will make the public proud, stand the test of time and act as a magnet for cultural tourism. 

I hope it also inspires other artists to create new works.”

Androulla Vassiliou

Europe’s Former Culture Commissioner

In May 2015, land was secured by the council and a shortlist of artists were selected to submit their ideas. A year later and the ideas where turned into full 3D models and placed on show as part of the public consultation process. The five artists, their ideas and proposals are as follows:

1: Susan Philipsz : ‘Station Clock’

Station clock is proposed as a aural clock that is designed to represent the testament to time covering past, present and future. The clock comprises 12 digits that represent each of the twelve tones on the musical scale. Sounds will be produced in conjunction and collaboration with Birmingham City University Conservatoire. Each tone changes in volume depending of the time of day such as the loudest chorus being played at midday.


Born in Glasgow in 1965, Susan Philipsz live and works in Berlin. Her work involves exploring the psychological and sculptural potential of sound. Susan has had many exhibits displayed over the last last few years including the Museum of Modern Art in Chicago in 2011 and Tate Britain in London 2015.

2: Roger Hiorns : ‘As yet untitled’

The ‘As yet untitled’ submission from Roger Hiorns proposes a landscape of transformed steam and locomotive engines. The engines will sit amongst a scattered collection of stone car engines to provide contract. Exteriors of the trains engines and carriages will be set to resemble human skin. The idea is proposed as a symbol of shaping our sexual and physical identities by and through the development of technology.


Roger Hiorns was born in Birmingham in 1975 but lives and works in London. Hiorns work combines material to transform objects and urban situations. Hiorns has displayed some of his past exhibits have be displayed in the Rudolfinum in Prague 2015 and The Art Institue of Chicago in 2010 along with many other galleries around the world. In 2009, his installation ‘Seizure’ was nominated for the Turner Prize award.

3: Heather and Ivan Morrison: ‘Blue Print for Happiness’

Heather and Ivans Blue Print proposal is derived from the perfect colliding cuboid geometries created in minerals beneath the earth. The design is to provide intricate gleaming facets representing the many layers of Birmingham’s long history into a new geometry. The sculpture serves as a metaphor for the potential of Birmingham and its statement of intent to become a city of the future in a world full of constant change.


Heather was born in 1973 in Desborough while Ivan was born in Instanbul in 1974. They both live and work in Herefordshire and craft works designed for public spaces. Their work revolves around active engagment covering everything from story telling to histories, sites, material and processes. In recent years their work has be placed on display at the Whitechapel Gallery in London along with the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and Tate Modern in London.

4: Brian Griffiths:  ‘Small Giants’

Giffiths’ sculpture is based within jewellery and designed to be worn by the city of Birmingham and its people. The proposal includes working within select groups in the jewellery quarter to produce a series of additional bespoke pieces that would be made available to the public to compliment the sculptures display.


Born in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1968, Brian lives and works within London. Brian’s sculptures value the narrative and overblown theatricality through the use of everyday objects.  His work has been exhibited far and wide including at the Galeria Luisa Strina in Sao Paulo, Brazil along with being part of the Hayway Touring Exhibition in 2011.

5: Keith Wilson: ‘Industrial Revolution’

The industrial revolution proposal by Wilson involves a slow moving public sculpture that over a ten year period will travel from one end of the Eastside City Park through to the other. The idea is to represent Birmingham’s history of labour and the transportation of materials  in a reinvented post-industrial ‘art’ sculpture that carries layers of rich culture within its design.


Keith Wilson was born in Birmingham in 1965 but now lives and works from New York, USA. Wilson’s sculptures are designed to be playful while being imbued with domestic and industrial resonance. Wilson’s exhibitions have been displayed in galleries across London including the Milch Gallery and the Camden Arts Centre. He has also been involved with wider projects such as the Hayward project space in London.

Voting is open to members of the public who visit the exhibition at Millennium Point. Forms are available on site and also provide an opportunity to feedback to the artists directly via the comments box. The aim is to unveil the winner in early 2017 with a view to having the piece commissioned and built for 2018.

You can also follow the progress of the project via the Birmingham Big Art Project’s  website and keep up with the latest developments via the projects twitter account @bigartproject



Big Birmingham Art Project from Eastside Projects on Vimeo.

Sourced: The Birmingham Big Art Project , Millennium Point

New Designers 2016 show, as it happened

The New Designers exhibition show is held every year and is a great opportunity for the arts and design community to come together and show their ideas.

Birmingham City University sent four groups of graduates to this year’s New Designers show. This included the school of Architecture and Design, Jewellery, Visual Communication and Fashion and Textiles.

Over the course of the two weeks the various BCU graduates showcased their work and ideas, networked and even won some highly coveted awards.


The experience overall from the students and the faculty has been great and also an important step in the development of the students and connecting with others.


Many of the students found this connection along with viewing others works to serve as an inspiration for their own future projects.

You can see more of the student’s content via twitter @BCU_Arts or on Facebook page.

You can see more  of the students content @BCU_Arts or on our Facebook page.

New Birmingham Arts Map

The end of July sees the release of the new Birmingham Art Map. The map will include the latest exhibition and event details from 1st August until 31st October. The map covers the many events and exhibitions held in venues within the greater Birmingham area and will include listings for our very own Parkside Gallery.

Arts map Capture

Look out for the print versions which should be available for free at many outlets, retailers and cafes toward the end of July.

If you can’t wait for the schedule to come out in print, you can check out http://birminghamartmap.org/information/ for the latest details or follow @_artmap on twitter. The new maps will be hitting Parkside Gallery foyer soon.

Birmingham City University's Contemporary Art Gallery