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Things have been extremely busy, here at the Edge. ‘Shut up!’, we hear you say, ‘you always say that.’ Well, that’s because it’s usually is. Rare indeed it is, to get much quiet time in our busy little hub. So, the main focus for the past few weeks has been in preparing for our Echoes exhibition in the Community Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. It’s always a challenge for us, working with institutions (and no doubt for them, too), and it’s been interesting finding ways to represent the Echoes project authentically in such a framework as an ‘old school’ gallery and museum. We think we’ve done a pretty fantastic job of course and have tried to tell some of the stories we’ve been told through a collection of artworks, objects, photographs and audio. We’ve had loads of help in the process from volunteers and other artists and it’s been a group effort, as most things we do are, that’s how we, as it were, roll.
Special shout-outs must go to our erstwhile neighbours, MSFAC, who have contributed a beautiful textile banner, made of ripped up punk clothing, which charts the influence of West Midlands punk rock on the world of music. Darryl Georgiou has made some stunning large-scale images of tiny plastic toys, blown up to grotesquely massive size, reminding us of the toyshops and sweetshops of old, and some small, framed objects relating to the same. We’ve made some installations reflecting on the people and the history around our HQ, including an installation with audio, that was inspired by the industry of our (sadly no longer) neighbours, John and Terry Cresswell. Making this piece has been quite a poignant experience. The piece is about the Cresswells (and the millions like them), who have contributed their hard work over decades to the ‘city of a thousand trades’. Ironic then, that I should have made the work in the workshop that the recession caused them to vacate. They can trace four generations back of Digbeth engineers, we were talking the other day and they seemed incredibly sad at what has happened to all that industry today. Despite a number of businesses managing to continue, there is relatively little being made in Digbeth these days, and fewer and fewer of those small engineering shops that gave us the ‘toyshop of the world’ title, back in the day. Things change of course, but those skills that are lost, will be lost forever if there is no continuity. John and Terry made millions of beautifully engineered objects in the decades they worked in Digbeth, perfect things, craft as much as engineering, andd we hope that people will continue to make beautiful things in Digbeth into the future. So, if we’re taking over the lad’s workshop it’s our duty to make beautiful things in it – which I hope we have done. Judge for yourself by checking out the exhibition in the Community Gallery, in the deepest depths of BMAG, right at the back, near the rear entrance (where else would we be) from the 20th of May until the 16th (or thereabouts) of September. We’ll also be hosting a few events over the exhibition’s life, including a ‘meet the artists event’, (why would you, we’re always banging on about ourselves), but even better, a chance to meet some of the people of Digbeth and Highgate who have inspired the exhibition through the stories we have heard from them. Check out the Echoes website for details of these events, including the launch event on the 6th of June, where you can meet us and hear about the project from us and from some of our local friends, while partaking of some of the most expensive tea and coffee in the world (we couldn’t afford wine, catering is way expensive).
You didn’t think that was it, did you? I haven’t got the time to do this very often so I have to splurge it, apologies. So, in chronological order:
Tonight, Friday 17th May – It’s ‘Art After Hours’, which is one of those open studio/gallery events where everyone doing art in the ‘hood is throwing open their doors to the baying hordes. MSFAC have an event in Unit 1 IZ-B12, with Daniel Salisbury – in their words ‘come along for a couple of drinks and a bit of art’. We’re not running an event as such due to the BMAG install, but we’ll have our studio and workshop open if you fancy a guided nose around and checking out our fantastic roof view of Digbeth.
(Aside) The Edge ‘vibe’ is really great these days, with our punk neighbours, locals dropping in for tea and chat (or oral history interviews if you prefer) and various pretty much outsider artists wandering about. We’ve had a great student placement in Nikki Genner (totally changed my mind about placements, if you get the right one of course), Nita Newman is doing a stirling job in helping us develop our Art Club, and generally mucking in and we’ve got a great bunch of volunteers. We have a great team and it feels good. (Aside ends)
Tomorrow, Saturday 18th (and every Saturday) – ART CLUB 10-1pm Art Club goes from strength to strength under the leadership of Generalissimo Nita Newman. From foley workshops to charcoal drawing, stop-frame animation to video editing, it’s a great opportunity for young people to try out loads of art in the unconventional setting of the Edge. It’s focused chaos, and great fun every time, weirdly enjoyable learning in action. One of our regulars, Kieran, announced last week that he’s got a place on the Foundation course at Bournville – good on him! Art Club is free at point of sale.
Tomorrow, Saturday 18th 2-5pm - Yard Talk, our regular monthly chat and lunch with our Echoes people. This month’s theme is play and dens (we’re getting one made by the art club yoots to inspire the chat). Everyone is welcome, and for once you don’t even have to bring some food, we provide the lot. you don’t have to be a resident of Digbeth or Highgate to attend, just care about the area, and of course it’s free.
Tuesday 21st May – Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’re off for our annual visit to the Goat Milk Festival in North West Bulgaria. We’ll be presenting ’10 Mirrors of Bela Rechka’, a performance lecture on our relationship with Gorna and the festival – having some much needed recharge time with the conflux of artists, poets, philosophers and activists that rock up in the village every year. And no doubt we’ll be complaining about the food again. Love it.
Thursday 30th May – Rep Foundry night 8pm – a trio of performance from the Rep’s Foundry development programme. I quite enjoyed some of the last one, and I’m racist about acting, so it might be quite good, I wouldn’t know. It is great having a very different audience come to the space. I overheard one woman say on the way in ‘ooooh, isn’t it bohemian?’, which made me smile, ‘yes, it is a lovely mess’ I thought.
One for the diary – Saturday 15th June – B:ITPO or Blues: Is The Party Over?. an exploration of the wonderful world of Blues parties, including a blues party installation, a discussion and lunch in the afternoon. All topped off by a reggae-tastic evening with the legendary King Alloy sound system, feel that bass in your belly (seriously, he’s convinced he’s going to vibrate the building to rubble). Really looking forward to this one.
Loads of other stuff, which I will get round to telling you at some point, possibly. We’ve recorded 2 ‘Words From The Wise’ podcasts, which I’ll be uploading on our return from Gorna Bela Rechka (there’s s bit of editing to be done). This time we’ve been talking to the legend that is Jonathan Kay about the power of your (in)visible world and your inner twin and veteran poet and storyteller John Row about art school in Ipswich with Brian Eno, punk poetry and life on the road. Both 6 hour conversations, hence the editing. We’ve hosted Writers in Prison Network, West Midlands Participatory Arts Forum and Arts and Health for events at the Edge recently, all stuff we support and have a great interest in. We’re continuing to explore our partnership with Sustained Theatre and a potential capital development of the Edge, which is all going quite nicely, thank you very much. And of course, from August, our full-blown Echoes exhibition will take over the entire Edge for three months or so. Much, much more about that later.
OK, time to go. See you at the Edge soon.
Friction have had lots of fun with WMPAF, the West Midlands Participatory Arts Forum that sounds like a bag of rice hitting the floor. This Thursday we’re lucky enough to host them here at The Edge.
If you are an artist, a member of an arts organisation, or someone interested in participatory or community arts, come and join us for an evening of fun and conversation at The Edge in Digbeth. We’ll get together, natter, plot and plan, and swap skills and experiences across the participatory arts sector.
WMPAF are running an auction of artistic creations and services to raise funds for future WMPAF events, so if you have something to donate please bring it with you. Food and nibbles to share are gratefully received: and if you have a friend who hasn’t been to WMPAF before, make sure you bring them.
16th May 2013
At: The Edge
4pm til late, auction starts 6pm
Everyone on the Friction Team is looking forwards to the arrival of Johnathan Kay, master fool and all around polymath, who is coming for a performance and a workshop on the weekend of 26th-28th April. To give you a little taste of what to expect, here’s a first hand account from someone who was unexpectedly exposed to one of Johnathan’s shows…
“Hi Sandra and Lee and team,
Do I feel like a fool? you ask.
Let me tell you about a time that I did…
It was one sunny Sunday afternoon at glastonbury festival when I stonedly stumbled my way into the theatre tent thinking there’s got to be something light-hearted going on in here to help me while away some time. I sat down and waited for the next act to start. Soon enough some bloke took to the stage and started talking. I have to admit that writing this now I’ve no recollection of what he said but I can tell you that his words had a remarkable effect. They were profound, funny, shocking; they inspired awe, fear and excitement; they kicked my ass, I’d never heard anything like it… This is the theatre tent for Eavis sake, I’m supposed to be passively watching someone mime the innermost feelings of sonic the hedgehog but this bloke is simulating bumming and telling us we’ve all got to tell our kids about it (that bit I will never forget).
In the end he challenges us to go out into the field with him and sing ‘bring me sunshine’ to randoms while pretend to be fish. Well that fucking topped it, maybe the best glasto experience ever. (better than penguin café orchestra original line up?? Perhaps)
Back the next year and I’m telling my friend for the day about this mad head that had us swimming round a field so we decide to go and see if we can chance him being there again. It took me a while to recognise him cos this time he’s wearing some kind of mutant animal on his head and I’m full of kiddy excitement as I turn to my friend and whisper ‘that’s him!’. Another bizarre afternoon ensues.
Then this evening I’m scanning through your news letter and I’m thinking ‘is it?’, ‘really?’. I google some more pics to make sure. So now I’m gutted cos the little monsters are 1 on Friday and plans are made, but please tell Mr Kay if you would that I think he’s the most evolved fool I’ve had the pleasure to encounter and that one day I hope to be half the fool he is.”
So! If that whets your whistle and you think you would like to come and see Johnathan, doors open at the Edge 8pm on Friday 26th April, tickets are £7 or £5 for concessions and available on the door. Or if you fancy a weekend making a fool of yourself, contact Johnathan’s team on email@example.com
This is Tim “Tiministrator” Franklin writing as myself for the first time. I didn’t pick that nickname, by the way. That was Sandra. I won’t say that I like it, but I’m getting a bit Stockholm syndrome-y about it. “It uses the lotion or it gets the hose,” type of thing. I suppose you don’t choose a nickname – it chooses you, just like a stray cat or an American missile drone.
I run a boardgame afternoon called Bread and Games on the second Saturday of each month that is kindly hosted by Friction Arts at The Edge. ‘How nerdy is that?’ you might wonder. ‘Quite nerdy!’ Is the answer. But also, lots of fun.
Boardgames had a bit of a renaissance in the last ten years. I don’t mean that anyone’s trying to plaster the ceiling of the Sistine chapel with scrabble pieces, or that the greatest and most extravagant modern boardgames are sponsored by competing Italian noble families. What I mean is that they are actually really quite enjoyable.
Instead of Black Country themed Monopoly with chip shops for utility spaces, modern boardgames let you save the world from a global Pandemic; out-bluff your friends in a tense game of freedom fighter versus sleeper agent in The Resistance; vie for power in George R R Martin’s Game of Thrones; melt your brain in the family-themed but utterly fiendish farm building game Agricola; prove just what a horrible person you are in the party game Cards Against Humanity; ruin a perfectly good spaceship in Space Cadets; build ancient civilizations in just a few hands of cards from Seven Wonders; and anything else you can imagine.
Boardgames are great. They’re an excuse to get people around a table without any alcohol involved. I love a finely crafted real ale as much as the next person (and the next person is Richard at The Anchor) but Brits have a definite problem assuming that we can’t socialise if we’re not on our way to getting plastered. They’re an antidote to the always-online, never in-person version of interaction that the internet promotes. You don’t have to be naturally sociable to join in, just be willing to play the game. You don’t need any money either. At games afternoons, people are always happy to share their games and teach new players how to join in.
(Does it show that I write funding bids for Friction? You might be interested to know that boardgames can reduce social isolation, maintain mental ability in the elderly, improve young people’s ability to read, follow rules, cope with losing, co-operate with others, take turns and improve their maths skills to boot… there has to be a grant application in this somewhere…)
So. I love boardgames and you should come play some. The next Bread and Games will be at the Edge on Saturday 13th April at 2pm and will run until everyone starts to feel drowsy from eating too many carbohydrates. Entry is free but I encourage people to bring food to share, tea and coffee to brew, and a donation to help cover the cost of heat and light in the Edge.
Hope I’ll see you there.
This one’s my favourite so far. Another 1/2 an hour or so of table chat with MSFAC, Si and Tim. This one’s looking at what success looks like, counterculture and authenticity. Apologies again for the extraneous noises, utility company decided to start drilling outside, and I didn’t realise how close my personal vapouriser was to the mic. It’s the chat that counts though.
Oh, yes, we’re keeping ‘em coming. For our second conversation we invited our friends Matt, Amy and Niall of MSFAC, who kindly brought a huge plate of falafel with them. We were also joined by Friction ‘fifth beatle’ Simon Walker and Tim ‘The Tiministrator’ Franklin. We had a great conversation, as ever, across two generations of practicing artists (they’re literally half our age) and it was fascinating seeing the similarities and differences between our ‘never been to art school’ and their ‘just left’ approaches to work and life (more similarities than differences, actually). This one’s going to need to be split into three parts, I’m afraid, we got ‘on one’. After the discussion we retired to the ‘Annexe’ (The Anchor public house and care home) for several more hours of chat and fun (it’s been our local for the past 10 years or so, family, you know?). The sound quality may be a bit variable at times, but these are unedited, raw and authentic conversations and not staged or studio-based discussions, so forgive us, won’t you?
Here, as promised, is part 2 of our podcast with Janet Hetherington and Sarah Thelwall on the subject of stories. Please feel free to give us feedback as we feel our way into the podcasting landscape. One of the reasons we are podcasting is that we’ve failed over the years to communicate about our approach and work – well, as we’re often misunderstood we must’ve – so we’re hoping that sharing our conversations in this way will go some way to demystifying who we are and what we do. Well, you can be the judge – enjoy!
Hello All. Here is our first attempt at a podcast. We wanted to do it in true ‘Friction Style’, so it’s a rather rambling exploration of what stories mean to us, all accompanied by the sound of clinking plates, bubbling kettles and burbling babies. We were honoured to be joined for our first outing by the wonderful Janet Hetherington (Staffs Uni and lots more) and her son Lars, and the inestimable Sarah Thelwall (MyCake). To spare the ordeal of a whole hour and a half, we’ve chopped it up into two, more easily digestible chunks – recommended for over 16s as the language is a little, ahem, ‘unguarded’ at times. Part two will be uploaded later, with part three, our conversation with art-punk collective MSFAC to follow. That one’s going to take a bit more editing to avoid the law courts though .
After announcing our new programme, A Word From The Wise, I thought I’d explain our ambitions for the project in a bit more detail. We’ve been thinking about the issue of artists ageing for quite some time, ageing along quietly ourselves whilst we do so. We’ve seen a lot of artists who were influential to us get older and it struck us more and more how little support was around for these veterans. Often victims of ill-health, often struck by financial problems and the residue from lives well-lived, there is a clear need for sytems where we can offer each other mutual support and appreciation, whilst still making ‘use’ of these valuable assets to our artistic lives. So ‘A Word From The Wise’ emerged in our thoughts – a way to support veteran artists, and to share their wisdom, experience and their work to a wider public. We want to conserve work, to exhibit work that hasn’t been seen for some time or ever before, but also to commission new work and to encourage the continual development of the output of our elders – and clearly we have a vested interest as we are not getting any younger ourselves.
We also want to examine a ‘benefit’ system, where we can raise money to provide comfort to veteran artists – for instance basic medical treatment, treatment for back pain, new equipment or materials for them to continue their work, comfort payments in times of need – perhaps a trust fund which artists can pay into, raise money or donate proceeds from benefit gigs. As services in the community in general are slashed, it is more important than ever that people within communities help each other practically, and the artistic community is no different so we want to find practical ways to do this.
This is all going to take some time to develop – possibly by the time we’ve got something off the ground we’ll qualify ourselves – and we obviously can’t do it alone, so we’ll be asking for help. To start with, we’re going to commission some veteran artists over the Summer to start the ball rolling, and see how we get on. If you want to be kept informed about developments with ‘A Word From The Wise’, or you want to get involved, please drop us an email to register your interest and we’ll let you know how things go.
Tweets"@jezc what a shame - and what a coincidence.... Yes see you on our return to discuss BITPO ( our blues party HLF work; part of BASS fest x"yesterday"@jezc how long u there for? We're in Sofia on Monday? Will u still be there? Xx sand, lee, si x"yesterday"@jezc we are going to Bulgaria right now!! Tho we're landing and heading straight up the mountain to Goatmilk fest.. Got a coupla hrs.."yesterday