The Creative Cities enhancement project explored the impact of the Commonwealth Games and Festival 2022 on Birmingham, its residents and communities. We worked for 4 days together exploring what the city meant to the group and how having such a high-profile event had altered their perceptions of their home. The group was comprised of members who had been interviewed by Staging Recovery during Home Ground, a project exploring the subject of home in August 2022. They were joined by other members of the Staging Recovery ensemble.
Through group discussion we decided to share thoughts, commentary, and some short videos created in the sessions. This way, people could remain anonymous as they wished and we were able to create different ways for them to express their thoughts creatively.
Below is a sharing of some of the conversations, themes and work created by the group:
Where I belong
Safer now than before
Birmingham humble graftersLB
Evolving industry makes
The city buzz life
One of the standout moments of the Commonwealth Games was the opening ceremony and its exploration of Birmingham and the Black Country’s rich industrial past. Machinery, manufacturing and metal work were synonymous with the area, and the Black Country takes its name from the dense smog that would cover the region. Nowadays there has been a vast improvement in safety, workers have more ingrained rights and additionally, perhaps negatively so, much of the workforce has been replaced by machines.
This scene shows the mechanical nature of working in a factory, the hard work, repetition, and reliance on others to keep everything going:
People sell food
Of all different cultures
Multi-skilled work effect
Sleep Eat Work Repeat
The Commonwealth Games bring the rich and the poor together in something on an equal level, but also highlight the inequality across the Commonwealth. Having the games in Birmingham also raised issues of inequality, with those from outside the city centre not as able to access the events or the festival. Inequality has remained but changed over time. In Victorian times, a time when Birmingham went through much change, the class division was more pronounced, with a clear separation between the working classes and those with money and property. Nowadays the same divisions exist, but people from different socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to share the same spaces.
This scene shows how everything can look lovely and easy, but behind the scenes there are people who are working hard to make that life comfortable:
Old problems gather
Rich pass poor people
Lots of pride
With a humble spirit
You late on
Now I belong here
Warmth, unfamiliarity, distance
So much to explore