A weekend in Brum

26 07 2010

Just in case anyone has missed it, James has been away this weekend on a bit of a cycling jaunt around some hills in Wales.  So, rather than the cycling widow staying at home and polishing his remaining bikes I decided to plot a weekend of activities close to home.  Now, I can get a bit evangelical about Birmingham’s cultural offerings, but I do think that the snapshot of activities I went along to is pretty fantastic.

On Friday I pedaled up the hill to Edgbaston to watch Orgasm Inc. – a rather frightening look at how drugs companies are medicalising even the most intimate aspects of our lives and then selling us ‘cures’.  The film was borrowed by my friend Aldo from the Just Film Co-op, who are committed to screening thought provoking films on a monthly basis.  If this offering was anything to go by it’s well worth going along to other screenings.

Friday night and Saturday morning were spent in the company of Julie, our housemate and friend Jenny, who were practicing a song that they were performing at a wedding party.  I tentatively picked up the guitar as well, and even dusted off my cello to have a play.  It’s not often that I have the opportunity to play music with others, so I’m now feeling incredibly enthused, though I’m not entirely sure whether the neighbours are…

I headed into town to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the afternoon.  I got a little way-laid looking at The Staffordshire Hoard, the stash of Anglo Saxon treasure discovered just up the road from my parents’ last year.  I’m happy to say that funds have been secured to keep the collection in the Midlands, and it will be on display for at least the next year or so.

I then ventured down into the Community Gallery to browse through the Connected Histories Exhibition.  As with a project that I have just completed for the Lichfield Festival, community artists Sima Gonsai and Vanley Burke have worked with young people from around the Midlands to offer them an alternative insight into the Second World War.  Both artists have a real commitment to documenting the social and political history of local communities, and I’ve been lucky enough to work with Sima on a number of occasions.  The exhibition looks specifically at the contribution of Muslims during the Second World War, offering a fresh perspective on what one young person thought was ‘a white man’s war, because that’s what you’re taught in school’.  It acknowledges the role of the 600,000 Muslims within the Indian military who fought for Allied Forces, and focuses on some remarkable individuals, including Noor Inayat Khan who I confess I had never heard of before.  An absolute must to see, it’s on until October.

I had to return the following day as I almost managed to get locked in the Museum I was that absorbed in the exhibition.  I think that Birmingham has made a real coup with the exhibition of the Steve McCurry retrospective in the Waterhall Gallery.  He is the photographer responsible for the National Geographic image of the Afghan Girl, the image taken in 1986 which gave a face to the horrendous conflict raging there (and which, tragically, 25 years later we still think we can solve through force).

I don’t think that it’s any exaggeration to say that any one of the scores of images around the gallery would be capable of breaking your heart.  McCorry’s images are so vivid and colourful, showing stunning landscapes and the universality of our humanity.  But there is a real sadness to the portraits.  As with the image of the Afghan Girl, Sharbat Gula, the eyes tell stories of lives ravaged by war and poverty.  I’ll definitely be returning to take it in.

As a bit of light relief I went to the IKON to see some of the stuff they’re doing looking back at the IKON in the 70’s.  By far my favourite piece was ‘A Stitch in Time’, a chance to add your stitches to the large piece of fabric in the middle of the room.  Many people had sewn tickets and photos and messages into the piece, whereas others had taken a lot of time to produce detailed pictures.  I added my own bit of postmodern cross stitch… 🙂

A stitch in time

In amongst all of that I ate free curry from the Hare Krishnas holding a Chariot Festival in Victoria Square, saw the slightly harrowing, but nevertheless excellent, ‘London River’ at the mac, eavesdropped on a nocturnal bat and moth walk in Cannon Hill Park being run by Brum Bats, popped my head into ‘Seeing the Unseen’ at the Pallasades, and even managed a bit of gardening.  I wrapped up the weekend by picking up a weary but smiley husband from the middle of the Shropshire countryside.  But I’m sure he’ll be telling you all about that… 🙂

So, if you are planning a ‘Staycation’ this summer, or are thinking of popping to Brum, hopefully this has whet your appetite.  We may even be able to open up the Eastwood Road hotel!

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26 07 2010
Tweets that mention A weekend in Brum « Everyday Stories of Rachel & James -- Topsy.com

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jane Baker, Rachel Gillies. Rachel Gillies said: A weekend in Brum http://bit.ly/dk7eSY A snapshot of some smashing exhibitions and activities on at the moment. […]

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