Longbridge Public Art Project 2012-2017 / by Claire Farrell

Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP)

Longbridge, Birmingham, 2012-2017

How do you make sense of a place that has been transformed beyond almost all recognition in physical, economic, social and emotional terms?

And what if it is still transforming before your eyes? How might a place move forward towards its future while holding sight of its past?

These are the questions that the Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP), conceived by Claire Farrell Director & Curator of WERK, has been exploring since it began in September 2012 with incredible support from regeneration specialists St. Modwen. Following the closure and demolition of the Longbridge car plant (1905-2005) and after a long fallow period, Longbridge is in the midst of a massive (468-acre) and unique suburban regeneration scheme. The creation of a town centre for the very first time, the re-location of Bournville College and the construction of large-scale retail units are bringing jobs and footfall to the area – but this is a place in flux, coming to terms with an entirely new identity.

No single artist can hope to encapsulate one hundred years of history, let alone Longbridge’s current changes. WERK’s approach, therefore, has been to set up an artist in residence framework within LPAP – openings for artists to embed themselves within the community over a much longer period of time than other public art projects might typically allow. As one of these artists, Stuart Whipps, notes – all art is public art; all art should be public artwork. Placing the public of Longbridge at the heart of the programme, and extended time for research and making work in Longbridge, allows each artist to get much closer to the core of the place and its population – its concerns, challenges and opportunities.

Sculpture, collage, photography, drawing, and more performative walks and interventions have been presented for the past two years in public spaces, gallery exhibitions and as part of the Longbridge Light Festival. Workshops, talks, events and discussions allow for participation and the expansion of ideas. Collaborations between the WERK team, artists, community groups and Longbridge residents, including several key former plant employees who are involved with LPAP’s work on many levels, have been nurtured. It is in this exchange that the huge value of Longbridge’s heritage is being uncovered. LPAP is influencing Longbridge’s future narrative too. In some cases this has taken the form of artistic solutions to practical problems such as illuminating public walkways but as Longbridge is a place to which people have strong political and emotional connections, sensitivity is required at every step. This is living history.

Text by Anneka French

Longbridge Public Art Project (LPAP) by WERK is a research in practice, socially engaged art project.

The project aims to support the transition of Longbridge, a unique area steeped in history and one of the largest current regeneration schemes in the UK. LPAP through a place-making and partnership approach aims to enhance the social, cultural and physical landscape of the area incrementally over time supported through an artist-in-residence and engagement programme.

The project utilises established venues, non-traditional spaces and public space for activities within its ongoing cultural programme enabled through asset mapping and partnership working. The programme creates opportunities that bring practitioners together, enable new partnerships and audience development through activities, talks, workshops, happenings, walks, psycho geography, residencies, supper clubs and diverse events. In addition to this the programme creates a foundation for the long term artists-in-residents to open up their process and share their work. The festival is a manifestation of the project and ongoing programme; it is a wonderful opportunity to bring people together in a positive way, in public space, in this new, old, place.

For more information please visit www.lpap.co.uk

LPAP 2013 - 2014

WERK created Tran-si-tion International Conference as part of the 2014 Longbridge Light Festival inviting regional, national and international key note speakers to highlight best practice within regeneration schemes, urban design, strategic planning, placemaking and art within a social urban context.

The conference was developed by WERK in response to the transitional complexity that Longbridge has experienced and is currently facing as it regenerates. For nearly a century, the area was dominated physically, socially, economically and visually by one of the largest car factories in the world until its devastating collapse in 2005.

The Longbridge story is echoed across the world, with numerous cities and communities facing challenging economic and sector shifts, redevelopments, regeneration and master planning. Tran-si-tion provided an exciting showcase of innovative keynote speakers sharing their vision, approach and experience within an array of diverse urban projects through strategic planning, urban design, architecture, policy, technology innovation, large scale artistic interventions, placemaking, lighting and regeneration.

See a review of Tran-si-tion International Conference by Rebekah Bainbridge here.

Tran-si-tion keynote speakers:
Daan Roosegaarde | Studio Roosegaarde (Rotterdam)
Helen Marriage | Artichoke (London)
Glenn Howells | Glenn Howells Architects (Birmingham)
Mike Murray | St Modwen (Birmingham)
Jean-Francois Zurawik | Fete des Lumieres (Lyon)
Michael Artz | HALLE14 (Leipzig)
Nigel Edmondson | Birmingham City Council (Birmingham)

Funded by Arts Council West Midlands, Birmingham City University, Bournville College, St. Modwen and Birmingham City Council.