Birmingham City University to host Let’s Play Vinyl exhibition in March


Birmingham City University will host a critically acclaimed photographic exhibition of British sound system and vinyl culture between 21 March and 5 April.

lpv marketing

At dances, men often say: ‘What are you doing with those records?’

 It feels fabulous to shock them.

April ‘Rusty Rebel‘ Grant, Operator of Birmingham’s Rebel Rock sound


 The Let’s Play Vinyl touring exhibition coincides with the international Reggae Innovation conference taking place at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire between 4-5 April.

Let’s Go Yorkshire commissioned photographer Elliot Baxter to capture 21 stunning images portraying the current generation of reggae sound system operators across the UK, saluting them as productive entrepreneurs creating their own arts ecology in today’s Britain.

The exhibition uses portraiture and interviews to shine a light on some of these new and diverse sound systems, which are pushing through the traditions of reggae and vinyl, featuring:

Badaboom, CAYA, Dub Conductor, Emperorfari, Government, Irie Vibes, Jah Hamma, Junior Quaker, Maasai Warrior, Mousai, Negus Dub Warrior, Rasta Yard, Rebel Rock, Rebel Spirit, Reggae Roast, Sinai, Unit 137, Universal Warrior, Wassifa, Young Warrior, Zion Inna-Vision

The emergence of more female sound system operators is one of the defining characteristics of the new generation, with women moving on from being predominantly performers with male sounds, to building, operating and managing their own sounds.

April ‘Rusty Rebel‘ Grant, operator of Birmingham’s Rebel Rock sound, takes it all in her stride. “At dances, men often say: ‘What are you doing with those records?’ It feels fabulous to shock them,” she says. “When I hold a piece of vinyl I think about all the work that has gone into it – especially if it’s an artist that’s no longer here – and I think about how amazing it is that it’s all on this piece of plastic, and the technical process of getting it on there.”

The exhibition is accompanied by the custom-built Heritage HiFi and a series of participatory workshops including ‘Let’s Build A Sound System’, ‘Let’s Toast’ and ‘Let’s Play Vinyl’ for children and adults.

For further details of the workshops, please email

The exhibition forms part of the Let’s Play Vinyl National Tour developed by Let’s Go Yorkshire in partnership with the University of Leicester, Goldsmiths, University of London, Birmingham City University and the University of Huddersfield.

Arts Birmingham: why the second city is first for art and design

Home to one of the biggest providers of arts courses in the country, Birmingham is a thriving cultural hub. The city is packed with museums, galleries, theatres and festivals that produce vibrant and diverse exhibitions, events, performances and activities for all to enjoy.

Birmingham’s bid to become the home of Channel 4 has shone a spotlight on the city’s creative talent and been a welcome reminder that creativity lies at the heart of the city.

Here’s a look at why Birmingham, the second city, is the first for arts and design.

second city

Artist communities

Birmingham has a thriving community of galleries and artist-led spaces at the heart of the city. Galleries including Grand Union, Centrala Space and Eastside Projects have ongoing programmes of exhibitions featuring everything from work by internationally renowned artists to student shows.

The galleries form the centre of a vibrant arts hub in Digbeth, just a couple of minutes’ walk from the city centre, and are home to some of the region’s most promising artists.

Each month the galleries come together to host a night of events for Digbeth First Friday. Galleries and artist-led spaces open late and art fills the streets as venues host events, performances, happenings and viewings.

Theatres of all shapes and sizes

Home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Birmingham Repertory Theatre and New Alexander Theatre, Birmingham has some of the best theatre in the world. Producing unique shows and hosting international touring performances, Birmingham’s theatres present everything from Shakespeare to musicals and comedy.

Smaller theatres throughout the city such as the Blue Orange Theatre and the Crescent Theatre offer intimate performances by local groups and up-and-coming stars. They provide the perfect space for young talent to get a taste of professional theatre with opportunities onstage of behind the scenes.


Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Regional museums

Birmingham is home to internationally recognised museums including the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

BMAG houses permanent collections of baroque and pre-Raphaelite art as well as the Staffordshire Hoard and objects from ancient Egypt. Meanwhile, it has a changing programme of contemporary and modern art exhibitions in the Gas Hall and Waterhall galleries. This month sees BMAG host New Art West Midlands, an annual exhibition showcasing the best work from recent graduates across the region.

Music venues

It’s not just visual art that takes pride of place in the city, Birmingham also has a range of music venues that host everything from baroque operas to jazz evenings and rock gigs. The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire has recently been added to the city’s collection of venues that includes the O2 Institute and O2 Academy, both in Digbeth.

Arty coffee shops and bars

Dotted among the galleries and theatres are numerous independent coffee shops and bars where arty-folk and the city’s bankers can be seen sipping barista coffee and unique cocktails.

Top tips include 3 Threes Coffee Lounge which serves smooth coffee alongside contemporary art exhibitions and the Jekyll and Hyde for playful cocktails.

Birmingham City university Fashion Catwalk at Birmingham New Street Station

Birmingham City University Fashion Catwalk at Birmingham New Street Station

 Being at the centre

If Birmingham doesn’t have enough to offer it’s also ideally located for travel to cities across the country and beyond.

Based at the heart of the Midlands, Birmingham has great transport links. New Street Station offers connections to all of the country’s major cities with a trip to Manchester or London taking less than an hour and a half and costing as little as £10 each way.

Meanwhile, Birmingham Airport is just a 10 minute train journey from the city centre and offers flights to destinations around the world.

With HS2 soon to be arriving into the city centre, Birmingham will be better connected than ever.

Art classes and groups

Getting involved in art and design in Birmingham is easy. As well as a warm welcome from all of the major venues there are regular art classes and groups ran across the city.

Programmes at the Midland Arts Centre, Rogue Play Theatre and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire offer everything from classical music tuition to life drawing and circus skills.

© copyright by: [FOTO:SENGM†LLER] Gebhard SengmŸller Leopoldsgasse 6-8/8 A-1020 Vienna/Austria Tel/Fax ++43 1 5455929 mobil 0699 1 5455929 E-mail: Konto: Erste Bank (BLZ 20111) 366 247 99 Veršffentlichung nur gegen Honorar und Namensnennung.

Flatpack Film Festival exhibition at Parkside Gallery

 Arts Festivals

Birmingham has one of the most diverse range of arts festivals in the country. While SHOUT Festival and Fierce Festival fill the city with contemporary performance art, festivals such as Design Week Birmingham and Flatpack Film Festival attract experts in design and media.

This year’s highlights include Tilt Festival which will bring the circus to the city to celebrate 250 years of modern circus and the Birmingham International Dance Festival. Both festivals will form part of the city’s ‘Year of Movement’ which is being coordinated in partnership with Birmingham City Council and Culture Central.

National Portfolio Organisations

This year seven new arts organisations in Birmingham were granted National Portfolio Organisation status, taking the total up to 78 in the West Midlands.

Over the next four years Arts Council England will generously fund each NPO to develop the cultural profile of the region. The funding reflects the dedication of arts professionals, recognises the value of arts organisations and will create new opportunities for artists and creatives at all stages of their career.

Redevelopment and investment

Investment appears to be flooding in as redevelopments pop up across the city.

Admittedly, there is still a way to go here but already the city is being transformed with slick new buildings growing besides iconic landmarks such as the Victorian Baroque Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Arty shopping venues

Birmingham’s shopping destinations are also keen to get in on the arty action.

Selfridges Birmingham and the Bullring often host live performances and events and shoppers can regularly see live art taking place in Victoria Square at the heart of the city.

With over 160 shops in the Bullring alone, Birmingham is the perfect place for some retail therapy and you’ll never be far from some of the city’s art.

Library of Birmingham

The new Library of Birmingham opened in 2013 and has become an iconic venue in the city. With 3 galleries and lively performance spaces, the library regularly collaborates with arts organisations across the region to showcase the city’s creative talent.

Cheaper than London

Current estimates suggest that it is nearly 60% more expensive to live in London that Birmingham while the average wage is only 42% higher.

So, living in Birmingham you’ll have more cash in your pocket to spend on all those hand crafted coffees!


Conservatoire Folk Ensemble at Birmingham New Street Station

Birmingham City University arts events

As the largest provider of creative courses in the UK outside of London, Birmingham City University is playing its part to promote arts and culture across the city.

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire opens this month with five new venues including the Eastside Jazz Club and a 500 seat concert hall. Meanwhile the university manages galleries across the city including Vittoria Street Gallery in the Jewellery Quarter and Parkside Platform in the city centre.

Kicking off the university’s annual programme of city events was the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble who astonished commuters with a performance at Birmingham New Street Station. In partnership with organisations across the region, the university will be bringing arts events to the city throughout the year, promoting the region and all of its creative talent.

As Europe’s youngest city, Birmingham is a thriving hub of arts, culture and creative talent. With major organisations working alongside independent creative teams, the city is putting creativity and its heart and building opportunities across the region.

#NAWM18 A Gander to Airspace Gallery

NAWMThis year’s New Art West Midlands opened with a bang last week at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, with 28 exhibitors being handpicked from art schools at some of the counties six universities; Birmingham City University, Coventry University, University of Wolverhampton, University of Worcester, Staffordshire University, and Hereford College of Arts.

The residency prizes this year were provided by the National Trust’s new programme Trust New Art, encouraging visual discourse in response to National Trust properties. Kate Stoddart, curator, expanded upon Trust New Art: “The short residency format is designed to encourage experimentation and foster innovation. These residences offer new ways of working, allowing artists to engage with a place and develop site-specific responses to the stories, collections and landscapes of the National Trust.” (Quote provided to NAWM)

I visited the second instalment of this year’s New Art West Midlands at Airspace Gallery in the Potteries (less whimsically known as Stoke-on-Trent).

This whimsicality was resuscitated when you entered the Airspace Gallery, housed – well – in an old house. This space is beautifully stripped back, echoing the white cube but still retaining beautiful iron ceiling detail, absorbed in to the white of the gallery.

The show is made up of a number of different styles and approaches to making, which proved to be a truly eclectic showcase of the talent that the west midlands art school can incubate. Work ranged from Lily Wales Radioactive Rhonda! (pictured above) to the otherworldly beauty of Tony McClure’s AV dreams; with ‘its operation resting with the cumulative experience of the viewer’. McClure re-frames these visual operations with great care, capturing so well the ethereal beauty of nature within the crisp geometric lines of his frame. What McClure does so well is the alternative viewing of AV art through the simplest mechanisms of line and form, whilst also allowing enough space for the audience’s interpretation.

A full list of the airspace gallery artists displaying is as follows:

George Caswell

Amrit Doll

Lucy Hanrahan

Tony McClure

Olivia Peake

Sarah Walden

Lily Wales

Jody Wingham

Darren Withey

Although different, these approaches to making cumulated in a thrilling show by the Margaret street artist cohort, with each work carrying the thread of a coherent discourse. The most striking thing from this common thread is the expertise that each artist has handled their materials and processes of choice which is expertly demonstrated by Darren Withey’s Contested IV (2017). Whitney’s work explores the state of mind in relation to the nation state, this is all tied in to his contention that “our mental well-being often depends upon how successful we are at rationalising distorted, anamorphic thinking. The mind is in a constant state of flux and reconfiguration as we respond and react to our physical environment, as well as to the cultural, social and political terrains in which we find ourselves.” This multitude of narratives is extended through his use of materials, combining a number of traditional and contemporary print making methods – displaying the final prints and the plates in an excavation of the territory of the mind and its relation to politicised space.

This handling of materials extends to George Caswell’s practice of the everyday assemblage, every piece of his current work was found in the attic of Airspace Gallery, which adds an extra depth to the work when we consider authorship circulating around making. Caswell has an eye for raw materials and their potential to operate outside of their norms, simultaneously acknowledging and dismissing these archival hierarchies of classifying objects in relation to their status as so.

The second instalment of NAWM18 further exemplifies the talent that is prevalent throughout the West Midlands. With 28 artists showing at three different venues and prizes awarded to artists to further their professional development within the region, New Art West Midlands provides such a valuable source of growth for arts practitioners, and we look forward to what comes next.

New Art West Midlands is on show across three venues, with the following closing dates;

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, 16 February – 6 May 2018.

AirSpace Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, 23 February – 31 March 2018.

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, 24 February – 13 May 2018.

For more information about New Art West midlands, please follow the link provided below:

Coming out…Sexuality, gender and identity at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

coming out header image blog post

‘Art can help us understand how society has changed … it can also enable us to see the world differently, offering insights into personal experiences beyond our own’

C.K McDonald

Coming Out: sexuality, gender and identity is a touring show conceived by Charlotte Keenan McDonald, firstly showing at the Walker Museum in Liverpool and now at our very own Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. In McDonalds own words, “A lot of the work I have been doing to date is around LBGT+ history in [Liverpool] collection and the way that it has been erased, I’ve been really interested in seeing what has been done in terms of research and who has been overlooked, as well as people who have been part of public histories.”

Coming Out is part of a triad of shows that began last year, coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexual acts in England and Wales. This ostensible helping hand failed many within the LGBT+ community because of its complete lack of inter-sectional amendments, that did not address the lesbian community and still demanding a differing age limit to that of their heterosexual counterparts.

Queer art in 2017, a more inclusive gesture…

Tate’s ‘Queer British Art 1861–1967’ kicked off this realignment, with coming out being seen to respond from the drop off point of 1967 – initially with Andy Warhol’s Marilyn, which won the John Moore’s Painting Prize in ’67.

In the latest instalment of this realigning triad, there are a variety of different works, ranging from audio visual to a decaying commissioned installation from Anya Gallaccio from a number of high profile artists, such as Grayson Perry and Sarah Lucas to emerging artists such as and Jez Dolan, who graduated recently from Birmingham School of Art with an MA in Queer Studies.

As you first walk in to show, you are made aware to the fact you are walking in to the queer and the kitsch. Instantly exposed to the queer cigarette gnome by Sarah Lucas, juxtaposed against the pristine materiality of Grayson Perry’s Claire’s coming out dress – that he wore to accept the turner prize as his transvestite comrade Claire, in 2003. There is noticeable gaze from Perry’s dress to Lucas’ gnome, this gaze mirrors the multiple histories and queer voices heard in this exhibition, some louder than others – but nevertheless the multitude of voices are represented.

The prevalent kitsch is extended by the use of colour within the space, paying respect to the Gilbert-Baker Pride flag, which formed part of the battle cry of the late 70’s gay liberation movement and represented the magic, healing and spirit. This further realigns the rich, white, industrialist history of the gallery world – away from the white cube to the colourful non-linear queer art space.

As well as the kitsch, you are called upon by the YBA mecca that’s calling you home to roost. Emin above Warhol, this kitsch element of design was brought into Andy Warhol’s seminal Marilyn print. Emin and her fellow Young British Artists (YBAs) somewhat co-opted Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame model as the YBAs arguably co-opted the public gaze – but for more than 15 minutes – on borrowed time.  This anchors you to the middle of the space, drawn in by Emin’s romantic swirly neon, and by the chanting oozing out of Isaac Julien’s film The Long Road to Mazatlàn with the beauty of queer aquatic ballet juxtaposed against the backdrop of the wild west.

Contrasting to the Walker Gallery’s Coming Out, the curatorial volume then dies down to a whisper when we are met with the arresting photographic series ‘Exiles’ by Sunil Gupta, depicting the cruising zones in his hometown of New Delhi, where the law against same sex acts still stays ironclad to this day. Away from the anchor that is Emin’s swirly neon, this section is quietened in comparison -with previously the Walker gallery displaying close to Warhol’s Marilyn. This curation reflects the sometimes white washing and misheard process that queer people of colour go through within the art institution.

sunil gupta india gateIndia Gate from the series Exiles, 1987, Sunil Gupta

However, these histories are aiming to be realigned by BMAG through the learning and engagement programme facilitated by the Arts Council Collection National Partnership, called FORUM

FORUM’s programme breathes inclusivity as local artists and community groups were part of the development. So the realignment of the queer within the art world can continue and thrive in this centre for learning and community engagement.

The term of ‘coming out’ has gone through a shift, with the reclamation of coming out as a negative phrase to something full of colour and vibrancy – this is underpinned by the variety of gender identities and sexualities disclosed, brought to life by the sculptural and film works – acting as flag posts for the concept of the show. This latest instalment of the queer British triad of pioneering shows is an important baton to carry in to the main arena of the art world, and more should be done to continue the realignment of queer histories through art.


Leanne O’Connor






透过镜头看世界 See the world through the lens

My name is Jeff Di, I am a masters Arts and Project Management student at BCU. Currently, I am doing my work experience at Parkside Gallery. This is a bilingual article for our english and chinese readers.


Today I introduce you to the recent photography exhibition at Parkside Gallery, Birmingham City University.


园畔画廊 设立于2013 年,位于 英国伯明翰城市大学园畔教学楼一层 以及 新街火车站大厅的公共区域。教学环境与公共空间的布展为师生和社会大众提供了良好的艺术赏析和交流的条件。5年来,展示了各个领域艺术家和设计者优秀的艺术作品。

Established in 2013, Parkside Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Parkside School Building at Birmingham City University and in the public area of the New Street Railway Station lobby. The teaching environment and the exhibition of public space provide good conditions for artistic appreciation and exchange between teachers and students and the general public. Over the past five years, it has exhibited outstanding works of art by artists and designers in various fields.


2018年1月15号 到 2 月24 号的展览由迪姆带来的摄影作品,主题为 分裂,抵抗与权力。迪姆通过镜头记录现代社会及政治场的各类事件,本次展览作品反映 阶级差距,工人权益, 社会公正性以及种族问题。

Photographs taken by Timm Sonnenschein at the show, January 15 to February 24, 2018, on the theme Division, Resistance and Empowerment. Through the lens, Timm documents all kinds of incidents in the modern social and political arena. The exhibition reflects the class differences, workers’ rights and interests, social justice and racial issues.

Workers’ Struggles

The TUC March For the Alternative passing the Houses of Parliament, London © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483   NUJ recommended terms & conditions apply. Moral rights asserted under Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988. Credit is required. No part of this photo to be stored, reproduced, manipulated or transmitted by any means without permission.

The TUC March For the Alternative passing the Houses of Parliament, London
© Timm Sonnenschein/
Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

Poverty and Austerity

Robert, outside his council flat in Ladywood, Birmingham. He is opposing the bedroom tax. He has lived in the flat for 15 years, with his refugee wife and 2 daughters from Sierra Leone of whom one has moved out. Ladywood has the highest number of people in Birmingham effected by the bedroom tax. © Timm Sonnenschein

Robert, outside his council flat in Ladywood, Birmingham. He is opposing the bedroom tax. He has lived in the flat for 15 years, with his refugee wife and 2 daughters from Sierra Leone of whom one has moved out. Ladywood has the highest number of people in Birmingham effected by the bedroom tax.
© Timm Sonnenschein

Modern China

A female worker pulling out dry grass outside the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

A female worker pulling out dry grass outside the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China
© Timm Sonnenschein/
Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483 




The English Defence League

EDL protesters approach police in an attempt to break through police lines during their second protest in Dudley © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

EDL protesters approach police in an attempt to break through police lines during their second protest in Dudley
© Timm Sonnenschein/
Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

Student Protests

Public sector workers strike over pay, pensions and workload, Strike rally, Victoria Square, Birmingham © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

Public sector workers strike over pay, pensions and workload, Strike rally, Victoria Square, Birmingham
© Timm Sonnenschein/
Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

Islamophobia in Birmingham

Public Meeting, Putting Birmingham School Kids First, in response to the Trojan Horse inquiry, Bordesley Centre, Birmingham © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

Public Meeting, Putting Birmingham School Kids First, in response to the Trojan Horse inquiry, Bordesley Centre, Birmingham
© Timm Sonnenschein/
Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483


The works show a real reflection of the events of the situations, different groups for the rights and interests of the vivid picture of resistance. We also see that foreign photographers capture and record the present situation of China from different perspectives.




More excellent works on show,  I Welcome my classmates and friends to enjoy the exhibition space at Parkside Gallery.

Welcome to our web site, twitter and blog pages.


Links to upcoming exhibitions:

http: //




Twitter :

instagram: @parksidegallery


Address: The Parkside Gallery,

The Parkside Building

5 Cardigan Street


B4 7BD

United Kingdom


Opening times:

Term Time:
Mon-Fri: 9-7pm
Sat: 9-6pm
Sun: Closed

A propaganda of empathy

Leanne O’Connor catches up with Timm Sonnenschein a week after the opening of his solo show Division, Resistance and Empowerment. Together they delve in to his aspirations, practice and stance on empathy within the field of documentary photography.

The TUC March For the Alternative passing the Houses of Parliament, London © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483 NUJ recommended terms & conditions apply. Moral rights asserted under Copyright Designs & Patents Act 1988. Credit is required. No part of this photo to be stored, reproduced, manipulated or transmitted by any means without permission.

The TUC March For the Alternative passing the Houses of Parliament, London
© Timm Sonnenschein/

‘Change is necessary, and consequently a transformative interaction of all members of society is needed. Let’s open the floor for a propaganda of empathy.’ – Timm Sonnenschein, Poverty and Austerity, 2018

German-born Sonnenschein has been a freelance documentary photographer for the best part of ten years, and is now a lecturer in photography here at Birmingham City University.

One of the major underpinnings of Timm Sonnenschein photographic practice is essentially – empathy.

In his own words, Sonnenschein ‘s work aims to change perceptions within society and bring about a positive sense of community and see people as individuals. I very much use my photography as a tool for change and I definitely from a left wing background, and I think that elements of inclusion have always been within my thinking, social inclusion, not pushing people out for who they are but actually acknowledge their need to observe and engage in a dialogue. That’s what I have done just through living and that’s what I have tried to promote through my photographic work.

This role of empathy in occurrence with the practice of documentary photography is viewed as a contested subject, and has been explored by photographic theorists such as Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes and Jane Lydon. With some holding the view of its non-existence within that clinical power related scenario of the photographer and the subject, whilst on the other hand upholding the fact of human emotion always pervading every shot captured. Sonnenschein shared his own experience of humility interrupting the previously termed ‘clinical’ stance of the documentarian, when asked to capture photographs of school children and parents, to act as representation of the Trojan horse enquiry…

T.S: “I just felt that my values couldn’t match that, and in that sense a picture that is representing the Trojan horse inquiry is BBC or ITV cameras, I can’t recall exactly – filming in a public meeting two Muslim women. And … or pointing in the direction of two Muslim women. In that sense I stepped back from being the press observer, but instead observed in a way – what was happening at the time. That was a national and partly international observation of the Muslim community in Birmingham. I didn’t really want to be part of that, I wanted to be part of observing what was happening.”

Discussing with Sonnenschein what work he considered to be a seminal shot in his photographic practice, he reflected on a number of shots, one in our current show Division, resistance and Empowerment (pictured below with his reflections on the work)

A female worker pulling out dry grass outside the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China © Timm Sonnenschein/ Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483

A female worker pulling out dry grass outside the Jin Mao Tower, Shanghai, China
© Timm Sonnenschein/


T.S: “At some point during my travels in china, I walked past the Jin Mao tower which is one of the three highest buildings in Shang Hai. I saw a migrant worker pulling out grass, dry grass, outside a lawn outside those buildings which houses the Hyatt hotel and other prominent places.

I just thought, no this is the image that depicts what I wanted to explain, and I just photographed this woman just pulling grass in contrast to these buildings that represent an enormous amount of wealth and growth and there we have a migrant worker who has to pull out dry grass to make it look…. pretty?”

This feeling of wanting to present the under privileged and the un-balanced world of poverty in direct comparison with the 1% extends in to other projects within Sonnenschein ‘s documentary practice. Directly expressed through his photographic works depicting the austerity that has ravaged many working class communities across the country (these works documented are set in Ladywood), since the conservative parliaments drove of cuts to public services. Sonnenschein has balanced within his practice the position of the photographer as the orchestrator of the photograph, but as the empathetic observer. To quote Sontag’s seminal work Regarding the Pain of others remembers the journalistic phrase ‘if its bleeds, it leads […] as misery heaves in to view” this misery is definitely pictured within his shots, using his camera lens as a compassionate port hole, where in which observers can use their own life experiences to impose context, invoking an emotional response.

This want or need to depict the underprivileged within an unbalanced society pervades his goal of future projects that slipped through his fingers – the humanitarian crisis of the Syrian civil war and the following refugee crisis. Sonnenschein had an emotive response to one picture in the same ilk that we form understandings of pictures by imposing our own experiences and roles, this picture quickly became viral, whilst also winning Daniel Etter a 2016 Pulitzer prize (pictured below)

A father in tears as he hugged his daughter and son after enduring the voyage from Turkey. Daniel Etter for the New York Times, 2016 ©

A father in tears as he hugged his daughter and son after enduring the voyage from Turkey. Daniel Etter for the New York Times, 2016 ©

T.S: “He’s looking and his face shows fear, dread and terror and he’s crying – and he was interviewed and he said, he felt so awful through putting his family through this experience of death and horror. Then he said you should ask the photographer himself, because he was crying when he photographed it. I think that underlines in a way the point – the positive point of this image of the toddler washed up… and shows the reality of those people – people that are you and I.

He is a father who is holding a child. I can empathise and visualise myself in to that situation when I’m holding my daughter or looking back and imagine being held by my parents. I think these images communicate something where we can relate to, as other people because we can visualise ourselves in these other people.”

The ‘toddler washed up’ reference is of course the heart-breaking shot of 3-year old toddler Aylan Kurdi, a photograph that split the press in regards to it being ‘a snuff photo for progressives’ (O’Neill , Spectator,2015) to a ‘tragic reminder’ of how the migrant crisis has . This is a poignant example of the emotional labour that is carried through to the viewer in a documentary photograph, and how the frail body of Aylan is now extended in to a larger symbol of the strife of migrant people, since 1993 there have been 17,306 documented deaths of non-EU migrants. This photograph and others likes this are raising awareness of a humanitarian crisis that has gone unresolved for the best part of three years.

Sonnenschein show Division, Resistance and Empowerment will be on show at Parkside gallery until 24th February, read the press release over on this blog:

You can keep up to date with all Parkside Gallery’s news on the related social media:

instagram: @parksidegallery

Conservatoire Folk Ensemble to arrive at Birmingham New Street Station

The opening of Archived. at Parkside Platform coincides with a unique performance at Birmingham New Street Station. The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble will be performing on a custom-built stage just 80m from the gallery, under the main departure boards at the station.

The performance and the exhibition are part of a city-wide programme of events that celebrates the reopening of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire at its city centre site.

The ensemble will perform four sets during the morning and evening rush hour to entertain thousands of commuters that travel through the station every day. The event is set to coincide with the first open day at the brand-new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and will welcome visitors to the city from across the country.

Who are the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble 3Conservatoire Folk Ensemble?

Founded in 1997, the ensemble is made up of students and alumni from the Conservatoire and performs at festivals across the country.

Vibrant, energetic and loud, the 50-piece ensemble is a collection of classically trained musicians who come together to perform folk songs with a twist. This is folk music like you’ve never heard it before.

The ensemble includes 15 horns, four cellos, five percussionists, five electric guitars, fiddles, flutes, clarinets, a double-bass, an electric bass, euphonium, acoustic guitars, octave mandola’s and a harp – with many of the performers also being vocalists.

The group defies all expectations of what a classically trained ensemble should be. Colourfully dressed and wearing bright face paint, the ensemble bounces around the stage with an infectious energy that fills the audience with excitement.

What is folk music?

 Traditionally, folk music is passed down aurally and in this way differs from classical or pop music which is often recorded or written down. Because of this, over hundreds of years folk songs have developed differently in different regions and become a custom in many communities.

Folk songs often have a narrative; telling a story or commemorating a major event. These stories are specific to the community that they are performed in and often help foster a sense of civic pride.

Because folk music developed differently in different cultures it is extremely diverse and can feature a whole range of instruments.

In the twentieth century there were two folk revivals that influenced how we understand folk music today. In the mid-twentieth century, folk music was a major part of countercultures and politically-engaged groups. Folk music entered the mainstream and became popular due to artists including Bob Dylan and Donovan.

Where to see the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble?


As well as performing at Birmingham New Street Station on 25th January 2018, the Conservatoire Folk Ensemble perform all over the country. For upcoming tour dates visit

Also check out their 2017 album, Painted, which features 10 of the ensembles most iconic tracks.

The Conservatoire Folk Ensemble will be performing at 8.30 am, 9.15 am, 4.30 pm and 5.15 pm at Birmingham New Street Station on 25th January 2018.

 For more information please visit

 For information on upcoming Open Days at Birmingham City University please visit