As we surge forward into the uncharted waters of 2017, Friction’s approach, typically, is to focus our energy on what’s right in front of us. Literally. This year’s major project is the further development of our work at Birmingham’s wonderfully idiosyncratic Smithfield Wholesale Market. For the last few months we’ve had a team getting to know the market denizens, finding a way through the inevitable politics whilst attempting a measure of neutrality and building relationships so we can do things together. We’ve recorded hours of interviews with a wide range of traders and customers and are learning more and more about this overlooked microcosm in the midst of our city centre.
Just before Christmas we treated the market workers and users to a ‘last christmas’ concert – with Bostin’ Brass doing their thing in the middle of the veg market, and our Natalie and Ricardo wandering around playing Christmas faves on their respective squeezeboxes. The rest of the team capered about, handing out mince pies and chocolate sprouts wearing l.e.d-festooned antlers – it was a fun experience having a party at that time in the morning…
There’s a certain amount of uncertainty as to when the market will finally be vacated – it’s a complicated job to uproot dozens of businesses, workers and equipment and relocate them elsewhere – but we do know that the Sunday Market is likely to close in March. This will be a tragedy – the market is a lifeline to many, the first economic driver of the city and a unique social nexus where genuinely cross-cultural conversation is the norm – particularly important to the newest arrivals to the city. We’re doing what we can behind the scenes to persuade the powers that be of the vital part the Sunday Market plays in the city’s psyche, but we’re unlikely to get far on our own. If you care about the Sunday Market, please use your influence to spread the word that the market should be supported – it earns income and fills an important social need and councillors and other politicians should be made aware of this, and help to keep the Sunday Market alive.
If you’re interested in the project as it develops, keep checking here and also at the project’s own site at wmemory.frictionarts.com
The team have their own blog on tumblr here – frictionarts.tumblr.com there are some fantastic portraits photos by Dan Burwood, audio clips and blog posts to peruse.
There’ll be loads of opportunities to get involved over the next few months. We have a regular Wednesday evening drop-in session at our HQ, the Edge, a stone’s throw from the markets on Cheapside. These sessions involve examining artefacts and oral histories, preparing them for archive and looking at interpretation approaches for exhibition.
We will be resident at the markets over the next six months, all being well, and we’ll be creating a range of exhibitions using contemporary photography and documentation alongside archive material from our good friends at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. There will also be a bunch of pop-up celebratory events at both the Wholesale and Sunday markets.
If any of this interests you, or you have an interesting proposal or artefacts, images or stories to share, come along to the drop-in sessions from 6-8pm every Wednesday or get in contact with us here. You might also bump into us at the Sunday Market – get down there while you can…