Author Archive | beckysexton

Exhibition Tour

© Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016 © Graham Peet

We are delighted to present Home Made in Smethwick, an exhibition of photographs by local photographer Liz Hingley, which will tour to six Sandwell libraries. Liz worked with residents for two years to create an intimate photographic portrait of the people and the food cooked in Smethwick in the Black Country, one of the most culturally diverse towns in the UK. A book of the work was published in August 2016 but this is the first time an exhibition of photographs has been exhibited publicly. To see the tour schedule click here.

© Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016 © Graham Peet

© Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016 © Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016

© Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016 © Graham Peet

© Graham Peet

Home Made in Smethwick exhibition launch, Smethwick Library, 16 January 2016 © Graham Peet


Black Country Roots: Book Launch

At the beginning of the year, Sandwell councillor, Jackie Taylor, invited Multistory to produce a book about the African-Caribbean communities in Sandwell and the Black Country.  In our busiest celebratory event yet, well over a hundred people came together to launch this wonderful new book –  Black Country Roots – at the West Bromwich African Caribbean Resource Centre on 20 October, 2016.

Through oral history interviews and photography. the book describes personal, real life accounts, in people’s own words, of experiences of racism, food, illness, first jobs, Caribbean bread, when Maisy met Mohammad Ali, street parties, the effects of Brexit and inviting Malcolm X to Smethwick.

The stories are accompanied by a series of historic and contemporary images that come from a range of sources including local archives and the personal collections of participants. Other photographs come from acclaimed photographers Martin Parr, John Bulmer, Paul Hill, Peter Donnelly, Nick Hedges and Vanley Burke.

Word of the book launch even reached Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson, who mentions missing “a brilliant afternoon and good old knees-up”, in his blog post ‘Celebrating Black History Month‘. He says:

“Many of the people featured in the book first came over to Britain to support rebuilding after the second world war, working in transport, industry and of course – our NHS. We have made great strides in this country in the area of racial understanding and equality since then. We can’t stop now”.

To buy the book visit our shop.

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Multistory

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black Country Roots Book Launch, African Caribbean Resource Centre, West Bromwich, 20 October 2016 © Graham Peet

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory

Black History Month Celebration, Central Library, West Bromwich, 26 October 2016 © Multistory


To Overcome What We Undergo

We commissioned Kurly McGeachie, Birmingham Poet Laureate Finalist, to write a poem for the launch of Black Country Roots, our new book about the African-Caribbean community in Sandwell and the Black Country. Read an excerpt or listen to Kurly read the full poem ‘To Overcome What We Undergo’ below.

Each story of migration consists of familiar themes
As with this one
It begins
with
dreams, desires, hopes,

And a call from the ‘Mother Country’, the opportunity that knocks (in more ways than one)
Many, including my grandmother caught a ship across
The vast seascape, like being given a magic box that unlocks the potential
To realise these dreams, meet desires and fulfil hopes
Which were all kept afloat on board a boat going abroad; course heading
To where prospects were considered better
From the Islands of white sands and red sunsets
To this Island where the weather is much wetter

From warmth
To much colder climates
Came, a vanguard of migrants
Unwelcomed in many cases facing the brunt of verbal hostility and violence,
A community whose voice was smothered and muted out by…. (silence)
A community, under siege by ignorance
A community overtly under scrutiny, and at times from within the black community
Yet I’ve heard many stories of how many adapted and handled it so beautifully
Though such a difficult task at times
As victims of Human Rights violations and institutionally undermined
It didn’t have to shout it out, its that way by its design
Later came the noise of the National Front, with further afronts to justice
Which has nothing to do with ‘law’ and ‘order’
Tragically this disparity could pull a person down an infinite more times than gravity,
But thankfully
What emerged through these accounts was a sense of pride and strength from solidarity,
Enabling one to stand and move forward despite the often constant feeling of fatigue,
Even turned away from praying in local churches for strength despite Jesus’s teachings so you made your own! And I believe
Stories like these put emphasis on why each proceeding generation owes a debt of gratitude to the last,
As each generation is most likely born out of the resilience and blood spilled from the past,
Last week a 71 year old black lady spoke to a ethnic minority audience and eloquently asked..

“What is the return on their investment?
“What is the return on their investment?”
“What is the return on their investment?”

I stop in my tracks
And ask myself this question

“What was the return on my grandmother’s investment?”


Discoveries on your Doorstep

Francois Matarasso, community art worker, writer and researcher, writes on the importance of libraries as art centres. 

The pigeon film was incredible. I have seen it before and I’ve come to see it again.
When I grew up nearly every other garden had pigeons. It’s a rich man’s sport now.

Film-screening_T&T_Great-Bridge_for_web

Screening of Martin Parr’s ‘Turkey & Tinsel’ film at Great Bridge Library, July 2016 © Becky Jones

Libraries are about books – everybody knows that. True enough, but what are books about?

Over the past two years, Multistory has been working with libraries in Sandwell to present film screenings and photography exhibitions. The films, by Martin Parr and commissioned by Multistory, open windows on worlds most people don’t know. In Mark Goes to Mongolia, we follow Mark Evans, a Moxley pigeon fancier, on a trip to trade birds with fellow enthusiasts in China. In Turkey and Tinsel, we travel by coach to Weston-Super-Mare with a group of Black Country people on a pre-Christmas jolly.

‘The films opened my eyes to how some of the older people really enjoy themselves ‘cos I don’t go out that often.’

The exhibitions include photographs from the four years Martin Parr spent documenting life in the Black Country with Multistory. But they’ve also featured work by younger, local artists such as Mahtab Hussain, whose photographs portray the first Muslim generation who settled in Tipton in the 1950s and 1960s. Responses to these images spoke of people’s commitment to living together at a time of increasing divisions:

‘Very thought provoking. People should live and let live and treat others with the same respect they desire. I really like the book and its message.’

‘The people come over as being proud and tolerant. It was most informative.’

‘I think that people should have the respect to understand other religions.’

MH_TiptonLibrary_for_web

Exhibition of Mahtab Hussain’s ‘The Quiet Town of Tipton’ at Tipton Library, 2015 © Graham Peet

By taking this work into libraries, Multistory is making the most of their friendly, approachable reputation to share stories that are sometimes surprising, sometimes funny, sometimes even a bit rude (as one person put it) – but always illuminating. Tea, biscuits and conversations turn screenings into events and the sharing of experience makes the artists’ work even meaningful to the people who are not just its subject but its purpose.

Documenting ordinary lives is vital if the mainstream arts and media have so little interest in them. But what matters more is that this work is done with the people involved. They may not press the shutter or sit in the editing suite but the work is made in dialogue before, during and after. The artist is in control of their art but the people are in control of their response. Without mutual respect, trust even affection, nothing can be made. And the test is in people’s reaction to their portrait:

‘It shows that Black Country people are still the salt of the earth, people who you can trust and enjoy a laugh with.’

What are books about? Discovery – just like Multistory’s films, photographs and local events where you meet artists and neighbours over a cup of tea. Showing films in libraries is just another way of telling stories by, about and with the people who use them.

Film_screening_T&T_Great-Bridge_for_web

Screening of Martin Parr’s ‘Turkey & Tinsel’ film at Great Bridge Library, July 2016 © Becky Jones

 


Home Made in Smethwick: Book Launch

Home made cheese, rainbow-coloured macaroons, photographs and favourite family recipes were shared at the launch of ‘Home Made in Smethwick‘, our new, limited edition book, with photographer, Liz Hingley. The event brought together the people in the book, their friends and family and residents from the Smethwick community to see, for the first time, the result of Liz Hingley’s two year collaboration with Multistory. Rather than a traditional cookbook, this collection of portraits and hand-written recipes reveals how food can act as a bridge from one continent to another; from one generation to the next; and from one house to its neighbour.

At the ‘tasting table’, guests were invited to sample some of the dishes included in the book, made especially for the event by the people who gave the recipes, including rainbow macaroons from Enrique; Lynn’s bread and butter pudding; home made cheese by Jo; apple and blackberry crumble and Indian sweets from the Ferdos family; four types of bread by Albert; Debbie’s Ozzy stacks; and fairy cakes from a Brushstrokes volunteer.  All of the photographs from the book were exhibited, live music played and books and prints were gifted to participants and guests.

Everyone left with full bellies, the sounds of the band in their ears and a book tucked under their arm.

A special thanks to Teresa and the staff at Brushstrokes, including the Brushstrokes volunteer who made delicious Somalian pasta, served from an ornate  always-full pot, and others that made food to share. Thanks also to the African-French Speaking Community Support band, who filled the room with beautiful music played throughout.

GP_FM8C9726

Photo credit: Graham Peet

BJ_Jackie_Taylor_for_web

Photo credit: Becky Jones

GP_FM8C9718

Photo credit: Graham Peet

GP_FM8C9772

Photo credit: Graham Peet

FM8C9727

Photo credit: Graham Peet

GP_FM8C9721

Photo credit: Graham Peet

GP_FM8C9731

Photo credit: Graham Peet

GP_FM8C9718_for_web

Photo Credit: Becky Jones

FM8C9733

Photo Credit: Graham Peet

The Popa Family_for_web

Photo Credit: Multistory

BJ_DSC_0060

Photo Credit: Becky Jones

BJ_DSC_0106_for_web

Photo Credit: Becky Jones

BJ_DSC_0078_for_web

Photo Credit: Becky Jones

LD_R0012387_book

Photo Credit: Multistory