Longbridge Public Art Project March Newsletter by Claire Farrell

Longbridge Public Art Project March Newsletter

Read about all of our upcoming events and exhibitions as part of LPAP here including:

The Kipper & The Corpse exhibition by Stuart Whipps
LPAP | SPACE, 9th March - 21st April, Thurs - Sat, 11am - 4pm 

Free family friendly workshops with Redhawk Logistica
LPAP | SPACE, 18th March, 11am - 4pm

Friends of Longbridge Train Station, Community Garden
Longbridge Train Station, 16th and 30th March, 10am - Noon

For more information visit www.LPAP.co.uk

The Kipper & The Corpse by Stuart Whipps, text by Anneka French by Claire Farrell

The Kipper & The Corpse by Stuart Whipps
Text by Anneka French

Stuart Whipps first made work in Longbridge in 2004 while he was studying for a degree in photography at the University of Wolverhampton. He graduated in 2005 and began comprehensively photographing the Longbridge plant following its closure and the loss of 6,500 jobs. His photographs were awarded the Observer Hodge Award in 2006 and this facilitated a trip to China to continue the work. The tools, tracks and intellectual property rights were purchased from Longbridge by the Chinese carmaker Nanjing Automotive and in 2007 Whipps travelled to the new factory in Nanjing to document the site, the workers and the first cars coming off the production line. A selection of photographs from Longbridge and Nanjing were exhibited and published in 2008.

Since 2014 Whipps has been an artist in residence with the Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP). During this time, the area has been developing from a brown field site into a new town centre with large scale retail, leisure and education facilities. His work for LPAP builds on the legacy of his earlier research through a number of different projects. Conversations with former plant employees and local residents have been vital to the research process and have resulted in a number of public events. These include an open day at Greenlands Select Social Club as well as public discussions about the history of the plant.

One of the largest projects Whipps has undertaken is the restoration of a 1275GT Mini made in Longbridge in 1979. This has been possible with the help of several ex-employees from the plant including Keith Woodfield. Many of the processes of stripping down and replacing or repairing the parts were initially viewable for twelve months in a glass-fronted cabin-come-workshop in the carpark of Bournville College. The car was also exhibited in various galleries across the country as part of Whipps’ participation in the touring British Art Show exhibition. The (dis)assembly of the Mini provides an echo of the changes experienced by Longbridge itself. The display of the car in various states of repair highlights the significance of this part of British manufacturing heritage to a wider audience. For instance, Whipps’ participation in the Staffordshire Mini Fair via an exhibition of the car’s shell has been a further catalyst to develop dialogue with different groups of people.

Archival research has been crucial to Whipps’ working practice. With a desire to understand some of the reasons for the closure of the plant, Whipps began collecting material connected to the factory from 1979, the same year he was born. That year was also a pivotal time for the UK and for Longbridge. Margaret Thatcher was elected as Prime Minister in May 1979 and in November came the sacking of the talismanic communist union convener Derrick (red Robbo) Robinson at Longbridge. Whipps has photographed some of the car parts from the Mini with newspaper cartoons about British Leyland in the background. In 1979 alone there were nineteen cartoons in the national press that referenced British Leyland. Looking back now, they serve as a shocking reminder of the negative depiction of workers in the national media in the 1970s. The intention in representing them here at Longbridge in 2017 is to think about the nuanced way that political and social ideologies are formed and the real-world consequences these have. In many ways a newspaper cartoon can tell us more about society than a front page headline.

The title of the exhibition, The Kipper and the Corpse, comes from a Fawlty Towers episode first broadcast in 1979. Amongst the usual calamitous affairs of Basil Fawlty comes a rant in response to a strike at British Leyland. His words continue to resonate with labour conditions in the UK and in many other places. Fawlty attempts to wake a dead man for breakfast in his hotel room and says:

Another car strike. Marvelous, isn't it? The taxpayers pay them millions each year, they get the money, go on strike. It's called socialism. I mean if they don't like making cars, why don't they get themselves another bloody job - designing cathedrals or composing viola concertos? The British Leyland Concerto – in four movements, all of them slow, with a four-hour tea-break in between. I'll tell you why, 'cos they're not interested in anything except lounging about on conveyor belts stuffing themselves with my money.

Whipps describes the photographing of individual car parts as a kind of ‘forensic examination’ of the car. The coloured backdrops to some of the photographs are informed by a research effort to identify the name of every paint colour that has been produced at Longbridge. For the 2016 Longbridge Light Festival, Whipps used this research to make an audio installation ‘Longbridge Colours: Sound’. This listed the colour names in voices local to the area within the tunnel of the A38 bridge. The tunnel is the future location for a number of permanently-sited artworks Whipps has designed that will enhance this new public gateway for pedestrians and cyclists in Longbridge’s town centre. Whipps’ designs will incorporate elements of Longbridge’s past in permanent public artworks close to the site of the glass cabin and these will be installed and opened later in 2017.

Longbridge Mass Observation by Sarah Taylor Silverwood, Text by Anneka French by Claire Farrell

Longbridge Mass Observation
by Sarah Taylor Silverwood, text by Anneka French

Sarah Taylor Silverwood, LPAP artist in residence, began her ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ project through observing and recording the everyday comings and goings of Longbridge. Drawings, texts, songs and other pieces of information recorded by both Sarah and a diverse range of local residents now make up what might be called a living archive of and for Longbridge.

While Sarah’s project is a snapshot of this moment in time, ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ directly references Mass Observation (MO), a social research organisation established in Britain in the 1930s. The organisation carried out a pioneering study of the everyday lives of people using original techniques and collected data via categories such as ‘the private lives of midwives’ and ‘shouts and gestures of motorists’. Its recorders were ordinary citizens who volunteered, empowered by the permission to study and sometimes be critical of their own communities. The study was democratic. Its inherent subjectivity made the data highly valuable but it was inconsistent and difficult to analyse. Sarah was interested in this aspect of MO, so aimed to focus on the importance of process and collaboration rather than creating something that could be used for data mining.

Sarah has taken a number of key themes from the original MO and has developed a blueprint for data collection in Longbridge in the shape of a paper worksheet on which people can collect personal observations across twenty-four categories. These include ‘cooking’, ‘fearing’, ‘working’, ‘politics’ and ‘happiness’ which have elicited a range of fascinating and creative responses. She has utilised a variety of other data collection methodologies, gathering opinions, reflections, ideas and facts from members of the public, Turves Green Girls’ School pupils, users of Frankley Plus Children’s Centre and students from Longbridge College among others. These have been facilitated by questions and invitations positioned in newspapers, on beer mats, on social media, on portable wooden structures at Longbridge Light Festival, other community events and a host of other sites. One day diary entries have been produced with young people and children in particular, opening out possibilities for considering the personal experience of recording thoughts with pen and paper for community members more familiar with digital correspondence. These methodologies have been means to begin conversations about Longbridge with its own residents.

The project, developed from an initial micro-residency last summer, has since gathered incredible momentum and has grown into what Sarah describes as an expanded archive. It is currently available to access publicly both online at LMO2016.tumblr.com and via a temporary exhibition in the LPAP | Space. The physical exhibition comprises six black archive boxes of the collected documents, an index and a live soundtrack of songs that visitors can customise by selecting their favourite record, digital file, CD or cassette tape to play to activate the archive of music. These elements of the archive are accompanied by stools and tablecloths that display the symbols used as starting points for the categorisation of information, a series of small framed drawings of people in Longbridge by made by Sarah and larger wall drawings of pedestrians that return the subjects almost to their original human-scale. The exhibition is marked by Sarah’s distinctive, clean and precise drawing aesthetic, using her handwriting as well as printed texts to pull out key aspects of the project’s development and outcomes. ‘Longbridge Mass Observation’ considers what Longbridge might be at this present moment.

Text by Anneka French

Longbridge Public Art Project (2012-2017) is a project by WERK

Longbridge Public Art Project February Newsletter by Claire Farrell

Longbridge Public Art Project February Newsletter

Read all about upcoming exhibitions, workshops and events happening as part of the Longbridge Public Art Project here

Key dates
Longbridge Mass Observation 2017, Exhibition by Sarah Taylor Silverwood
2nd February until 25th February 2017 | Open Thursdays to Saturday | 11am - 4pm | LPAP SPACE

Remembering Longbridge Workshop
13th & 20th February | 11am - 12.30pm | Longbridge Extra Care, Austin Avenue Longbridge, Birmingham, B45 8TD

Longbridge Train Station Friends Group, Community Meeting
18th February 11:30am - 3pm | LPAP SPACE, College Street, Longbridge, Birmingham, B31 2US

Longbridge Public Art Project 2016 Newsletter by Claire Farrell

Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from WERK!

We would like to thank everyone for supporting, participating and inspiring Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP) and the artists throughout 2016!
We are delighted with the success of the second and final Longbridge Light Festival attracting 6000 visitors as part of the long-term Longbridge Public Art Project. Longbridge Town Centre was transformed by over 35 artists, through temporary and permanent light and art works, performances, pop up theatre, making workshops and a nighttime market.
The project is drawing to a close in 2017 with three new permanent public artworks due to be completed and installed that have been created to celebrate the past, present and future of Longbridge. We also have a a jam packed winter-spring programme beginning in January that will include a number of exciting exhibitions, events, talks and workshops taking place at the LPAP SPACE. In addition to this work at Longbridge train station will culminate with a temporary artwork by artist Cathy Wade in the New Year, and more public meetings with the ambition to establish an adopt a station group to continue planting and community activities at the station in the future. 

We are delighted with the success of the recent community led events taking place in Longbridge Town Centre by LPAP’s initiative Friends of Longbridge Open Spaces (FLOS). FLOS consists of representatives from the community and Longbridge businesses, it was set up in early 2016 to work closely in partnership with St. Modwen to explore how community led events could take place in the town centre post LPAP and the Longbridge Light Festivals. Watch this space for more FLOS news in 2017!

We hope that you have a happy Christmas and we look forward to seeing you at one of our upcoming events in 2017! 

To read the full newsletter please click here.