Lost And Found at the FXB, a retrospective

I’ve been lazy recently – must update more! I’ve been sitting on this stuff for a while now, and I thought it’d be time to blog about this (especially considering I told them I would!)

If you were watching the local events calendar recently, you might have noticed that the  2007 Birmingham Festival of Xtreme Building (now finished, sadly) had an events space where guest shows could come and exhibit. I was just walking past, walking down to take some photos of the area around the TIC in Millennium Point for a future blog, when I noticed this exhibition going on, so I dropped by - admission was free.

I was amazed to find what I did; a cornucopia of little mysteries (and one copy of Great Mysteries), all with their own stories to tell. The exhibition was entitled “Belongings”, an exhibition (and indirect celebration) of all things Lost and Found.

FXB: Lost & Found Exhibition: PICT9093.JPG
Katharine Kavanagh, a Curator
(she promised me the specs were
hers, but I don’t believe her!)

Put on by two UCE graduates, Natalie Wilson and Katharine Kavanagh (under the moniker of Kipipeo Arts), the exhibition’s sole purpose was to bring to the surface all those things people discard or lose, and give you a little food for thought, to take a minute to just wonder the situations and circumstances that resulted in the items being where they were. All of the items were tagged with the date of, and where, they were found (or discovered), plus any backstory if there was any. The majority of items were completely anonymous, which lent them a definite air of curiosity (and I like curious mysteries!) When I asked Katharine about where they’d collected their items, she explained to me how she’s a bit of a hoarder (like me!) and that she and Nat had either found items at random or gone to public places (libraries, railway stations, the main Birmingham bus terminuses, etc) and just used their eyes. They had a trunk with some ‘Restricted Items’ in (things that might be dangerous for little kiddies to get their mitts on -good idea) but they also had some rather curious finds like a woman’s handbag (left in Birmingham Central Library about 3 years ago) which had not just her purse in, but her cards, her passport (!), her various forms of identification, a Visa (which had expired a while back) and some letters from what I guessed were her sponsors. You can see the handbag, and the trunk, in the photo of Kat to the right.

I totally clicked with Kat’s mindset – I’m a serial hoarder too, I love collecting things and never throwing anything away, because you never quite know when that oddly-shaped screw or collection of elastic bands might just come in handy. This festival was as much a celebration of not throwing anything away as it was discovering items which would otherwise remain locked away in windowless back rooms in public buildings (only to see the light of day when they were either discarded into a bin or tossed away into a dump). To recycle all these curios in the way they did meant a lot of legwork and effort on their behalf (they apparently spent many months collecting before the exhibition began), but it was most definitely worth it. For the identifiable items (like the handbag with the passport in), Kat said that they were going to do their best to return those items to their original owner, which was a nice touch.

There were some items I would’ve loved to take away for myself (and she said that if I wanted to take something I was more than welcome). I wanted all the 78s! However Kat professed to have claimed them herself because the 78 player was hers 😉 I can’t take a record from someone so I let them be, even though she offered to let me have one to take away, but that would have ruined the collection… So, as a fellow hoarder and an avid (nay, obsessed) vinyl collector, I let her keep them all. (I know how much it means to someone to have a record which is subsequently taken away from them for one reason or another.) I did snap loads of photos though, so I did get to take something away I suppose 🙂

Here’s the best (imho) photos I took (there’s more available, including shots of the most important pages from their explanatory Portfolio) on my Flickr page):

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FXB: Lost & Found: About Brum Mosaic


All in all? A very worthwhile afternoon, even if it was a bit overcast. Can’t blame them for the weather, it didn’t rain though. The event was on all weekend, but I never even knew about it until I walked past on the Sunday (I left just after the exhibition closed). I had a great time, and it was an enjoyable morsel of brain food.

So,  the moral of all this? Always be prepared to deviate from your original plan when out in a city, and keep your eyes peeled because you never know what you might stumble upon and have a great time exploring.

The new UCE name? …never mind

You may have traveled to this corner of the Web expecting to see my scribblings about the new UCE logo and how I was concurring with what many other people had already roundly described as a big waste of money and a poorly-implemented rebranding. You’ve just got the short version, but if you’re looking for the long version – sorry, you’ll be disappointed – I was strongly advised to remove this from my site (more on this later). So, this post has automagically gone into hiding for the time being, as some people in high places feel it may be sufficient cause for me to receive an official telling off or maybe even removal from my course. I’m opinionated, but I’m not an idiot, so this post will most likely stay in hiding until UCE have stamped my degree.

(And you can count on the fact that I’m quite surprised about this happening now of all times, and I won’t be letting this lie when I have a proper chance to sit back and consider all of this and argue properly in my defence, but now is not the time.)

Continue reading “The new UCE name? …never mind”

Very favourable review of Brum and the West Midlands in today’s Guardian

The Guardian - “A City With Something To Shout About” articleThe Grauniad put out an insert with today’s paper, in association with the EC and Advantage West Midlands, focusing on the range of innovation, development (and redevelopment) and diversity within and around Brum and the rest of the County. It’s a very interesting read, and doesn’t smack of “look at our area, come and invest now please, aren’t we great” so go and pick a copy up!

 It has some interesting factoids in it too – like, for instance did you know that the first steam engine was perfected in the area of Birmingham which is now called Handsworth? And, did you also know that Birmingham is set to become the first majority ethnic community in 15 years’ time (due to the relative population growth of non-native communities versus incumbent British citizens?)

Nope, I didn’t know that either. Go buy it and read it for yourself, it’s a worthwhile read for anybody interested in our fair city.

No more lying to Birmingham City Council, then…

…As apparently they’ve just decided to take delivery of a new VRA (Voice Risk Analysis) system for their Benefits helpline, in an effort to reduce fraud (often indicative of lying, just how polygraphs work) by detecting stress in a caller’s voice. Rats.

In the first three months of a pilot scheme in Harrow, north London, that began in May, 173 housing benefit and council fraudsters were exposed, saving the council £110,000.

VRA is used only in conjunction with questioning by call operators who have been trained to detect deception, says a spokesman for the Capita Group, which owns the technology. It works by measuring “micro-changes” to the frequency of the human voice and relaying to the operator, in real time, the level of risk that the speaker is being deceptive.

I’ll reserve judgement on the efficacity of this scheme – however, I’ll be amazed if the helpline staff can even hear callers, given the shocking condition of some of Birmingham’s antique telephone lines!

Remember: lying: baaad. Birmingham City Council knows all… They’ll be installing those fancy mirror-style TVs in your homes next so they can broadcast inspiring promotional content to you!

The Persuaders (no, not those Persuaders)

While many may not know who these guys are, The Persuaders a design agency based in the Midlands who’ve done a slew of work for a variety of companies, including the BBC and (ironically) Digital Central, an Advantage West Midlands organisation who in turn produce their own content and sites.

The Persuaders did a CMS-based site for Digital Central, and I never realised this until I found my way to their almost without realising who they were! I thought it was highly ironic given that Digital Central is supposed to be able to do its own in-house web and content design (and indeed, they have, I’m working next year for a company whose entire online presence has just been bolstered by the rollout of a new ‘Digital’ site, complete with promotional tools and online retail facilities).

Makes you wonder why Digital Central didn’t just design their own site in-house… Anyways, the Persuaders site is a very fine piece of design, and makes an interesting few minutes of perusal just checking it out, seeing who they’ve designed material for – you might have actually engaged in some of their content without even realising it.

In case you missed it, Birmingham has a music video

This made the news sites a while back now, but I’ve had it in one of my Opera tabs for a long time and never bothered to note it down on here. It seemed appropriate that I reference it, even though others have done so long before myself.

It’s a music video made as a promotional tool for the council and as such works quite well – it’s got some great montages of the sights in and around Brum, and the song’s pretty good to boot. The BBC site’s got it available for streaming on their Birmingham LocalTV subsite (and the accompany article, with a link to the video, can be found here).

Something I hadn’t noticed until I just had the video playing in the background – so I could only hear the sound – was that after the song finishes, and the credits roll, there’s a bloke heard speak very quietly in the background of the audio. I don’t think (well, I hope not!) that this was intended, but I don’t have a copy of the video on DVD so I can’t verify against the original version, so either the BBC kit had a dry wire or ground loop somewhere in the signal path, or the video was VERY poorly mastered!

What he says is quite amusing, too… If you’ve got very good ears, or you just turn the volume all the way up (the scientific method), this is what you’ll hear:

<guitar fades out>

“And join me to meet the mushroom picker who doesn’t mind working in the dark, and having compost dumped on his head… Join me to meet the mushroom picker who doesn’t mind working in the dark, and having compost dumped on his head… That’s right, join me at Warwick University where we meet a mushroom picker who doesn’t mind working in the dark, and having compost dump-“

Make what you will of that, but either which way, it’s an amusing easter egg! I’m feeling generous, so I clipped the audio and attached it as an MP3 for your enjoyment, though you can just watch the video in its entirety on the BBC web site if you think I’m having you on. 😉 Take a listen: Warwick University Mushroom Pickers?

Gay Pride, Tolkien and Longbridge

Birmingham Gay Pride 2007An odd couple of bedfellows, but both quite significant events that took place last weekend – Birmingham hosted the Gay Pride weekend, seeing hundreds and thousands of people converge on the second city for a weekend of festivities, celebration, drinking and general madness… My lesbian housemate certainly seemed to enjoy herself, though she’s not shown me some of the snaps from her weekend exploits yet!

Unfortunately, as is customary with any big outdoor event, it rained all weekend. Oops. However, it doesn’t seem to have dampened peoples’ spirits, as is evidenced by taking a look at the photos from the weekend on the BBC Birmingham pages.

BBC Birmingham - Tolkien Weekend 2007Last weekend also marked the start of Tolkien Weekend 2007 – something I’m far more interested in 🙂 What’s not so well-known is that J.R.R. Tolkien (more info on the BCC pages) drew a lot of inspiration from the scenery in and around Birmingham when he was writing his Lord Of The Rings saga (as he lived in Birmingham at the turn of the century), and a lot of that which he drew his inspiration from is still around for all to see today. Buildings like Perrott’s Folly (just down the road from me in Edgbaston, and across the way from the Ivy Bush, the pub where Tolkien used to drink) serve as a mysterious reminder to those who are fans of his work as to how he even partly envisioned his amazing universe in the first place. The Folly gave Tolkien the spark for his idea of the Two Towers of Mordor- the Folly was built in line with the old water tower, and when you view them from a distance the similarity is striking.

Other landmarks include Sarehole Mill and Moseley Bog, the blueprint for Fangorn and the Old Forest, as well as various places in and around the Midlands where Tolkien grew up. Tolkien didn’t just derive inspiration from Birmingham however, and there are many guides (including this one by Simon Rose) detailing in much greater depth many of the other buildings and locations whose influence can be seen in his later writings.

Photos from the 2007 Tolkien Weekend are available here, here and here.

In other good news, Longbridge will be officially back in action from today – the 29th of May – after it was announced that Nanjing Automobile are not only making Longbridge their EU headquarters, they are reopening the factory for production and using the factory as an R&D facility for new development. Since buying the company in 2005, Nanjing has invested many millions of pounds into the facilities and have long said they have wanted to resume production at the facility. They’ve also premiered several new models of MG vehicles based on old Rover designs at this year’s Shanghai Automobile Show, and now seem set to scale up production of new vehicles. (More info here, here and here.)
Credit for all photos: BBC News Online

Birmingham on film

This is something I’ve had in my bookmarks for a while waiting for a purpose:

I know this may well have slipped many people by (it almost slipped me by when it was first published) but the BBC ran a feature about a film made to promote Birmingham in the 1970s. Called “Telly Savalas looks at Birmingham”, it was narrated by… Yeah, you’ve guessed it: Telly Savalas (yes, Kojak)… Ironically however, during his narration he refers to several things he’d seen and done in the film – in the first person – when he’d never actually visited Birmingham at all.

It’s a real piece of history now, showing Birmingham as it was – back when the concrete had just set and everything was shiny and new. Of course, it looks a lot different now. The ‘Brummies on film’ article on the BBC Birmingham website has a full rundown of the film, some backstory and (of course) an excerpt from the film itself can be found on the BiNS site – it’s a real eye-opener.

More recently, a new short film was made to celebrate Birmingham and promote its better features for the wider world – sharing some of its locations with the 70s short film. However, it’s much more upbeat, and was shown to property developers in Cannes (apparently) to, I guess, promote spending in the area. As promotional short films go, it’s not bad at all, and the soundtrack (by a local band) is pretty good at that. You can watch the entire thing via the above Brummies on film link.

(Or, alternatively, if you’re after something a little more modern (and a little more humorous), go take a look at this little masterpiece: Birmingham: City Of The Future.)

Mailbox for sale; Town Hall reopening date set

Two big items of news to cover really: the Town Hall reopening soon, and the company which owns the Mailbox (one of the most recognisable landmarks in Brum centre) has put both the Mailbox and the Cube up for sale.

The Mailbox (publicity image from mailboxlife.com, click for larger size)

Obviously nobody told the Mailbox’s developers to hold back on an asking price, because they’ve set the figure at the princely sum of… wait for it… £300 million! From their blog article, it appears that the owners, Birmingham Development Company, are selling up because…

 …[the sale] will allow BDC to focus on new projects both within Birmingham and elsewhere. First and foremost, it will complete the construction of The Cube, The Mailbox final phase which will include a boutique hotel, waterside cafés, rooftop restaurant, designer retail stores, offices and apartments. BDC is also actively looking at a number of new developments to bring forward over the next few years.

Rrrright. Well, their loss, someone else’s gain. Companies like Harvey Nicks and the BBC (who have their regional headquarters in the back half of the building) must’ve been paying a FORTUNE in rent to them!

In other news, the newly-revamped Town Hall is due to reopen soon (October!) and some have already had a chance to see inside (not me, unfortunately, but I’m looking forward to the launch in October). I’ve taken loads of photos of the outside already, it really does look great – restored to how it looked before (literally, just how it looked before) but so much cleaner! It’s taken long enough… The Town Hall will also be run in conjunction with Symphony Hall, which means that there’ll be a much wider ranger of artists and events held there. The URL for the new site isn’t the best though – THSH.co.uk. And as bounder of B:iNS fame ponders, should it be pronounced th-ishh?

More stuff soon! Time to get this site up and running already.

Welcome along!

Hello, welcome to this site. It’s currently in its nascent stages, and won’t be fully operational until later this year (due to equipment and time constraints, being a Uni student and all). However, if you want to get a better idea of what this site’s gonna be all about, check out the /about page for a full and informative lowdown.

I look forward to seeing you back soon 🙂

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