Tuesday, 30 August 2011

there is beauty in the city : city visit to birmingham

During the post made to announce last month's Manchester visit, i made reference to the idea of the England's second city and posited that in many peoples eyes, and particularly in cultural terms, Manchester is the holder of that title over its more populous rival Birmingham.

In population terms, the figures speak for themselves - 2006 estimates put the population of;
Birmingham at 1,006,500 within the broader West Midlands conurbation totalling 2,284,093 and
Manchester at 452,000 within Greater Manchester which totalled 2,240,230.

But for the debate as to which claims the second city status to have raged for so long means that factors other than population obviously come into play - including geography, economic contribution, educational establishments,  "knowledge and transport infrastructure" and, most contentiously, cultural. It is this "cultural" area which often leads to Manchester's elevation to the second city status, but with no real hard facts underlying it. It has almost become an accepted truth that Birmingham is a cultural wasteland and Manchester is a Western Bohemia. Whilst it maybe fair to say that behind every generalisation lies a modicum of fact the truth is rarely so polarised.

And so it with this in mind that we here at There is Beauty in the City will head to Birmingham and take a walk around its cultural beacons, in search of England's undoubted second most populous city's beauty. In the meantime...some Birmingham facts -

It's council motto is Global City Local Heart
There are over 8,000 acres (3,237 ha) of parkland open spaces in Birmingham. In fact Birmingham has more trees than Paris, more miles of canals than Venice and more parks than any other European City.
Birmingham is the UK’s largest manufacturing and engineering centre and accounts for 25% of the country’s exports.
Birmingham is the home of the Balti curry.
Britains first ever 4 wheel petrol driven car was made in Birmingham by Frederick Lanchester in 1895
Major John Hall Edwards took the first x-ray photo in Birmingham in 1896
Birmingham has six twin cities
  • United States Chicago, Illinois, United States
  • Germany Frankfurt am Main, Germany[187]
  • South Africa Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Germany Leipzig, Germany[188]
  • France Lyon, France[189]
  • Italy Milan, Italy
and finally, the following, all creatives, all hail from Birmingham
  • Albert Austin – (Silent film star)
  • Pato Banton – (Reggae artist)
  • Blaze Bayley – (Musician - former vocalist of Wolfsbane and Iron Maiden)
  • Sir Michael Balcon – (Film director)
  • Alfred Bird – (Inventor of custard powder)
  • Justin Broadrick – (Musician - Godflesh)
  • Geezer Butler – bassist of (Black Sabbath)
  • Pogus Caesar – (TV Director and Photographer)
  • John Cadbury – (Founder of the Cadbury chocolate company)
  • Ali Campbell and Robin Campbell – (Musician, UB40)
  • Barbara Cartland – (Novelist)
  • Jasper Carrott – (Comedian)
  • Lisa Clayton – (Solo yachtswoman)
  • David Cox – (Artist)
  • Cat Deeley – (Television presenter)
  • Oscar Deutsch – (Founder of the Odeon Cinemas chain)
  • Hunt Emerson – (Cartoonist)
  • Mick St Clair – (Pinjabi DJ/Producer)
  • Ian Emes – (animator)
  • Frederick Roland Emett – (Cartoonist, artist and kinetic sculptor)
  • Niki Evans – (Singer)
  • Trevor Eve – (Actor)
  • Sid Field – (Comedian)
  • Sir Francis Galton – (Scientist, founder of eugenics)
  • Roland Gift – (Actor and musician - Fine Young Cannibals)
  • Mark "Barney" Greenway –(Musician - Napalm Death)
  • Rob Halford – (Musician - Judas Priest)
  • Charlie Hall – (Actor - most famous for his work with Laurel and Hardy)
  • John Hampson – (novelist)
  • Tony Hancock – (Comedian and actor)
  • Mr Hudson – (singer)
  • Raymond Huntley – (Actor)
  • Tony Iommi – guitarist of (Black Sabbath)
  • Jamelia – (R&B singer))
  • Edward Burne-Jones – (Pre-Raphaelite painter)
  • Albert William Ketèlbey – (Composer)
  • Denny Laine – (Paul McCartney and Wings)
  • Jeff Lynne – (Musician; co-founder of the Electric Light Orchestra)
  • Eric Maschwitz – (lyricist)
  • Nick Mason – (Musician - Pink Floyd; did not reside in Birmingham)
  • Zena McNally – (Singer - Mis-Teeq)
  • Shazia Mirza – (Comedian)
  • Henry Vollam Morton – (Journalist and travel writer)
  • Constance Naden – (Poet & Philosopher)
  • Ozzy Osbourne – singer of (Black Sabbath)
  • Carl Palmer – (Musician - Emerson, Lake & Palmer)
  • John Poole – (Sculptor)
  • Enoch Powell – (Politician, poet and classical scholar)
  • Michael Pinder – (Musician - The Moody Blues)
  • Nick Rhodes – (Musician - Duran Duran)
  • Pat Roach – (Actor and wrestler)
  • Sax Rohmer – (Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward) – (novelist)
  • Martin Shaw – (actor)
  • Sukshinder Shinda – (English born Punjabi music producer and artist)
  • John Taylor – (Musician - Duran Duran)
  • Roger Taylor – (Musician - Duran Duran)
  • Bill Ward – drummer of (Black Sabbath)
  • Willard Wigan – (Sculptor)
  • Toyah Willcox – (Singer, actress and television presenter)
  • Steve Winwood – (Musician—solo artist and co-founder, Traffic)
  • Chris Wood – (Musician; co-founder, Traffic)
  • Roy Wood – (Musician - co-founder of the Electric Light Orchestra)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

there is beauty in the city : the conversation - #10

this is the tenth installment in the ongoing cross-city conversation between there is beauty's glen stoker and bilbao photographer igor calvo of ph'a'ke

#10 - a reply from igor...

In conversation # 9, Glen reflected on the failure of many urban policies and the stubbornness of local governments and authorities to tell people where it may or may not walk, move, go…and he was absolutely right.

Not so long ago, the council inaugurated a new plaza/square “in the middle of a roundabout" in the center of Bilbao. Being the chosen site for the plaza/square already controversial (a place of relaxation surrounded by traffic), its design, with the benches looking at the road and the citizens who would seat in them breathing the bad fumes from the vehicles surround, seems like nonsense.

On the day of its “opening”, many were the citizens of Bilbao who came to show their disagreement with the design of the new plaza/square and, above all, to request the change of the benches location; so that, at least, they would look towards the centre of the plaza/square instead of facing the road. The city council shook its head with signs of disapproval, emphasizing how whimsical were their fellow citizens and, making a great exercise of kindness, moved "some" of the benches as citizens demanded.

Thus, Bilbao has gained a place that makes traffic to flow easier through the center of the city, but the council has wasted another chance to make the city more friendly for its citizens and pedestrians. All that, thanks to public money of course, on account of the same taxpayers who requested its modification.

Monday, 1 August 2011

there is beauty in the city - july visit to manchester

Saturday's visit to the Burlington Fine Arts Club in Manchester, saw us looking to create a small map of Manchester beauty. We all have our own idea of what constitutes beauty and similarly the things we find attractive or noteworthy about cities is a very subjective idea too. 

We chose the Burlington as our venue as they were holding their closing event, after a month of providing  local creatives with a space to exhibit, establish networks, discuss ideas and an opportunity to engage in Manchester’s grass routes contemporary art scene, and this promised a good range of interested parties to engage with us.

We produced a basic questionnaire which asked 4 questions;
  1. What is your favourite thing about cities?
  2. What is your favourite thing about Manchester?
  3. Where is the beauty in Manchester?
  4. Please direct us, in words or with a map, to this beautiful place.

 Once completed, the participant was then invited to place an umbrella ( a slightly cheeky nod to Manchester's famed inclement weather) in our specially produced city map. In return, they were offered a magnet pack. We're really looking forward to seeing the photographic responses.

A big thanks to everyone who took part on the day and engaged with us. we now have a much clearer idea of where to find beauty in Manchester. here's a selection of responses and some examples of creative direction giving...

Mr. Smith's dream

Thomas's Chop House

the old brewery building