West Bromwich, 1988

Whatever happened to…?

Gary Stewart first arrived in Greets Green in the mid-80s, initially awarded a year-long apprenticeship from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation to work with Jubilee Arts –  one of five such schemes around the country. He set up shop above the office, only to be reached by a decorating ladder. Hailing from down the road in Birmingham, Gary had originally attended Moseley Art School and then went to Trent Polytechnic to study electronics and computing. At the time he was particularly interested in tape-slide production and ‘sonic experimentation.’ In 1989, Jubilee were awarded some additional funding from the Council to spend on capital items. Gary proposed that some of the funding be spent on new digital tools – as he says himself, it may seem a patently obviously thing to do in retrospect, but back then this was a local community arts group working with an 8-track TASCEM portastudio and the value of this emerging technology was unclear.

Around that time, Gary had also brought one of the first Apple computers to Jubilee, a Mac SE/30, which had 1MB of Ram and ran on floppy discs, with a black and white screen. (Eight of these babies were used to make the book ‘Bending the Truth a Little Bit’ with Churchfields School). So Gary went out and bought Sound Tools, a card which enabled the computer to record sound – ‘it cost an extraordinary amount of money.’ (Sound Tools later became Pro Tools.) This was the beginning of Jubilee’s successful foray into the digital world, then a leap into the unknown. Among many other projects, Gary worked on ‘Bickle’ and developed ‘Sex Get Serious’ before leaving in the 90s to work at ARTEC in Islington, a centre set up originally by Cultural Partnerships (a group Jubilee had a strong relationship and many work exchanges), training young people in digital media. He later went to work at INIVA (International Institute of Visual Arts) as Head of Multimedia. Today he works as an artist and experimental sonic musician based in London. He is a keen cyclist. With Trevor Mathison he is also part of Dubmorphology who make art installations that examine the relationship between culture, history and technology. He and Trevor recently gave a talk at the Ikon in Birmingham about their work – you can view it here: www.ikon-gallery.org/event/talk-living-with-difference/

Image: Gary Stewart running one of many workshops at the High Street premises of Jubilee in West Bromwich, circa 1988. Looking over his shoulder is Len March, who was involved in Smethwick Music Workshop, and also worked on the ‘Summer Celebrations’ programme with the Jubilee Bus.