Top 6 things to see at Fierce Festival

Fierce Festival is the Midland’s biggest live art festival. For one week every year the festival fills the city’s galleries, theatres and unusual spaces with the very best contemporary performances and live events.

Often presenting challenging works in unexpected places, Fierce Festival is an event like no other. It brings the city to life as the leading performers and artists arrive from across the globe.

Looking ahead to this year’s festival, Parkside Gallery has chosen its top six picks.

Rev Billy & Choir13bf_o_sml

Rev Billy & Choir will be performing at ‘Be The Change.’ Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Be The Change: An Edwardian Tearoom Late @ Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

21 October 2017, 18.30 – 22.00, free

The city’s Victorian baroque museum will host a night of live art and activism as politics and art collide.

With a Protest-Playlist and activist speed-dating, Be The Change, is set to be an extravaganza of political allying and lively debate.

Fame Prayer/EATING @ the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

22 October 2017, 17.30, £8/£6

The brand new Royal Birmingham Conservatoire will play host to Andrew Tay, Franscois Lalumiere and Katrzyna Szugajew and their interdisciplinary performance.

Through an immersive, group performance the trio will transport the audience into a world of ritual and spiritualism.


‘Multiverse’ (2017) Louis Vanhaverbeke. Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Louis Vanhaverbeke: Multiverse @ the MAC Birmingham

21 October 2017 – 22 October 2017, 14.00, £10/£8

Belgian artist Louis Vanhaverbeke will create a sound spectacular that combines rap with unimaginable percussion instruments.

In his stripped-back performances, Vanhaverbeke converts everyday objects into unusual instruments. In this UK premiere, who knows what we can expect from the Belgian artist and his kinetic sound installation.

Artist Talk: Rocio Boliver @ the Birmingham School of Art

20 October 2017, 17.30, free

As an introduction to her performance at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on 22 October, Rocio Boliver will be giving an illustrated and interactive talk at the Birmingham School of Art.

Mexican artist Boliver is one of the most celebrated performance artists of her generation. Her provocative performances offer a blunt, and very personal, perspective on the representation of women in South American countries.

Join the artist at the Birmingham School of Art for a unique, and often hilarious, insight into her colourful life.

Hotline #1 @ Fierce Festival Hub

20 October 2017, 13.00 – 16.00, free

A space for discussion and debate on all things live.

Fierce Festival’s series of Hotline events brings together artists, performers, visitors and anyone interested for an open discussion on live art and performance.


Demonstrating the World (2014 – 2017) Aaron Williamson. Image courtesy of Fierce Festival and the artist.

Aaron Williamson: Demonstrating the World @ Victoria Square

21 October 2017, 12.00 – 18.00, free

Fierce Festival takes to the streets with this performance by one of the legends of British performance art.

Aaron Williamson’s bizarre performance reinterprets Youtube ‘how-to’ videos that attempt to explain every aspect of our lives. Set on a purpose-build stage, Demonstrating the World displaces regular household objects that become part of this curious reflection on day-to-day life.

Pop by to see Victoria Square as you have never seen it before.


Fierce Festival runs from 16 October 2017 until 22nd October 2017.

For more information please visit

Spotlight: Sara Kulman

Parkside Gallery talks to Sara Kulman about making, materials, working with her husband and her current exhibition.

Artist Sara Kulman makes up one half of the team behind Brummagem: Lost City Found. Her unconventional route to becoming an artist (is there ever a conventional route?) brings a refreshing take on processes and materials.

I caught up with Sara to discuss her exhibition and fascinating approach to making objects.

Beneath the Interchange

Kulman, S (2017) Beneath the Interchange

Chris Ansell: Your exhibition, Brummagem: Lost City Found, draws on Birmingham and its brutalist architecture. Have you always felt a connection to the city?

Sara Kulman: I grew up in the suburbs in the 60s and 70s so Birmingham was always an exciting place to visit. I would go to the eye hospital, go shopping in Lewis’s then be driven through the Queensway to visit relatives. I always loved the journey.

When I got home I’d use my brother’s construction toys to recreate and reinvent my own functional but fun buildings and structures, my own city.

Recently, I’ve been discovering more about Birmingham and its architectural history but it will always be my memories and my love of the shapes, colours and textures of the city that inspire me.

CA: You have a specific pallet of materials and manage to transform simple pieces of paper into striking 2D and 3D works. How do you choose the materials that you use?

SK: I’ve always loved making things and always loved paper.

As a child paper was cheap and always to hand. I had an elderly neighbour who made paper sculpture for the WI. I think that she inspired me from early age to I think about the possibilities that paper holds. My parents were always very encouraging too.

I worked as a paper conservator at the British Library, conserving and binding books and manuscripts. Papers hold their own histories. Each paper would come with a unique set of skills that was used to create them. This inspired me to start learning about these processes.

I also started collecting paper at this point, back in the 80s, so I have a large stock now to select from. Though, increasingly, it is becoming more difficult to find different papers on the high street and this limits my choices.

Paper is a fascinating material, and the more time I spend with it the more addictive it becomes. Sometimes, I choose the materials based on the desired outcomes. Sometimes, they choose me, their colours, textures and properties challenging me to think of a purpose.

Signal Box 1.a

Image courtesy of Sara Kulman

CA: How do you approach making a piece of work? Are there any techniques or processes that you use?

SK: It always starts as an idea in my head – I rarely draw or sketch an idea.

Then the work is in the hands of the paper that I’m using. Some ideas are difficult to realise and you really have to work with the material. Paper can be frustrating, it doesn’t always perform; it might fold one way but not another, it might cut cleanly but equally it might pull and tear.

A lot of papers I use are one-offs so I make a lot of maquettes using rough scraps before starting the final piece. I spend a long time fine turning and I’m quite precise. It takes courage to commit to cutting and folding when it’s your only sheet.

The paper also affects the scale of the work. My work is normally quite small, partly due to the size of the chosen paper. Vintage papers, for example, tend to be small in size. But also, I don’t have a studio, just my living room, so I can’t make work that’s too big.

When attaching paper I try not to use glue, it can be hard to use and the final effect can be disappointing. I prefer to use other methods, like sewing, a throwback to my bookbinding days at the British Library, and weaving, which gives the paper a fabric like quality.

Well thought out folds and origami are good ways of producing structures that need no glue and that can support themselves.

CA: This is a joint show where you and your husband [Professor Andrew Kulman] are both exhibiting work. How did the show come about?

SK: We last did a show together 33 years ago at the Solihull Library Theatre [now The Core] after we both graduated.

This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Andrew working in Birmingham, and we’ve just moved to the city centre, so it felt like the perfect opportunity to collaborate and celebrate with an exhibition.

Smallbrook Queensway Mosaic.a

Kulman, S (2017) Smallbrook Queensway Mosaic

CA: The exhibition also includes work by your son: is art in the family?

SK: Yes, it is really. We have three children, one works in the film and TV industry and another is in fashion marketing. Noah, our youngest is studying art at college and has a few pieces in the show. We always thought he’d be the doctor of the family [chuckles].

Noah helps Andrew make prints and he’s really taken to it and shows a real talent. I think he sees it as the avenue that he’d like to pursue.

Both lads [Noah Kulman and Lewis Moulton who also has a piece in the exhibition] had made excellent work that related to the theme of the exhibition and it seemed right to include them. It’s nice to show how brutalist architecture and the city is inspiring a younger generation.

Brummagem: Lost City Found is open until 27 October 2017 at Parkside Gallery. For more information please visit


Spotlight: Tamadher Al Fahal

Tamadher Al Fahal is a co-founder of Bahraini art collective Ulafa’a Initiative and curator of I am ‘Khaleeji’, a programme of events at the International Project Space that aims introduce western culture to contemporary art in the Gulf.

An artist, curator, TEDx speaker and PhD candidate, Tamadher splits her time between Birmingham, Bahrain and a host of international cities. Her current project, I am ‘Khaleeji’ features an exhibition of contemporary Bahraini art and events that give a true insight into the breadth of contemporary art practices that are flourishing in the Gulf.

Parkside Gallery caught up with Tamadher to discuss the international project and the exciting relationship between British and Bahraini art.


Chris Ansell: A major part of I am ‘Khaleeji’ is by the book, an exhibition that features 13 artists from Bahrain. This must be one of the largest exhibitions of contemporary Bahraini art to take place in the UK. How did you approach selecting the artists that you wanted to work with?

Tamadher Al Fahal: I’ve been working and exhibiting with Ulafa’a Initiative since 2012. by the book includes work by current members of the initiative and artists who I invited because their work responds to similar topics.

In the initiative we normally come up with a concept as a group – something that seems relevant to us at the time – and then each artist in the initiative responds to that theme.

More recently we’ve started inviting artists that we identify with to submit works.

We normally accept all submissions and allow everyone to exhibit their work alongside each other. In our last exhibition we had everything ranging from work by established artists to a piece by a four year old child.

This time we have been a little more selective and created something a bit different.

CA: And have any themes arisen that you weren’t expecting? Things that you only noticed now you’ve bought the work together.

TAF: We haven’t been able to install the exhibition just yet so I’m just as excited as you are to see what happens when we bring all the work together in one space.

All the work shares its relation to the social and cultural aspects of Bahrain but it comes from different perspectives, different people’s perspectives. It is always interesting to see what comes of putting two different views side by side.

A lot of the artists are from different regions and this brings different views, and different views on religion.

Religion plays a big part in the exhibition. Religion, particularly in the Gulf, is influential in how culture is constructed. It forms the spoken, and unspoken, rulebook. A lot of the exhibition focusses on the boundary between religion and the conventions that are often disguised as religion.

CA: It’s important for you to provide a true reflection of the contemporary art scene in Bahrain. What do you hope to teach people about contemporary Bahraini art in the exhibition?

TAF: It’s diversity. There’s such a range of contemporary art in Bahrain and I want to give people an insight into this. It’s important that people are aware that this is only a glimpse into a niche type of contemporary art in Bahrain and that there is so much more out there.

Art in the Gulf is normally characterised under one umbrella and this is how it’s normally perceived, especially in western countries. But there is so much variation. Different countries in the Gulf are taking different directions and even in each country there are so many different takes and approaches.

The Bahraini art scene is still shaping and morphing. This state of flux makes it really exciting and produces some extremely interesting outcomes. The movement is in its infancy so it’s really youthful, colourful and different. Art in Bahrain has a complexity that is underexplored and dimensions that are unexpected.


CA: Do you see many similarities between contemporary art in the Gulf and western countries?

TAF: Yes – experimentation. In both regions experimentation is at the heart of most people’s practices. And they share the understanding that often the attempts that are “incomplete” are the most successful.

But they differ a lot in the processes and materials that are used. Each place has their own cultural history and own material history so different techniques have been inherited. This informs the way that contemporary artists work and how they think about different materials.

The relationship between the art and the audience also differs. This may have something to do with the difference in exhibition spaces – in Bahrain we don’t have as many whitewall galleries.

For Ulafa’a Initiative community engagement and the audience is always at its heart of every project that we work on and this influences how we make art.

We try to create a social space, a space for interaction. At each exhibition that the initiative curates every artists brings their favourite chair and puts it in the gallery space for the private view. It helps create a lively, relaxed atmosphere that allows for conversation. Everyone normally ends up sitting and talking late into the night.

Obviously, this is specific to our group but there is a connection between art and the community that runs through a lot of contemporary Bahraini art. The creative process and the audience tends to be much more integrated than you see in most western art practices.

IMG (12 of 21)

CA: In a time when foreign relations all over the world are precariously balanced, what part do you think art and exhibitions can play?

TAF: I think that both curating and creating are political acts.

One piece in the exhibition is very political but as a collective we always try to express our individual opinions without hurting others.

As we are constantly talking to each other about our work we tend to produce pieces that have subtle references which are open to interpretation.

The group was formed on ideas of reconciliation and we always try to remember this. We each have strong opinions but we do not want to upset anyone just prompt questions and discussion.

CA: And what do you hope the exhibition programme will bring to Birmingham?

TAF: I want to help connect with Bahraini people living in the UK. Since I’ve been living in Birmingham, I’ve seen an increase in the number of Bahraini people living in the area and I hope that this exhibition helps connect an international community.

But then I think that the themes of the exhibition can talk to people from all cultures. It talks about belonging, or not belonging, and how people live in relation to a community’s set of rules. And this is a universal feeling.

I am ‘Khaleeji’ runs from 9th October – 23rd October 2017. Please visit for more information.

Interview date: 21 September 2017








‘by the book’ at International Project Space

Pioneered by artist, lecturer and gallery director Stuart Whipps, the International Project Space is a new exhibition venue at the Birmingham School of Art.

As is hinted by the name, the International Project Space hosts a programme of exhibitions that bring together international artists, local practitioners and the school’s fine art students.

Now entering its second year, the gallery has a packed programme of exhibitions, dinners, participatory events and lectures that explore what it means to be an artist in an international age.

Curated by international researcher Tamadher Alfahal, by the book launches the gallery’s 17-18 season.

by the book

Still from ‘Bahrain Poems’ (2017) Muhammed Almubarak. Edited by Hajer Ghareeb

by the book

9 October – 23 October 2017

ULAFA’A INITIATIVE is pleased to present by the book, a group show at the International Project Space.

By the book highlights structures that dictate everyday issues; the written or implied rulebooks of social behaviour. Individuals are cultivated through the way their immediate environment functions, and through the rulebooks given to them. These two frameworks tell us what is acceptable and what is not, ideally to create some sense of order. If one were to break away from the collective pattern; act differently, think differently, it creates resistance. Singular subjectivity steps out of a collective symbolic order and refuses to fit into a composed whole. These artists critically analyse the rulebooks of their societies, and where the line is drawn between benefit and regulation; control and conformity; traditions and misconceptions.

By the book questions the things we should and shouldn’t do.
The spaces we should or shouldn’t occupy.
What to destroy, and what to preserve.
The way we should and shouldn’t dress.
When we should speak, when to hold our tongues.
When to be part of a society, and when to be an individual.
We question the books we choose to go by.

Ulafa’a Initiative was founded in 2012 by Tamadher Ali and Nada Alaradi, who brought together a group of diverse Bahraini youth with various artistic skills who use art as a tool to narrate, change, and heal. It is an ongoing project that creates platforms for individuals to express themselves, and to strengthen relationships of respect and understanding among the different communities of Bahrain.

Contact Us

Instagram and Twitter: @ulafaa


School of Art alumni in ‘blockbuster’ V&A exhibition

Ian Emes, a Fine Art graduate from Birmingham City University, features in Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

The exhibition, a retrospective of the British band, has been one of the museum’s most visited shows, attracting over 300,000 visitors. Its popularity has prompted the museum to extend its run until mid-October.


Ian Emes

Emes, who had a solo show at Parkside Gallery in 2013, plays a major part in the exhibition.

The School of Art graduate worked regularly with Pink Floyd in the 70s, producing animations for their iconic animated concerts. The Dark Side of the Moon (1974), which includes the famous ‘time sequence,’ featured in the rock band’s internationally acclaimed concert tour.

Emes has produced animations for numerous other international musicians including Mike Oldfield and Paul McCartney. His animations are iconic of 70s pop culture.

As well as working with famous rock musicians, Emes has produced a series of other projects over the last five decades. Other works include a music video for Duran Duran, commercials and numerous television series.

Recently, Emes has directed Bookaboo, a children’s programme which is going into its second series on CITV.

Emes’ success has led to his inclusion in numerous group exhibitions in recent years at The Horse Hospital, London, and Ikon, Birmingham.

Current projects include a collaboration with dance artists Flock Dance in what is set to be a spectacular collision of cinema and live performance.

His work will soon feature in David Gilmour Live at Pompeii which airs in cinemas on 13 September.


What is contemporary jewellery?


Next month Vittoria Street Gallery hosts 20:20 Visions, an exhibition showcasing the best contemporary jewellery from the last 20 years.

20:20 Visions, a touring exhibition curated by the Association for Contemporary Jewellery (ACJ), celebrates the organisation’s 20th anniversary.

Some of the best contemporary jewellery from the last twenty years will be exhibited alongside work by the most promising upcoming contemporary jewellers.

But what is contemporary jewellery? And what makes it different to other types of jewellery design?


Rajesh Gogna ‘Architect #1’ 2013

Contemporary jewellery is an artistic practice

Contemporary jewellery, like any other form of art termed ‘contemporary,’ is very hard to define.

Unlike most movements of art and design throughout history, contemporary jewellery cannot be categorised based on appearance or the materials used. As shown by 20:20 Visions, pieces of contemporary jewellery range greatly in their appearance.

Instead, it seems more applicable to describe contemporary jewellery as a practice, or a specific approach to making jewellery.

This approach takes into consideration more than just the appearance of the final product. A whole range of other concerns, such as social context and materiality, all inform the development of a piece.

A design is the result of many factors coming together including aesthetic considerations, relevant themes and suitable materials. These concerns all contribute to the variety present in contemporary jewellery.

Contemporary jewellery and materials

Materiality is an important aspect of contemporary jewellery. No longer are jewellers confined to use precious metals and stones but are encouraged to use other materials. These materials reflect the wider concerns of the jeweller and the desired outcome.

The flexible approach to materials reflects a trend that has occurred in all branches of contemporary art. Contemporary artists, jewellers, designers, musicians and actors are no longer restricted to a certain medium but use an array of materials.


Libby Ward, ‘Made in the Middle’ exhibition photo

Contemporary jewellery and the contemporary arts

The joy of the contemporary arts is that the boundaries between the different branches of art are blurred – many of the pieces on show at Vittoria Street Gallery could as easily be part of a sculpture exhibition, a fashion show or performance as they could an exhibition of jewellery.

However, there are a few distinct characteristics that separate the work in 20:20 Visions from other forms of contemporary practice.

Though it does not need to appeal to a consumer audience, a piece of contemporary jewellery should be wearable (in some way) and take account of the human body.

Also, contemporary jewellery is part of a long history of jewellery making and has to consider its place in this lineage. Many contemporary jewellers are inspired by the history of jewellery making and design.

The development of a piece of contemporary jewellery is the result of a contemporary approach to making. It considers the appearance of a work, its material and style, in relation to broader themes and the world in which we live.

Top 10 art events in Birmingham

As the new university year begins there is plenty to see and do around the city. With exhibitions, events and festivals, Birmingham’s art scene offers something for everyone.

Parkside Gallery has picked its top 10 events and exhibitions in Birmingham this autumn.


Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

I Want! I Want!: Art & Technology at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

The Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (BMAG) is the city’s biggest art museum. As well as a large collection of pre-Raphaelite paintings and historic objects it hosts contemporary exhibitions.

I Want! I Want!: Art and Technology features some of the most influential artists of the last 20 years. But you’ll have to be quick to catch this exhibition before it closes on 1 October.

(1 April – 1 October 2017)

Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage at the Library of Birmingham

The Library of Birmingham doesn’t only hold books. It also puts on exhibitions and music events throughout the year.

Its upcoming exhibition, Connecting Stories: Our British Asian Heritage, will explore Britain’s 400 year relationship with South Asia. Celebrating Birmingham’s diversity, the exhibition will investigate how this connection has shaped the city.

(15 July – 4 November 2017)

Digbeth First Friday

Digbeth is a thriving hub of upcoming artists and spaces.

The first Friday of every month Digbeth comes alive. Live music, street food and entertainment fill the streets as galleries and venues host a range of late night events.

(The first Friday of every month, 6pm until late.)

Pleasure is a Weapon at Grand Union

Susie Green’s first UK solo show, Pleasure is a Weapon will combine sculpture, performance and painting in an exhibition at the forefront of contemporary art.

Look out for a series of performances, talks and screenings that will accompany the exhibition.

(1 September – 18 November 2017)

Saddleworth Moor: Responding to a Landscape at the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC)

The MAC’s upcoming exhibition redefines landscape photography. Saddleworth Moor: Responding to a Landscape showcases the work of photographer Matthew Murray and his unique approach to photographing the world.

Also check out the MAC’s packed programme of theatre, cinema and art events.

(18 November 2017 – 21 January 2018)


Brummagen at Parkside Gallery

Well we had to include one of our own exhibitions at some point. And Brummagem deserves its place on the list!

Sara Kulman and Andrew Kulman chart the history of Birmingham’s buildings in Parkside’s upcoming exhibition. Illustrations, paper sculptures and animations explore the overwhelming sense of nostalgia as Birmingham is redesigned and regenerated.

(18 September – 27 October 2017)

Portrait of the Artist: Käthe Kollwitz at Ikon Gallery

Ikon gallery is one of the city’s most distinguished galleries. Situated in Brindley Place, Ikon hosts national and international artists in a packed programme of exhibitions and events.

In its upcoming exhibition, Portrait of the Artist: Kathe Kollwitz, Ikon explores the life and works of Kollwitz – one of the leading artists of the early 20th century. Showcasing 40 prints from the British Museum collection, this exhibition offers a rare opportunity to experience the emotional quality of Kollwitz’s drawings.

(13 September – 26 November 2017)

Fierce Festival

Fierce Festival is one of the country’s biggest live art festivals. For one week it fills the city with theatre, dance, music, installations and live art.

This years’ highlights include Be the Change at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and live art in Victoria Square.

(16 October – 22 October 2017)


The New Art Gallery Walsall

Legacies: JMW Turner and contemporary art practice at The New Art Gallery Walsall

Not all of the Birmingham’s art is in the centre of the city. The New Art Gallery Walsall is one of many acclaimed galleries that exist across the region.

Works by Turner and the contemporary artists that he has inspired come together in a unique exhibition as part of the gallery’s ongoing partnership with the Tate.

(22 September 2017 – 14 January 2018)

Birmingham Weekender

Birmingham Weekender is the city’s biggest art festival, hosted by some of Birmingham’s most prestigious venues.

This year’s festival is jam-packed with dance, exhibitions, parties, curator talks and much more. With events ranging from an orchestra in a multi-storey carpark to an Art Rave at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the Birmingham Weekender looks set to be a highlight of the year.

(22 September – 24 September 2017)