New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

Friction Arts’ exhibition ‘Echoes’ recalls the spirit of lost buildings

Posted August 1st, 2013 by Suzanne Carter with No Comments


Here is a guest blog by Tim Franklin from Friction Arts:

Much of Birmingham’s architectural heritage has already been lost. If it wasn’t cleared by the Luftwaffe, the council finished it off in the ‘60s and ‘70s. There may be photographs or architectural drawings, but often the only trace that a place once existed is in the memories it left with the residents, workers and children who lived, toiled and played in and around it. Friction Arts is preserving that history and sharing it with the world in their new exhibition “Echoes.”

Friction Arts have worked in Birmingham for 20 years, with their studio currently based in Digbeth. Lead artists Lee Griffiths and Sandra Hall are in love with the city and it’s incredibly diverse population. Since 2009 they have collected interviews with local residents about their experience growing up, living, working and having fun in Digbeth and Highgate. Now, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, they are using those interviews to create an exhibition that allows other people to step into the remarkable history of the area.

It’s not a simple story. Everyone has a different relationship with the place they grew up, or worked in, or raised their family. Tiny residential homes played host to the sweaty Blues parties of the ‘70s and 80s. The St. Martin’s flats, opened by the Queen mother in the early years of the Second World War and demolished in 1980, were a sanctuary for some and a prison for others, as the fabric of the buildings eroded and the community changed beyond recognition. The delicate ecosystem of factories that once existed in Digbeth is a source of pride for some, but for many it is a memory linked to the devastating changes of the ‘80s. The Echoes exhibition seeks to respect these different stories, not by presenting a single compromised image of the past, but by revealing the many different facets of history.

Visitors to the Echoes exhibition need to book onto a tour in advance. As a group they will explore a series of rooms that reveal aspects of Birmingham life from the 60s to the 80s, guided by the voices of residents who lived, worked or played in Digbeth and Highgate. Each room has secrets to reveal and will reward the curious investigator, as well as offering something to both the young and the experienced.

Echoes runs from 22nd August to 16th November 2013. Free tickets can be reserved here:

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