Circus Tales Performance by our BA (Hons) Applied Performance students & graduates

Birmingham City University has partnered with Birmingham City Council to develop a programme of events and exhibitions to commemorate the 250th anniversary of circus. This will take a creative look at the history of circus and its origins in the 18th century.
The programme is part of the city’s ‘Year of Movement,’ a year long series of events, exhibitions and performances taking place across Birmingham.

This coming Saturday 30th June 2018 from 2-4pm there will be a fantastic opportunity to see some of our students in action.
Our BA (Hons) Applied Performance students will be holding some short pieces of 10 minute long circus themed performances across various parts of the Library during the afternoon.

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Mainly taking place in the Children’s Library – all the performances will showcase our students work and also engage with the community.


The interior of the new Library of Birmingham, England.

The interior of the new Library of Birmingham, England.


*Image by Christian Richters


*Image of the Children’s Library 

If you’re free and around the Birmingham city centre area, please feel free to bring your children along!



Exhibition: Shakespeare in South Asia


17th April – 3rd May 2018

Royal Birmingham Conservatoire (2nd floor)


Shakespeare in South Asia offers a glimpse of South Asia’s fascination with Shakespeare, and his enduring influence on the cultures and lives of its people.

The exhibition takes visitors on a visual tour of each of the eight countries that make up South Asia (Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka), offering an intriguing snapshot into each country’s relationship with Shakespeare and how they have made him part of their own evolving history.

The exhibition was curated by Dr Islam Issa and six students from Birmingham City University in partnership with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. It is on loan from Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and will be on show at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire from 17th April until 3rd May 2018.

AIR @ IPS, Birmingham School of Art

_L0B3390-1The night school programme at Birmingham School of Art came back with a bang this month with a debut from the Artist in Residency programme. This programme runs across all Birmingham City University creative campuses, and is available to those who have graduated within the past 5 years. This programme is a wonderful resource for recently graduated practitioners, as making facilities and space can be a harsh, expensive reality after university.

This year’s showcase included works from Nuala Clooney, Suzie Hunt, Maral Mamaghani, Tony McClure, Jodie Wingham, Larissa Shaw, Leanne O’Connor and David Poole. Maral, Larissa and David are currently Grand Union Studio Holders, who are facilitated and supported by the University and the Grand Union Curatorial team. These studios are open to graduates from creative courses, predominantly targeted at our visual arts and design course. Suzie and Tony have just completed the Whitworth Wallis residency at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Leanne O’Connor (currently writing this blog) is leading a project with second year around the disappearance of the THS Slide collection, works for Parkside Gallery as a graduate exhibitions intern and is sharing her knowledge and skills with students as an artist in residence, alongside Jodie Wingham.

Night school commenced with a talk from Duncan Whitely, who works primarily through self-initiated projects, commissions and residencies to produce sound and moving image work, site-specific projects and multi-media archives. The talk was accompanies by a live performance of one of his new works, which detailed his artists MO.

The show itself proved to be a truly eclectic mix of practices and ways of making. It was fantastic to artists and jewellers work within the same space, as this made for a show that translated to the simultaneous ideas of tactility and transience.


Party Cones (work in progress) Larissa Shaw, 2018

As you entered the space you become immersed by Larissa Shaw’s latest work – Party Cones. In her own words, the work Party Cones explores the articulation of moving sound through tactile materials. This work explores its own impact on the skin as a haptic receptor through activating constructed textiles with specific sound frequencies (work in progress).

The undulations of the soft and pliable material (seemingly a cousin to the woodland mushroom, Calvatia Excipuliformis) caused by the subwoofer vibrations interrupts the preconceived notions of gallery etiquette – with every person wanting to touch and hold the pieces. These works invite you in without words but through an extension of senses, which is wonderfully contrasted against the metal tranquillity of Jodie Wingham’s intimate series unbuttoned’ (2016).

This metal tranquillity is further emphasised with a new AV dream from Tony McClure, titled ‘… and to just be’, of falling rose petals, projected on to a warped metal sheet. The bend in the sheet effortlessly cuts up the frame of this projection – filtered on to the surrounding surfaces. The ephemerality of this work is defined by the silence it produces, a skill which extends throughout McClure’s practice.


… and to just be Tony McClure, 2018

The skill of the artists exhibiting is shown potently through the ability of the vastly different works being able to operate as one uniformed output within the space. With the pieces with quieter tones still being able to stand their ground and to occupy their space, with AV projection works complimenting the static works. These cross discipline complementariness is evident in David Poole’s new work Vision (2018), and Leanne O’Connor’s first instalment of her Magpie Series – Caitlin’s Favourite Spring (2018).

The organic soundscapes of Poole’s Vision contrast against the inorganic forms of found metal artefacts in O’Connor’s devotional display. Both have a strong narrative, with Poole’s taking a more narrated approach in ‘the form of an unseen writer struggling with crippling doubt writing his latest script. Crafted from appropriated material, the piece parallels the divergent cinematic processes of scripting and editing. As manipulation and control become apparent, it forces the viewer to question the veracity of everything they witness in the era of “fake news.”’ (David Poole, 2018)

‘Caitlin’s Favourite Spring’ (2018) First Instalment of Leanne O’Connors ‘Magpie’ Series

The narration within O’Connor’s piece lies within the artefacts themselves, with the sensation of touch and inquisitive gazing forming the mouthpiece of this work – and story. The narration also has a different tone, a quieter one that encourages you to make your own mind up about what these 41 pieces of metal could mean and to who. The steel acts as a frame for this work to be received, with devotional overtones to heighten the importance of the artefacts. This also interrupted preconceived notions of the gallery, with the audience wanting to touch the fragments, with some even wanting to feel the temperature of the artefacts – from the ground that they came.

This quiet narrator levitates and resides also over Nuala Clooney’s work. Simply explained by the following:


Biting in Circles.








The trace of this gesture or act is evidenced in the delicate curves of teeth engrained in Clooney’s glass objects – with the artist expressing that her current interest is the external and internal connotations of the mouth when considering its connection to the body. As a jeweller Clooney’s practice turns performative as she uses her own body to make, this gesturing is carried through from other works with the body being used as a tool for producing and receiving the work. Clooney is also exhibiting in a show at our sister gallery at Vittoria Street – named Subterranea, which is on show until the 12th April.

Amongst other achievements, Suzie Hunt has just finished a successful micro residency at the University of Worcester and is set to adorn an 8ft giraffe for Worcester’s sculpture trail this summer. Maral Mamaghanizadeh has recently shown one of her new works Tails of Tresses at Munich Jewellery week, for the prestigious talente2018 awards.

All artists are to be congratulated for a truly wonderful display of graduate talent, we look forward to seeing what shape these young graduates’ careers begin to take in the near future.

By Leanne O’Connor

Photography by Zunaira Muzaffar, who is a Final year Art and Design Student at Birmingham School of Art

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