Birmingham’s musical heritage commemorated with pop-up exhibition

on November 3, 2016

City of Colours, a Birmingham-based urban arts company that hosts the city’s largest celebration of street art, is to stage an exhibition highlighting the city’s musical heritage created by young people.

Organisers worked alongside Jez Collins, founder of the Birmingham Music Archive and researcher at Birmingham City University, to run a ten-month project aimed at highlighting the city’s rich musical history. The Our Musical Roots project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots programme, involved children under 16 in underprivileged areas of Highgate, Digbeth and Lozells.

One aim of the project was to break down perceptions and increase awareness of Birmingham’s musical heritage. When speaking to a group of young people under 16, City of Colours discovered that 89% of those interviewed could not name a single musician from Birmingham.

City of Colours and Birmingham Music Archive also worked with three youth groups to produce street art murals that reflected their research into Birmingham’s musical roots, with unveilings in Lozells and Highgate in October.

The new mural at St. Martin’s Youth Centre. (Rebecca Orleans)

The new mural at St. Martin’s Youth Centre, one of the murals unveiled in October. (Rebecca Orleans)

Young people from St. Martin’s Youth Centre, Highgate and the youth homelessness prevention charity St. Basil’s, explored the rich musical history of Birmingham, focusing on music of black, Asian and white origin. They attended a summer school, where they took part in a number of music heritage based workshops and activities, with a number going on to complete a Bronze Arts Award.

Jez Collins, founder of Birmingham Music Archive, said:

“Birmingham’s impact on the global music industry is criminally overlooked in comparison to cities like Manchester and Liverpool, yet Birmingham has a rich, diverse and sustained history of music activity.

It’s so important to keep this history alive and to celebrate, preserve and embrace it! Projects like this are vital in inspiring young people to be proud of their musical roots, to create their own music and to pass it down for generations to come.”

Becci Wright, director at City of Colours, said:

“We’re extremely proud of the work that the young people have produced through the Our Musical Roots programme and can’t wait to unveil their findings.

Music is such a big part of our cultural heritage and has a huge impact on many aspects of our lives. It’s essential for Birmingham that its great musical history is kept alive and by instilling a sense of pride in our history, we stand a greater chance of preserving it.”

On Thursday November 17th, a free exhibition, titled Our Musical Roots, will take place at the renowned Muthers Studio in Digbeth. It will display artwork, research and findings from the young people, vinyl collages, a lyrical installation and a timeline of Birmingham’s musical heritage.


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