‘Black Country Women’ is a women’s magazine commissioned and produced by Multistory with, for and about Black Country women, with stories by Margaret Drabble and all photographs by Martin Parr.
In 2010, Multistory invited Martin Parr to make a photographic portrait and archive about life in the Black Country. The four-year programme, called Black Country Stories, has grown in momentum and ambition, inspired by Martin’s photographs and films, Multistory have extended the invitation, to work in the Black Country, to a wide and diverse range of photographers, film makers and authors.
As part of Black Country Stories, in 2012 Multistory invited Dame Margaret Drabble to visit the Black Country to collaborate with Martin Parr and commissioned Margaret to write about the lives of women living and working in the Black Country.
Margaret spent a number of days in the area visiting: Susan’s Hairdressers on the High Street in West Bromwich; Teddy Gray’s sweet factory in Dudley; The Crossroads Café in Willenhall; Pat Gorman’s pork pie factory; and many other Black Country locations to meet with, and talk to, local women. Margaret was supported by local writer and performance poet, Emma Purshouse, who used her local knowledge and relationships to introduce Margaret to Black Country women.
Margaret has written three beautiful, locally resonant, short stories: ‘That Lucky Dress’, ‘Hot Pork Sandwich’ and ‘Going Home’. Each of the stories has been informed and shaped by the conversations and stories that Margaret experienced from talking with local women and they brilliantly capture the qualities and strengths of Black Country women.
Click here to listen to more stories.
Martin has produced all of the photographs in the magazine, from the adverts to the top tips. He’s also created a fashion shoot with local women for ‘What you’re wearing’, and has been invited into women’s homes to photograph them making their favourite dishes for the ‘Fine Fittle’ food feature. The magazine also features an eight – page, photo spread including, Teddy Gray’s Sweet Factory, Dudley Zoo, and Tescos in Dudley, from Martin’s extensive archive about the Black Country.
I’m delighted to participate in this project, which really does bring photography and writing back to the community – Martin Parr (photographer)
Working on ‘Black Country Women’ was one of the most enjoyable experiences of my writing life. The whole project was friendly, well organised, adventurous and full of discoveries. It was a fine opportunity (and excuse) to meet and chat with all sorts of different people; a dream project, for me – Margaret Drabble (author)
‘Black Country Women’ follows the format and design of the traditional women’s magazine; it is the Black Country version of ‘Woman’s Realm’ or ‘Woman’s Own’, but with a twist! All of the additional content has been contributed by local women including: the top tips, problem page, fashion, food and craft features, book club and much, much more!
‘Black Country Women’ launched on Friday 20 September 2013, at a special event at the Town Hall in West Bromwich with Margaret Drabble, Martin Parr and the women who have contributed to the project.
The magazine has been distributed to local libraries, women’s hairdressers and doctors’ surgeries in Sandwell. Each of the local women who have met with Margaret or contributed to the magazine have received a free, signed copy. It is also for sale via Multistory’s online shop.
An exhibition that celebrates the four-year project of Martin Parr’s Black Country Stories, featuring photographs, films and oral history recordings, toured across the Black Country to The New Art Gallery Walsall (2014) and Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2015).
You can hear Margaret talking about the magazine on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour by clicking here.