Over 50 painters had a go at painting our Brierley Hillness community mural – which aims to capture the ‘spirit’ of the town.
You can get details of what images, memories and features you can see in the mural and why they were included. If you want to see how well you know Brierley Hill first, why not do our Mural Quiz – How well do you know Brierley Hill?
The mural was painted in Artspace, an empty shop unit just off Brierley Hill High Street, on temporary lease to Dudley Arts Council in partnership with the Adult and Community Learning Service at Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council.
Over 50 painters had a go at painting with DJ over fifteen workshops, ages ranging from 12 to over 65.
The artist’s brief was to work with members of the community to paint a mural which captured the ‘spirit’ of Brierley Hill – to include representations of the places, spaces and architecture within the town, and associated memories suggested by local people to create a piece of art which reflected what is distinctive, special and unique about Brierley Hill.
To engage in the theme of Brierley Hillness artist DJ first researched the history of the town and took pictures of buildings and landmarks which held historical significance.
Instead of early participants being faced with a blank wall, DJ painted some of the iconic building outlines to get the mural started. The mural would naturally evolve as people came forward with further suggestions for the content.
Click here to have a look at the Mural Development week by week.
It was challenging at first to find out what participants thought should go on the mural to capture the ‘spirit’ of the town – but after a few weeks and many landmarks appearing, they began to tell DJ what they thought was missing.
A discussion with members of the Mount Pleasant History Group.
Other local people who were not involved in painting, also made suggestions about what should feature. Their comments were fed through to DJ and he was sent photos. Members of Dudley MIND, who were regular visitors to Artspace, were asked to take photos of some of the missing places mentioned.
You can get details of what images, memories and features you can see in the mural and why they were included.
The workshops ran on Tuesdays between January and April 2011. We set aside Tuesdays for painting the mural, as Tuesdays are traditionally one of the busier days in the town. Artspace already ran workshops on Saturdays. However, we did not attract many painters on these days. We also ran a workshop on a Saturday, a Tuesday evening and during the school holidays. These additional times brought in greater numbers of painters and a wider variety of participants.
Programming workshops at a variety of times would have yielded greater numbers to the mural painting project. However, two ladies came to nearly every workshop, and a group from Dudley MIND joined us every two weeks. For the regulars, small numbers meant they were able to contribute more, and benefit from the opportunity.
The mural will have a permanent home in Brierley Hill Library from August 2011.
Photography was used in the project in two ways; to capture Brierley Hill – artistically in content; and creatively to learn a new skill.
We were fortunate that Audiences Central through Arts Nation ran a photo competition to tie in with a Martin Parr photography exhibition running at Artspace at the same time. They themed this competition – what does Brierley Hill mean to you?
This part of the project was run entirely by Audiences Central. People across Dudley Borough were invited to send in photos that reflected what Brierley Hill means to them.
Matthew Pearson, one of the competition winners in front of his photograph projection
There were photography-related prizes and the opportunity to have winning photos projected onto a building in Brierley Hill. The judging panel included a professional photographer.
A Brierley Hillness Flickr group was set up, via a website and entrants uploaded their photos or emailed them. http://www.flickr.com/groups/brierleyhillnesscompetition .
A photo competition is a great way of collecting a range of images of the town – and documenting ‘life’ as well as buildings.
Currently there are 180 images taken in Brierley Hill in this group.
Pete Glews, one of the competition winners in front of his photograph projection
During a free public evening event at Artspace, the seven winning images were projected onto the side of a building nearby. A Brierley Hill Photo Competition Projection powerpoint presentation which also included promotion for the event and funder logos was looped for three hours.
Running competitions, with good prizes, can bring in a wider variety of participants and their families into a community project. For us it was a good way of finding out what Brierley Hillness means to more people.
Projection is temporary and it can be expensive (e.g. the hire and insurance of projector), but it takes exhibitions to new audiences. The projection was positioned next to a bus stop and opposite a pub, and gained a much wider and diverse audience than would have seen the work if it were displayed in an indoor gallery space.
Creating Streetscapes Using Photoshop
In this half-day workshop led by Siddique Hussain, participants used digital cameras to take pictures of all the shops along a section of the High Street.
Panoramic montage of Brierley Hill High Street by community participants
Digital photography is about learning about cameras, the art of good photography and using the computer to manipulate, enhance and share images in a creative way.
Having a streetscape panoramic image is useful as it gives people who do not know the area an instant ‘flavour’ of the place; showing the variety of architecture along a single street. It also helps people to appreciate the historic quality of the buildings. Many people do not look above the shop frontages.
Panoramic montage of Brierley Hill High Street by community participants
The workshops participants were shown how to overlap the images, turn the camera into portrait orientation and take it off the ‘auto’ setting. Participants were shown how to stitch the images together in Photoshop to form a streetscape panoramic.
We found out that using a busy high street as the focus of activity means you will have lots of traffic and parked cars to negotiate when stitching together images.
Musical Composition Using Soundscape
Musician Pete Williams went into the town and recorded ambient sounds of Brierley Hill during a Brierley Hillness workshop. These included: market, street, cafe, Merry Hill mall, canal, the water locks and weir; and inside TXMax, KFC and the library.
Artspace coordinator and musician Ed Cartwright then used a selection of these audio sounds to create a background track for his Brierley Hill-inspired saxophone composition entitled Faggotsnpeas
Illustrated Talks and Performance Events
A free evening events programme was arranged to add another dimension to the Brierley Hillness project. It enabled us to involve experts and Council Officers in the project, and the public to learn more about the history and heritage of Brierley Hill.
There were also performance nights, showcasing the talent of the young people who had been involved in creative workshops. We held six evening events at Artspace,which has a seating capacity of 40 people per event. Audience numbers averaged at twenty people per event.
The illustrated talks on local history did attract people we hadn’t already met, although mainly from a traditional heritage audience. The performance nights, on the other hand, brought in young people, friends and family and we were able to engage with a wider audience.
There was a further evening event to showcase winning work from the photo competition; images were projected on a nearby building. This part of the project was organised by Audiences Central (see Photography).
The Brierley Hillness evening event programme included:
Brierley Hill’s Historic Landscape
Pete Boland, Principal Conservation Officer and Borough Archeologist, explored the evolution of character in Brierley Hill; how the area has developed over time and the heritage assets that contribute to the town’s distinctive character. It was a fascinating talk brought to life by a suite of Historic maps of Dudley Borough.
Watch a clip of his talk.
Brierley Hill: Past and Present
Ned Williams, Black Country author and historian, took us on a journey along Brierley Hill High Street using old and new photos; reflecting on the buildings and trades that once lined this street and the stories and memories associated with them. See Selection Selection of old images of Brierley Hill High Street used in Ned’s presentation.
Watch a clip of his illustrated talk
The Future of Brierley Hill Town Centre
Principal Planner Nicki Dale talked us through the plans to regenerate and redevelop the new town centre of Brierley Hill, focussing on how the area will be redesigned to allow better integration between the High Street, Merry Hill and the Waterfront. It was an informative and interactive evening with an opportunity to comment on the new design guidance for the town centre. See sections of Nicki’s presentation: An overview of Brierley Hill’s Urban Design Guidance and An overview and update on Brierley Hill’s Area Action Plan.
Watch a clip
Remembering Round Oak Steel Works
We were joined by Borough Artist Steve Field and Performance Poet Brendan Hawthorne for a nostalgic evening about Round Oak. They shared some of the stories and poetry that ex-workers have been giving and the audience were able to see a temporary exhibition of memorabilia donated by local people who was curated at Artspace. Steve unveiled initial memorial sculpture designs to the Steel Works. The audience was full of ex-workers at Round Oak.
Watch a clip
The Brierley Hill Project presents… Verbal Eyes
This was a very special evening showcasing the young talent of Brierley Hill. Features spoken word, Mc-ing, performance poetry and other entertainment – much of which will be inspired by the town. All the live performances from this evening were filmed.
Steve started the evening with his song inspired by Brierley Hill.
Steve from Jonathan Lee on Vimeo
One Boy. One Town. One Big Idea!
We screened the film version of the Dudley Performing Arts Production “One Boy. One Town. One Big Idea!” Originally performed at Brierley Hill Civic Hall earlier in the project. It was an evening filled with much laughter and excitement as the cast of Buzz Youth Theatre watched themselves for the first time, along with a few members of the community.
Download Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt for a slightly extended and print ready version (PDF). Download a TEXT ONLY VERSION Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt (Word).