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/reportdigital.co.uk Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483 info@reportdigital.co.uk 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/reportdigital.co.uk

‘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/reportdigital.co.uk Tel 01789-262151/07831-121483 info@reportdigital.co.uk

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

 

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:  http://blogs.bcu.ac.uk/parksidegallery/2018/01/15/division-resistance-empowerment-at-parkside-gallery/

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

instagram: @parksidegallery

www.facebook.com/parksidegallery

https://twitter.com/parksidegallery?lang=en

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?

Destroyers-ABH-1

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 www.folkensemble.co.uk.

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 http://bcu.ac.uk/news-events/calendar/royal-birmingham-conservatoire-open-day-performance.

 For information on upcoming Open Days at Birmingham City University please visit http://www.bcu.ac.uk/student-info/open-days.

In Focus: The English Tourte

By Leanne O’Connor

Exploring the history of English classical bow craftsmanship in relation to the upcoming collaborative show Archived. , which combines the talents of BA (hons) Photography students with the beauty of the Historical Instrumental collection – housed at The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

 

dodd bow CROPPED

 

Envision a thickset figure with a slight waddle to his walk, meandering through the streets of London between cheap pubs and his shabby studio where the boards of old barrels lay stacked in heaps. Clad in a threadbare coat, the suspicious and quite eccentric craftsman carried oyster shells which could be heard clicking in his pockets; he was forced to beg for these shells so he could scrape out mother-of-pearl for his bows. The likes of such bows had never been seen before in England, and any profit made from selling them was already long since spent before the objects themselves could leave his atelier and venture forth and testify to their craftsman’s greatness. This greatness was that of a small man, a man who could barely write much more than his own name; in his lifetime, he was not to find a proper livelihood.

–  John Dodd: a legend of oyster shells and silver spoons, corilon.com/mastersportraits – 2018

The Craftmanship of John Dodds is further extended upon the knowledge of the humble materials that he had at his disposal, coupled with creating bespoke tools that he utilised in developing the striking, unconventional curve of the bow – which would go on to mark his work apart from his fellow contemporary bow makers. John Dodds inherited  his passion of instrumental craftmanship from his father Edward Dodd (1705-1810) and subsequently passed on to his nephew James Dodd (1792-1885).

Dodd Bow Collection in the Historical Instrumental Collection

The craftsmanship of the Dodd family is now one of the major collection within the Historical Instrumental Collection.  This holds a number of English violin, cello and double bass bows by John Dodd, James Dodd and Edward Dodd junior, and one French violin bow by Tourte. It has been in the possession of Birmingham Conservatoire since the early 20th Century, when it was donated to the Birmingham School of Music by E S Fry, in 1904. This collection has been added to over a number of years, which is now one of the vastest of its kind that has fortunately stayed intact – which may not have been the case in the hands of a private collector.

The reason for E S Fry’s fascination with bows is assumed to be mostly personal, as at the time of his curiosity there was little interest in the collection and preservation of instruments – particularly in bows for string instruments. Birmingham Conservatoire’s Historical Instrument Collection has realigned these histories, and contains many beautiful instrumental artefacts dating from the 17th to early 20th century. Spanning from woodwind to percussion, the collection was founded in the early twentieth century and has been transformed by a number of major donations.

You can listen to recordings of these bows in use, playing pieces from the same time of development by following this link:

http://www.bcu.ac.uk/conservatoire/music/research/hic/how-to-use-the-collection/audio-resources/string-bows-recordings

In conversation with…

The mathematical beauty of John Dodd’s bow-making has been captured by Alex Tindal, a 3rd Year BA Photography student. Alex caught up with us to discuss his work to be shown at the newly established Parkside Platform – the show is a collaboration with BA photography students, which aims to bring to life the historical instrument collection of The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

L: Hi Alex thanks for catching up with us today to talk about your work and how that’s factored in to your pieces in the upcoming exhibition for Parkside Platform

A: Glad to be here and talking about my practice

L: Firstly, I just wanted to ask what made you choose to photograph a Dodd’s Bow? The historical instrument collection has hundreds of instruments and you chose that particular bow, as a photographer you must have seen a very particular quality about it.

A: Out of all the bows that I viewed, I found this one to catch the light the nicest. I found it difficult to photograph the smaller details of the engravings of other bows as you lost the sense of what it was, so I opted to shoot it in a more

L: Does the way you have framed the image relate directly to your practice or is this a new development?

A: In my practice I shoot a lot of flora, photographing this bow and a flower isn’t too dissimilar.

L: So that’s how you framed it in your mind’s eye? So to speak before you pushed the button?

A: Yes, compositionally I like to capture the simplicity of the stem or a single flower stalk – alike to the way I have framed the photograph of the Dodd’s Bow. I photographed my other work in the exhibition in the exact same way – I wanted to enhance the shadows and light of the objects in frame, this factored in to my set up process. I didn’t want to lose the tonality and texture of the object.

L: So you’ve chose a carefully curated part of the instrument that you have chosen to capture, the part that people don’t usually take notice of.

A: Yes, definitely, I was going to photograph the handle of the bow but you had a half distinction of what it was, I wanted it to be recognisable. The craftsmanship is really accomplished so I wanted to prioritise that by spending longer on picking the right lighting and set up.

L: Well I think it has been accomplished in this photograph particularly, I’m happy you chose this as it realigns John Dodd’s history of having to scrimp for the materials to make his bows.

A: I thought bow making was quite an affluent profession?

L: More common than not Bow-makers came from very humble beginnings, so the wood came from barrels, the handles on his more ornate pieces scrapped from oysters and the silver gilding melted down from cutlery.

A: Wow, that is dedication to his craft.

L: Precisely, well thank you for joining me today to talk a little more about your practice.

A: Thanks for having me, If you want to check out my work please do at http://www.batdepat.com!

Alex’s work and other captivating instrumental portraits can be seen at Parkside Platform’s upcoming show Historical Instrument Archive, which commences…

In addition to this new show we also have The Birmingham Folk Ensemble playing at Birmingham New Street Station on 25th January to mark the opening of The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

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

instagram: @parksidegallery

www.facebook.com/parksidegallery

https://twitter.com/parksidegallery?lang=en

Division, Resistance & Empowerment at Parkside Gallery

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 timm@timmsonnenschein.com www.timmsonnenschein.com 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.

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

‘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

As a dedicated idealist, Timm Sonnenschein produces photographic work informed by a search for social and political justice. Since his ordination in 2004 he has been a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, these teachings feature strongly in his work as he seeks to empathise with those he photographs while simultaneously exposing and opposing the forces he sees as undermining an open and engaged contemporary society.

The work displayed at Parkside Gallery between 15 January – 24 February 2018 looks at unrepresented class discrepancies, social injustice, workers’ rights, political struggles and racial tensions throughout Birmingham and internationally. It attempts to open a dialogue, which encourages empathetic insights that work toward strengthening dignity and respect within a too often divided society. Sonnenschein is exploring what position and shape empathy takes and how it is experienced within social and political documentary photography.

For more information about Division, Resistance and Empowerment at Parkside Gallery please contact Leanne O’Connor by email at parksidegallery@bcu.ac.uk.

by Leanne O’Connor

Top 11 exhibitions to see in the UK in 2018

2017 was a major year for British art with record-breaking exhibitions and plenty of young, creative talent making its mark.

The thriving arts scene in Birmingham has had its fair share of the success with seven galleries being granted National Portfolio Organisation status. International artists have flocked from around the world to exhibit and perform in the city’s venues that have received international recognition.

2018 is set to be just as vibrant with galleries and museums across the UK preparing programmes of events, festivals and exhibitions to suit everyone’s tastes. We’ve taken a look at some of the best exhibitions coming up in the UK and picked our top 11 tips.coming out sign

 

Coming out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

2 December 2017 – 15 April 2018, free

To kick off let’s look at one of the most exciting exhibitions in Birmingham this year.

The list of names exhibiting in Coming Out: Sexuality, Gender and Identity speaks for itself. Featuring Sara Lucas, Grayson Perry, Steve McQueen, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Andy Warhol and many more, this exhibition includes work by some of the most prestigious artists in modern and contemporary art.

Whether you’re familiar with contemporary art, a dedicated queer theorist or just fancying something a bit different, this diverse exhibition has something for you.

Richard Long: Drawn from Land at Derby Museum and Art Gallery

2 December 2017 – 4 March 2018, ‘give what you think’

In collaboration with Tate Modern, Derby Museum and Art Gallery is hosting a solo show of work by the acclaimed British artist Richard Long.

Long has built his extensive career around the act of walking the landscape, which has inspired his sculptures, photographs and aural works. Set against the apt backdrop of the Peak District, this exhibition offers a unique chance to explore the work of one Britain’s most influential contemporary artists.

T.84-1968 Woman's cape; black curled cock feathers; Auguste Champol; French; c.1895.

Woman’s cape (c.1895) Auguste Champol

 Fashioned from Nature at the Victoria and Albert Museum

21 April 2018 – 27 January 2019, £12

Two worlds come together in Fashioned from Nature as the Victoria and Albert Museum explores how nature has inspired fashion since the renaissance.

Natural history specimens will be shown alongside high-end fashion from the last 400 years, telling the story of the enduring relationship between nature and fashion. Fashioned from Nature is primed to be one of the most vibrant and striking exhibitions of 2018.

From Ear to Ear to Eye at Nottingham Contemporary

16 December 2017 – 4 March 2018, free

Sound takes centre stage in Nottingham Contemporary’s upcoming exhibition which focuses on music, speech and narrative in Arab culture.

17 contemporary artists will present a diverse range of work including photographs, sound art, sculptures and graphic scores. Form Ear to Ear to Eye is set to be an immersive meander through exotic cultures and sounds.

Videogames at the Victoria and Albert Museum

8 September 2018 – TBA

It’s unusual for videogames and CGI to be the focus of big museum exhibitions. However, next year millennial culture will take centre stage at the Victoria and Albert Museum as videogame art is shown alongside the museum’s renowned collections of sculpture, textiles and painting.

Videogames will focus on videogame design and culture over the last decade and offer a unique perspective on this contemporary art form.

van dyk


Charles I (1635-6) Anthony van Dyck

Charles I: King and Collector at the Royal Academy

27 January – 15 April 2018, £20

Reuniting one of the largest royal collections to have ever existed, the Royal Academy’s upcoming exhibition is primed to be a whistle-stop tour through the greatest moments in the history of western art.

Featuring classical sculptures, baroque paintings and works by some of history’s most celebrated artists, Charles I: King and Collector will be every art history lover’s dream. Whether you’re new to the world of art or old friends with the likes of Rubens and Van Dyke, this exhibition is a must-see.

At £20 it’s our most expensive exhibition on the list but it certainly looks worth splashing out on.

Marinella Senatore: York Symphony at York Art Gallery

23 September 2017 – 7 May 2018, £7.50

Marinella Senatore’s immersive exhibition has been developed in response to a series of conversations and workshops with York’s residents. The work, which she describes as a ‘symphony,’ responds to the city’s landscape and culture through a range of video, collage and text.

Grayson Perry: The Life of Julie Cope at various locations, see website.

Free

The Craft Council will present a unique collection of the Turner Prize-winning artist’s work in an exhibition that will tour to galleries across the UK.

Grayson Perry is one of Britain’s’ most popular and well-known artists. His unique take on tapestries and ceramics has seen Perry receive international recognition and revolutionised the relationship between craft and contemporary art.

Grayson Perry: The Life of Julie Cope features work from the artist’s iconic project in 2015 where he paired up with Charley Holland of FAT Architecture to design a house for a fictional character, Julie Cope.

Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize at National Portrait Gallery

16 November 2017 – 8 February 2018, £6

Celebrating the best contemporary portrait photography from around the world, this annual exhibition includes selected images from an open call competition.

The exhibition showcases portrait photography made using a range of traditional and contemporary techniques and features 59 images by artists ranging from established professionals to amateurs and emerging talent.

press_02

Poor migrant farmers… (2017) Timm Sonnenschein

Timm Sonnenschein: division, resistance & empowerment at Parkside Gallery

15 January -24 February 2018, free

It’s been a while since we’ve had a solo show here at Parkside Gallery but we couldn’t resist dedicating the whole gallery to Sonnenschein’s portrait photography.

Emotive, personal and often challenging, Sonnenschien’s portraits provide a personal view of some of the most complex issues facing society. Featuring six collections that focus on cultures ranging from student communities to the Chinese workforce, Sonnenschein’s emotionally and politically-charged works focus on personal responses to political landscapes.

Pop by Parkside Platform, to see a sneak peak of Sonnenschein’s work which features in our current exhibition, A time and a place.

Melanie Jackson: Deeper in the Pyramid at Grand Union

2 February – 21 April 2018, free

Deeper in the Pyramid is a multimedia exhibition inspired by our complex relationship with milk and the networks that it creates in the twenty-first century.

Jackson uses milk as a focal point to explore networks of animals, humans and technologies that are interacting in increasingly complex ways.

Comprising of animations, sculptures and performance works, Deeper in the Pyramid is a vibrant response to the complex systems of the new millennium.

Here at Parkside Gallery we have some extremely exciting plans for the coming year. With new ventures and big changes lined-up, watch this space!

Keep up to date with everything happening here at Parkside Gallery by subscribing to our newsletter which is packed with artist interviews, what’s on guides, competitions and exhibition information.

Top tips for an arty Christmas

Between visiting distant relatives and feasting on mince pies, you may get a few days to relax and enjoy some arty events this festive season. This December, there’s plenty going on around Birmingham so you can indulge your creative side with a host of exhibitions, live events and performances.

We’ve picked our top 6 tips that we promise will be more exciting than battling your way through Boxing Day sales or watching Home Alone 4 for the tenth year running.

bauble-web-131497748445778216

Christmas Carol Concert at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

11th December 2017, 12.10 – 1.00 pm

There’s nothing like Christmas carols to get you in the mood for Christmas and the Conservatoire’s Christmas Carol Concert promises to do just that.

Featuring some of the best talent from the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, the performance is set to be a spectacularly festive treat.

Craft and art fairs at the MAC and Grand Union

Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be all about fighting your way through Primark or trawling the internet for the latest deals. Birmingham has some fantastic craft and art fairs where you can scout out unique and quirky gifts.

For some original pieces of art by the region’s most exciting contemporary artists we’d recommend the Grand Union Studios and Modern Clay Christmas Sale (1st December) which is set to be filled with original gifts for the dedicated art lover.

If you’re after something a bit more crafty then the Midland Art Centre’s annual Christmas Art Market is the one for you. With over 75 stands, the fair has a variety of stalls selling work by artists, designers and makers from across the midlands.

jan steen_02

Steen, J (1668-70) ‘The Marriage of Sarah and Tobias’

Pride and Persecution at Barber Institute of Fine Art

27th October 2017 – 21st January 2018

Pride and Persecution offers a unique insight into the paintings of Jan Steen, one of the masters of the Dutch Golden Age. Iconic works are exhibited alongside drawings and prints that tell the story of Jan Steen and the Old Testament scenes that he depicts.

If you’re after a bit of art history this Christmas, this is definitely the exhibition for you.

Theatre at one of Birmingham’s smaller venues

If you’re fancying a bit of theatre this festive season then there is plenty to see in  Birmingham.

Of course, the Birmingham Hippodrome has its annual pantomime (this year Suzanne Shaw plays the title role in Cinderella) but there are some other gems hidden in theatres all over the city. Birmingham’s smaller theatres have fantastic programmes planned with a range of professional and “amateur” plays, musicals and comedies.

If you’re after something to get you in the festive mood then we’d recommend The lion, the witch and the wardrobe at The Crescent Theatre (3rd – 16th December) or A Christmas Carol at The Blue Orange Theatre (16th – 30th December). If you’re up for something a little more avant-garde then check out the Skellig, based on the classic children’s novel, at The Old Joint Stock (20th – 30th December).

Image courtesy of Ambiguous Implements (1)

Ambiguous Implements at Vittoria Street Gallery

27th November 2017 – 15th December 2017

Vittoria Street Gallery is on a mission to prove that contemporary jewellery design is pushing the boundaries of artistic practice. Its current exhibition, Ambiguous Implements, will make you look at objects and jewellery design in a completely new light.

Featuring artists and designers from across the UK, the exhibition includes collected, manipulated and redesigned items that ‘playfully reconsider the familiar objects of our day to day life’.

Quentin Blake: Inside Stories at Compton Verney Art Gallery

20th October 2017 – 17th December 2017

If you fancy a trip out of the city this winter then we suggest Compton Verney Art Gallery.

The gallery occupies an 18th century Palladian house which sits in acres of “Capability” Brown landscape – the perfect backdrop for a crisp winter walk. Inside there’s a permanent collection of Neapolitan baroque art and British portraits and a series of temporary exhibitions.

The gallery’s winter exhibition, Quentin Blake: Inside Stories, takes the viewer on a journey through their childhood.

Having illustrated books by Roald Dahl and David Walliams, Quentin Blake is one of the most recognisable illustrators of his generation. Featuring original drawings and unseen sketches, the exhibition offers a unique insight into the illustrator’s long career and the chance to relive fond childhood memories.

Brummagem: Lost City Found tours to Oxford

Brummagem: Lost City Found has moved to the Mary Ogilvie Gallery in Oxford following its popular run at Parkside Gallery.

The exhibition, featuring work by Birmingham City University professor Andrew Kulman and Sara Kulman, will be open at the Oxford gallery for three weeks from 14th November. This follows a seven week run at Parkside Gallery where it is was one of the most visited exhibitions in the gallery’s history.

small_file3

Foreground: Kulman, A (2017) ‘St Martin’s Circus, Rotunda’

An ideal location

Brummagem: Lost City Found charts the history of Birmingham’s rapidly changing landscape and pays homage to the brutalist architecture that used to dominate the city. Through a series of prints and paper sculptures, Andrew Kulman and Sara Kulman offer personal reflections of the city and its current state of redevelopment.

The Mary Ogilvie Gallery is owned and managed by St Anne’s College, one of the newest and most welcoming Oxford University colleges. Undergoing rapid expansion in the 1960s, the college landscape is characterised by iconic brutalist buildings similar to those in Birmingham.

Chris Ansell, exhibitions assistant manager at Birmingham City University said:

“We’re really excited to take this exhibition to the Mary Ogilvie Gallery. The college’s architecture makes it the ideal location to show the work which is heavily inspired by brutalist design.

“It’s a much different gallery space to Parkside Gallery which gave us the opportunity to develop the exhibition in different ways. Hopefully, we’ll be able to show people something a little different this time around.”

As one of the most creative colleges in Oxford, St Anne’s College has a notable permanent collection and a history of temporary exhibitions. Within the permanent collection is a set of prints by Barbara Hepworth which offers interesting parallels to the prints and sculptures in Brummagem: Lost City Found. 

small_file5

Left: Kulman, S (2017) ‘Savoy Buildings 01’ Right: Kulman, S (2017) ‘Savoy Buildings 02’

Brummagem: Lost City Found reaches new audience

The exhibition will be open to Oxford University staff and students as well as the general public. With the festive season being one of the college’s busiest periods for events and conferences, the exhibition is set to be seen by a host of international delegates.

Lukas Beck, Middle Common Room president at St Anne’s College, said:

“College students and staff really enjoy having exhibitions on site as they make it a vibrant place to live and study.

“We’re proud of our architectural history and the brutalist buildings that we have. It’s great to see an exhibition that focuses on this style and gives it a new lease of life.”

Brummagem: Lost City Found runs until 3rd December at the Mary Ogilvie Gallery. Click here for more information.

Related story: Spotlight: Sara Kulman.