Wanted – tales of migrating to Birmingham

Collecting people’s stories for an extraordinary new artwork celebrating the positive contribution migration has made to the success of the city.

Birmingham arts organisation Craftspace, along with lead-artist Jivan Astfalck, Shelanu: Women’s Craft Collective and MA students from the School of Jewellery are inviting visitors to contribute to an artwork which acknowledges the contribution of migration to Birmingham during their residency at the new Library of Birmingham in November. Part of the library’s Discovery Season, the project will evolve over a week into a visual metaphor encompassing diverse experiences of migration to Birmingham.

Visitors will be invited to take a moment of reflection in the busy environment to write their experience of coming to, or being in, Birmingham on a piece of paper, in their first language. The paper will then be made into an origami flower which will become part of the ‘Story Meadow’ within the Discovery Space. The stories will be shared on digital screens in the library and through social networking raising awareness of the positive contribution of migration to the city. As the week goes on the Discovery Space will become home to a meadow of stories which reflect the diversity of the city.

Key migrant and refugee organisations in Birmingham will be invited to contribute to the artwork devised by Jivan Astfalck. Books on migration will also be highlighted by the library for visitors to the residency to peruse or borrow.

“The library is a new civic space for the people of Birmingham and beyond. As such it stands as a symbol of inclusion, a ’commons’ of thought, culture and learning. By harvesting stories and crafting them into a visual artwork we hope to engender a collective sense of what it means to belong in Birmingham. We hope these creative activities help to combat sometimes negative perceptions of migration whilst emphasising that diverse people provide our city with the capital it needs to be successful.” Deirdre Figueiredo, Director, Craftspace.

The Discovery Season programme is produced and curated by Capsule, supported by Arts Council England. The season, which will run until 31st December 2013, is inspired by the Library’s internationally-important archives and special collections.


2 thoughts on “Wanted – tales of migrating to Birmingham

  1. The story everyone ought to know but doesn’t.

    Once upon a time….
    Long ago travelling was very difficult. There were no cars, trains, planes, bikes, or even boats other than the sort that have oars or sails and had a high tendency to sink en route (or get terrorised by pirates). And also there were no foreign language multimedia courses to smooth any traveller’s way either.

    In those long ago days, there was a strange island located very much out of the way from most people. It was right far away on the edge of the known world, and even if you’d got within 50 miles of it you still had the difficult journey across a wide channel of water to get to it. And it probably wasn’t worth getting to anyway, as it was gloomy and cloudy most of the time, and rained a lot just when you weren’t expecting it. And pretty useless for growing anything decent such as grapes or olives let alone oranges or bananas.

    To make matters worse, most of the landscape was encumbered with a thick forest of big trees such as beech, ash, and elm, posing gigantic obstacles to doing much useful there, as removing stumps of many of those trees would be pretty impossible unless some big magic animals were kindly provided by God to do the work .

    Nevertheless, a community eventually developed there, and gradually, over many centuries of lifetimes of very hard work managed to make that grim unpromising land into a fairly pleasant place for later generations to live in.

    Because transport over land was slow and difficult (not least due to there being no modern roads), it was primarily around the coasts and big rivers that the island’s communities first developed.

    But people can’t always live where they would most like to, so handfuls of these people ended up clearing some of the forest right in the middle of this island, far from any coastline or big rivers or even any useful travel routes. Such a location had of course its disadvantages, but it had one huge secret advantage. This was that in that remote location, very few strangers ever ventured there and just about everyone knew everyone else. And indeed everyone became rather family-related to just about everyone else.

    This resulted in a great harmony of culture and of values and ideas, and a great deal of trust between the members of that community. As a result that community became unusually civilised, and no longer had to waste much attention on dealing with hostility within its membership. And so it was able to develop more useful talents and habits, of being creative and ingeniously skillful at making things.

    And inventing things, many things, that no man had even imagined before.

    And indeed that community went on to become the world’s most skillful community, the most important city in all of history, rightly called “the Workshop of the World”, otherwise known as Birmingham.

    But why waste your time on remembering the past, when you can instead look forward to a bright future rightly envisioned by the greatest social experts in leading university departments of political correctness?

  2. PS: And yet the story in that comment doesn’t mean that immigrants are bad, even if it might argue a case that too much immigration can be too much of a good thing. Hopefully we can also make a positive outcome of our diverse cultural and genetic peopleship. We’ve done quite well so far in my own view.

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