Local culture celebrated at Rolfe Street station

New artwork by Sandwell College students unveiled.

Members of the local community and transport industry have gathered at Smethwick Rolfe Street station for the unveiling of a new mural and exhibition space.

The projects have been produced in collaboration with fifty students from Sandwell College, who have been tasked to bring new life to the station whilst celebrating their diverse community.

The mural , a joint collaboration between London Midland, Transport for West Midlands and Network Rail, forms part of the BTEC Art community art module at Sandwell College and has helped students get closer to their community. Advisory artist to the project was Steve Field who guided the students on researching the local area and asking residents and rail customers what should be included in their designs. The brief for the design is Smethwick Going Forward, which aims to reflect the many cultures of the local area. A key feature in the design of the 19.25 square metre installation are the words “Love Thy Neighbour” written in a variety of languages.

Students from the college studying construction were also responsible for transforming the former Station Master’s office into a history exhibition space and meeting room, allowing them to develop their plastering, carpentry and painting skills. Requiring them to use their initiative and make use of problem solving skills, this sustainable project will also provide the students with experience for their future careers.

The mural and renovation work form part of a trio of community projects at the station, which also includes a station adoption by the Abrahamic Foundation and members of the local community of different faiths. The adoption project, which was led by London Midland’s Safety and Environment team, has breathed colour into the former gardens on Platform 1.

The projects were formally unveiled by Faye Lambert, head of community rail at London Midland, Angela Tombs, head of the Creative Industries and Performing Arts Department at Sandwell College and representatives from TfWM and Network Rail.

Faye Lamber, commented: “The students from Sandwell College have transformed the station with artwork that can be enjoyed by this diverse community for many years to come. These projects are great examples of how people of all ages can make a real difference to their area by enhancing the environment of their local station.”

Angela Tombs added: “The students should feel incredibly proud of their hard work in creating a lasting testament to the exciting, varied culture of Smethwick, which will benefit rail passengers and members of the community alike.”

Councillor Roger Horton, lead member for rail and Metro on the West Midlands Combined Authority’s transport delivery committee, said: “The projects all look back at the station’s rich history, and forward to the future of this varied community. Well done to the students for giving something back to their local area which truly celebrates their many different cultures.”

Sam Brookes, customer account manager at Network Rail, added: “Today’s unveiling should be viewed as a milestone moment in the history of the station. We hope that it has inspired others to enhance their station, both for the enjoyment of both local residents and the many passengers using the railway each day.”

Featuring a display of the station’s history and the story of the community projects, the history exhibition space will be open to the public daily. Going forward, the room will be used to promote community events and display new community rail artwork. The history material has been provided by Sandwell Council and Network Rail Archives, London & North Western Railway Society, D J Norton and Mike Westley (photographers) and David Langton (timetable collector).