All Age Groups

Community Mural

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.

 Community Mural from Jonathan Lee on Vimeo.

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 Developmentweek 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.

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.

Interviewing in the Streets

A couple of months into the Brierley Hillnessproject the number of individual participants taking part in the mural workshop or ‘dropping-in’ to speak to us was fairly low, and we had a lower than expected uptake of bespoke creative workshops for community groups.

We needed to speak to as many people as possible about Brierley Hill as part of our commitment to consultation, but realised that through the creative workshops alone, we were not gathering enough responses.

We needed to gather more ‘words’ ‘descriptions’, ‘perceptions’ and ‘ideas’ about the town. We needed a different approach.

While not part of the original project planning, conducting street interviews was a useful way to engage with people who live, work and shop in Brierley Hill, but were not necessarily interested in taking part in a creative activity through Artspace.

We employed Brierley Hill resident Shona-Rose Gilsenan  to conduct street interviews for a total of nineteen hours. These hours were spread over six sessions, and conducted on different days of the week to ensure maximum representation of different communities, ages and backgrounds as far as possible.

Shona gives us her impressions of the street interviews

Interview about Street interviews from Jonathan Lee on Vimeo.

The Interviews


In Brierley Hill we selected Saturdays to reach the broadest age ranges; Tuesdays to reach the older generation and market shoppers; and Thursdays to reach those in receipt of benefits on payment day.  We interviewed 71 people. Here are the Street Interview Questions we asked.

We decided to film the first eleven hours of the street interviews in order to create a short film aimed at future developers, planners and stakeholders in Brierley Hill – bringing the voice of the community to them in a very real way, rather than presenting our findings in a written document. 25 of the interviews have been edited into a short film (14 mins) called My Brierley Hill

My Brierley Hill 4 from Jonathan Lee on Vimeo.

The benefits of having film footage is that you get stories, articulated opinions rather than the one or two word answers and best of all – personalities. Obviously there is a cost to filming and editing, and transcribing interviews can be time-consuming, but you get a fuller picture of what people think, local accents, humour and an engaging narrative which can be used to influence.

Download Approaches to Community Engagement and Lessons Learnt. This is a slightly extended and print ready version (PDF). 

From Street to Stage!

The transcripts of the interviews were used as source material to inspire the performance piece by Age UK, Dudley’s drama group – “Brierley Hilliness”. Watch the performance. Find out more about how the street interviews bacame part of the dramatic process.

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).


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