The Sunday Bootsale at Birmingham Wholesale markets is a unique social nexus, a special place, hidden to most residents of the city, but a vital part of the week’s activity for some of its poorest. We’ve been coming regularly  for over 15 years and know many of the stallholders and regulars, often testing out our public art interventions in the space, as well as constantly sourcing materials for our artworks.  Currently the city council is preparing the site for development and the future of the bootsale is uncertain, so we decided to begin a programme of interventions, artworks, interviews and archiving to celebrate and help preserve something of this very special place.

Mark(et)ing Time is the first phase of this programme. We commissioned ourselves and five other artists to respond to the bootsale by making artwork interventions in the form of stalls at the market. These artists were Ben Jones and Jane English, Alison Solomon, Alisha Kadir and Raycho Stanev, accompanying Sandra Hall and Lee Griffiths on our journey through the market.

The artists made a range of sensitive and challenging interventions:

  • A ‘virtual reality carbootsale’ to take home and experience
  • A ‘receipt’ adding up what people thought the cash value of the market is
  • A series of figurines, representing people from the market and their stories
  • Objects from the market changed to reflect back people’s stories
  • A ‘branding’ for the market – ‘for people by people’
  • A group publication distributed at the market

As a result of the project we developed relationships across the whole range of market stakeholders. From the deputy head of the city Planning and Design team, through the council workers who run the site, the traders and customers, we managed to engage everyone in the project.  This has provided us with ‘access all areas’ and we have recently submitted applications to continue with much larger programmes of work at the Smithfield site.

Here is a link to our tumblr blog of the project. The publication we made in collaboration with artist Raycho Stanev is also available on request.


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