From the archives we have selected a particular photograph to share with you, along with some thoughts from local individuals, our curators and participants. Perhaps never seen before, these images offer an insight into the Black Country and our changing lives.
The visit of the 45th American President to the UK has inspired a great deal of dissent and protest, a particularly novel one being the Trump Baby Balloon – which recalls the spirit of civil protest that animated much of the early community arts movement. In the 1970s, Jubilee had a silkscreen press in its base at Farley Park Lodge in Greets Green, West Bromwich. Apart from being used on projects and promotion of community events, the silkscreen proved popular with local activists, who queued up to make posters and t-shirts for various campaigns. This picture shows John Smith (and his sister), who was involved with a Nicaragua solidarity group in the early 80s.
Cathy Mackerras was one of the original members of a sister organisation to Jubilee Arts. She recalls some of their influences. “Back then I was a student at Birmingham University, where Clive Barker was a lecturer. He had been involved with Arnold Wesker’s Centre 42 project and with Joan Littlewood’s Theatre Workshop and taught on my course. But my knowledge also came from France. As part of my studies, I had an exchange in Paris, where I learned about the legacy of the maisons de la culture in provincial cities, created by the Minister of Culture Andre Malraux. People were calling this kind of arts work out there with the community, cultural action or cultural animation. After I graduated spent three months working with community projects in Montpellier, where theatre was being made with diverse groups of people, from Peugeot workers to immigrants to the unemployed.’ Coming back to the Midlands, inspired by these experiences of seeing ‘arts and culture in the hands of the workers’, she was soon to become one of the founder members of Telford Community Arts. In this period, founder members of Jubilee had also studied these Drama and English courses at Birmingham.
Other groups in the Midlands, starting out in the early 70s – apart from Jubilee in Sandwell – were Saltley Print and Media, Banner Theatre, Trinity Arts over in Brum. There was also WELD (Westminster Endeavour for Learning and Development), based at a school in Wandsworth who undertook arts projects. The design and publishing group Sidelines, which involved Birmingham photographers Derek Bishton, John Reardon and Brian Homer, ran a community photography project at WELD.
You can find some background information on this period here on François Matarasso’s website.
You’ll find an interview with another member of Telford Community Arts here at: communityartsunwrapped.com