The star of the commonwealth games is the mechanical bull that was revealed at the opening ceremony. It stands 10 metres tall and sits atop a motorised vehicle that allows it to be manoeuvred. Both the head and the legs move and there are numerous working clogs and gears. When viewed close up, the details are astounding.
The Bull wowed the world at the opening ceremony and then immediately afterwards was escorted to centenary square in the City Centre. The public response has been amazing and as soon as news leaked out that it would be dismantled after the games, there have been a multitude of calls for it to stay. A petition has been set up and Birmingham City Council is being lobbied to keep the bull. The difficulty is that it is not easy to find a place to display a 10 metre high mechanical bull but a lot of thought is being given on how to achieve this. Meanwhile the Bull is attracting large crowds and everyone wants to have a selfie taking in the backdrop of Birmingham. Here are some pictures including intricate details of the bull for you to enjoy.
At the start of the week, the plan was to dismantle the bull at the end of the games. Now the City Council are planning to keep it due to the popularity of the structure. Fingers crossed people far and wide will be able to enjoy seeing this remarkable metallic puppet for many years to come.
The Commonwealth games are coming to Birmingham and the City council has gone overboard to make sure that the streets and roads are looking their very best. There are new pieces of artwork, refurbishing of old artwork and the enhancement of buildings. All guaranteed to make a Brummie proud. The following pictures provide a flavour of what is taking place across the City. Birmingham is making a statement to the Commonwealth and the World that it is a vibrant and exciting place to visit.
Amongst all the excitement along the colourful streets of Birmingham, there is another success story of the city taking place during the Commonwealth Games. Wandering over to Oozells square and there is a public art display that has the power to match the other artistic events that are taking place. The IKON gallery features an exhibition of the work of three artists: Yhonnie Scarce, Salote Tawale and Osman Yousefzada. The work is diverse yet integrated and visual. They come together on subjects that cover different themes. Having my camera with me was a real bonus as each art installation offers opportunities for picture taking. The exhibits are on the first floor and all three have the necessary space which allows you to appreciate them. The first room I entered contained The Need Breeder (2002) by Australian Aboriginal Artist, Yhonnie Scarce. Suspended from the ceiling were 600 glass droplets each having different shades of opacity. The installation was mesmerising with the light falling on the different shapes allowing a range of interpretations. What they represent is the crystallisation of the Australia desert following British Nuclear tests in the fifties. Together the glass droplets represent a nuclear explosion. Each droplet represents the death from nuclear tests. Powerful, moving and relevant in this present political climate.
The next room had three video projections which spanned the room. The film that ran for around 9 minutes was put together by Osman Yousefyaza. Having met Osman at a Moseley Coffee house, I immediately felt a connection. Spaces of Transcendence (2022) is a film that was made in Pakistan and contains powerful moving images of rituals set against a captivating backdrop of the country. There were gestures and facial close ups that pulled me into the story without words. I found the throw of the cloth into the saucers containing colour water fascinating. The main characters in the film absorbed my intention. I can not work out if the film is on a loop as there was no introduction or end just a complete immersion in the imagery. I loved it.
It was nearly closing time at the IKON when I came into the room with the instillation by Salote Tamale called YOU, ME, ME, YOU. There were three TV screens as distinct to Osman’s work which was projected on much larger screens. A continuous video was playing that darted from one theme to another. There were underwater pictures and then scenes in a tropical jungle. It was a different but refreshing approach to the presentation by Osman in the previous room. Slowly my eyes took notice of the decoration of the room and the recurring pattern. After a while it was this that started to demand my attention. The repeating colourful pattern needed to be photographed as you will see.
The exhibition was excellent and I felt a sense of calm coming away from the IKON Gallery. The exhibition coincides the Birmingham 2022 games and there will be many people arriving into Birmingham from different places and cultures. The work of these three artists starts to unravel and re-ravel the different interactions of people around the world. Birmingham is privileged to be able to host this unique display of art at the IKON gallery.
My pictures of these artists work provide a simple snapshot of this moving visit and there is more information about each artist on the web.
The Selfridges building is now back to its full glory after a period of renovation. The silver discs were causing problems by becoming detached and falling off the building. All this was happening prior to the pandemic. There were additional problems as the original manufacturer of the discs was no longer operating and a new supplier needed to be found. When the contractors were ready, they covered the building in a spectacular pink and black cover designed by Osman Yousefzada and underneath this “skin” replaced the discs. I liked the Infinity Pattern 1 design as it was a such a different take on the building.
The repair work continued during and after the pandemic. Finally, the scaffolding came down revealing the new replacement discs. I take part in a weekly photographic project and the week’s theme was geometry. The Selfridges building is perfect for this theme and I went out and about with my camera taking pictures to accentuate the amazing patterns. There was also the chance to get some interaction with reflections of people sitting next to the building. There was a good reaction to the pictures and I find that many people love the design. There are many people who dislike the building but everyone agrees it does put Birmingham on the map.
I have included some past posts which will provide details of my previous photographic blogs that have involved this iconic building.
Several mornings during July, I ran into Kardamena from where I was staying. My hotel, Acti Beach, is around 2 miles away from Kardamena. Getting up early and watching the sunrise develop during the Golden Hour is an unforgettable experience. Two years ago I was here in August and the sun rose over the sea. In July, the sun rises behind the mountains. Therefore I saw the sun start to rise by the golden colours appearing on the white buildings of the town as I ran towards Kardamena.
I run with my iPhone13 and I was able to stop for a few minutes and capture the golden rays. The fun is getting back to the hotel and seeing what the results are like. These pictures were taken on different mornings and when posted on my social media, they received a positive response. I certainly want to get back to Kos in the future and experience more sunrises on this beautiful island. This is the last of my Kos Island sequence and hope you enjoyed them.
A return visit to Kos and more pictures of the beautiful seaside village of Kardamena. An idyllic spot and a perfect base for the rest of the island. The long straight harbour front with the tropical trees adds character to the place and there are some delightful places to eat out and watch the world go by. Food is a must in Kardamena.
Thomas’s Meze is a favourite restaurant of ours and I enjoyed the traditional Greek foods that were served. The sea bass was particularly tasty and the bones were expertly removed by our waiter. The pictures show the before and after result. Other favourites included home made Moussaka and Feta Filo.consisting of feta folding in pastry, sprinkled with sesame seeds. The local honey that is poured over the pastry comes from those bees that I saw in the mountains. It was also a chance for me to become re-acquainted with Retsina. The taste of this Greek resinated wine is not to everybody’s liking with some people spitting it out as soon as they taste it! For me it is a refreshing taste and goes well with fish and other Mediterranean foods.
We also dined at the restaurant, Avli, which is based in one of the oldest houses in Kardamena. The restaurant is in an old courtyard which is cool and adds a local greek atmosphere to the proceedings. My choices here were the home made stuffed vine leaves to start with followed by the catch of the day which was red snapper. Both were delicious and prepared well.
Breakfast was taken at the Harbour lounge on the sea front where you could watch the yachts and the various ships such as the Pirate ship leave for a tour of the islands. The owners prepare a sumptuous breakfast which can either be English or Greek depending on your tastes.
Coming back from Kos Town on our final evening, we had our last meal at Chris snack and cocktail bar. A friendly family run restaurant where we had some simple but tasty home cooked food. The seating is on several tiers and we sat close to the sea, enjoying the sight of local children catching a crab and watching the pirate ship come home for the evening.
Eating out in the town was excellent and was a welcome break from the all-inclusive food at our hotel, which was fine but unadventurous. After breakfast or evening meal, then it was only natural that we wandered along the streets of Kardamena. There was a chance to see the shops, view the boats in the harbour or see the antics of the local cat population. Here are a selection of photographs out and about Kardamena during the day.
The album “Reach for the Sky” was released by Sunderland Brothers and Quiver in 1975. The cover is very evocative and has an eagle flying across the sun. My picture of the Lesser Kestrel flying over the valley between Kardamena and Pyli reminds me of that LP record. It is one of many pictures taken on a day out with the wonderful photographer Sarah Longes (Twitter @miradordesign). With my 200mm lens working to its limit, Sarah taught me to be patient on taking photographs. Not one of my strongest virtues but I am learning.
Sarah spotted where the lesser kestrels were hunting on the edge of the valley. The view from our photography spot was spectacular and one of the interesting features were the large number of bee hives scattered across the landscape. Sarah has a sixth sense of where to find wildlife. I have known her virtually for a few years now and luck would have it we were both on Kos at the same time. She is a super photographer and teacher.
We left the Lesser Kestrels hunting in the mountains and moved onto Pyli to walk around the village. Pyli features a natural water spring. Although it was the heat of the day, there were several people filling up containers with spring water. It was quiet when we visited, although two coach tours did descend on the area whilst we were having lunch in a local restaurant in the square.
Following lunch, we made our way to the Alikes Salt Lake that was next to the town of Tigaki. The lake was teeming with wildlife in spite of the serious levels of pollution present. The salt works are no longer operational and are visited by a few tourists and locals. More interest is from the paragliding sails that pepper the horizon. The salt lake was interesting with graffiti on old abandoned buildings, several varieties of birds and even some turtles swimming around. It was here that once again I learnt to be patient, as I photographed the birds, resisting my natural temptation to rush forward to get as close as possible.
Our final stop was the Traditional Windmill of Antimachia. This is a restored windmill and the intricate sails were quite magnificent as they turned around. I chatted to the owner of the Windmill and accompanying restaurant/bar and showed him Chesterton Windmill near Leamington Spa. The owner was very interested, and I hope that I have forged an international link between the two windmills.
A memorable day and thank you to both Sarah for allowing me to accompany her on her photography tour and Simon her husband for chauffeuring us around Kos. Hope you as the reader enjoy the pictures.
I visited Manchester as part of a PhD examination at the Univeristy, and it gave me the chance to see the city again. Manchester is part of my early life and as a dental student, I loved being in the city. In the seventies, life was very different, but the music scene was a big part of my life including Punk Rock, and the rise of Joy Division and the Buzzcocks. Manchester looks and feels very different today and I struggle to find the same landmarks in many parts of the city. Old buildings have been renovated. High rise living is everywhere. You can now stroll along the Rochdale canal rather than being able to walk on the water due to the rubbish.
These are the pictures taken on my walk from Piccadilly Station to the University of Birmingham and back again. I walked through the Gay Village along the canal and then onto Oxford Road. I varied my route the next day to take in a few more areas as I returned to Piccadilly station. Cities like Birmingham and Manchester are under constant change and all for the better in most cases. I hope you enjoy my view of Manchester.
There is a “key to the city Brum” that unlocks doors around Birmingham. What a great idea. Such doors give the entry to special places. Ones that you could only open with a special key. Intriguing. I always loved a good treasure hunt but how do I get access to one of these fabled keys? The project caught the imagination of the people of Birmingham and social media was rife with the #keytothecitybrum hashtag.
When the launch took place in Grand Central on a Monday morning in June, I jumped in the car and made my way to New Street station, Birmingham. I arrived just when the launch was taking place with all the media and other important people talking about the keys. I even got a glimpse of the artist Paul Ramírez Jonas who came up with the concept. The project had previously taken place in New York city and was now being launched in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival taking place prior to the Commonwealth Games.
I was near to the front of the queue to receive my key and got talking to people around me. The picture shows Sophie who works for the Birmingham 2022 festival committee. They were instrumental in bringing ‘Keys to the City’ to Birmingham. Sophie is pictured in New Street Station holding up the pledge that we had to read and then sign before getting our ‘Keys’. To sign our pledge, there had to be two people signing it together on a table. Sophie kindly buddied up with me so that we could correctly enact the ceremony and then collect the key. Thanks to Sophie for allowing me to take her photograph. The key came in a presentation box with a leaflet in the form of a passport. All the doors were listed with maps and instructions on how to get to them. One of the helpers then asked me to put a sticker on the map of Birmingham postcodes. This is to show everyone where all the key holders liven around Birmingham. The story of the places I visit will be photographed in the following weeks. I did write up the first few places and posted my pictures on Instagram. However, people want the opening of the doors to be a surprise so I will release my journey after the 7th August when it ends. Until then this is the first place that I visited to give a flavour of what you encounter with your key.
My first lock venue that I visited was Artfull Expression which is on Warstone Lane in the Jewellery Quarter. My key opened the contents of the cabinet which held items used in the manufacture of jewellery.
David is the owner of Artfull Expression. His premises are one of the venues of the ‘Key to the City Brum’ event organised by the Birmingham 2022 festival. When I arrived, I was warmly met by David who explained the downstairs studio was not open due to unforeseen circumstances. He directed me to a locked cabinet that they had prepared. My ‘Key to the city’ fitted the Yale lock on the cabinet. I freed a metal rod that once removed allowed the cabinet to be opened. Inside was a description of jewellery making. David enthusiastically explained the manufacturing process to me. Also, I learnt that David is one of the Guardians of the Birmingham Assay Office. He also told me how Birmingham obtained the anchor hallmark on its jewellery. Apparently, Matthew Boulton, the 18th century industrialist, won the right on the toss of a coin in a London pub. Sheffield was the loser and was given a castle logo which they changed to a rose. David has expertise in jewellery design and Sandy will be returning to have some jewellery redesigned by him. This was a fascinating visit and the first lock opened in my Keys to the City journey.
When you first behold a poppy field, immediately the intense red colour catches the eye. You stop and take in the beautiful scene. Such poppy fields are rare and also transient. Similar to the bluebell season, their intense red colours grace the landscape for a couple of weeks and then they are gone. I have been fortunate to see two poppy fields in successive years. The first was in Minworth, which is now a housing estate. Last year a poppy field sprung up in Leamington Spa which was close to home. Both fields were beautiful in their own individual way.
This year I wondered if I would be lucky to see a poppy field. The changing nature of the landscape with increased density of house building means that many fields are being lost. As June began, there were several reports of poppy fields on social media but all were a long car journey away. Then reports of poppy fields began to surface in Worcestershire. After careful searching on the Internet, combined with advice from a friend who lived in the area, I decided to get up early and check out a poppy sunrise. Setting off early I arrived near Kidderminster at 4.30am. I chased the low lying Strawberry full moon along the Motorway. The disappearing moon looked magnificent in the morning sky. I arrived at what I thought was the poppy field site and disappointingly there were only clumps of poppies. Deciding to stay, I made the best of a poor display and concentrated on the individual poppies. After an hour, I decided to call it a day and head home.
As I got into the car, I thought to myself surely there must be a field of poppies around here. Social media does not lie or does it? On a spur of the moment decision, I turned down the next lane off the main road. I drove for about half a mile and thought this is stupid as there is nothing here to see. As soon as I thought this, I looked to my left and saw a beautiful sea of red poppies. It was 5.45am, sunrise had gone but there was still lovely light. I lost an hour of my life just taking pictures around the field. The landscape favoured the photographer and I satisfied my desire for taking lots of photographs of poppies. I am not convinced I took the best photographs but I did enjoy myself. Hope you enjoy the pictures!