In 2020, problems with the attachment of the discs to the building began to surface and this is evident in my pictures. A decision was made by Selfridges to undertake the refurbishment and replacement of all the discs on the building. There are 15,000 discs and it will take some time to replace them. The original makers of the discs no longer exist and new constructors were required. The story may be followed up in the news media when in November 2020, the official reports of the replacement began.
It was during Lockdown #2 that scaffolding began to go up around the store. So as to protect the construction workers and the scaffolding, an eye-catching temporary skin has been put in place. The striking art structure is called “Infinity pattern 1” and is designed by Birmingham born artist and interdisciplinary designer, Osman Yousefzada. It is intended to be a “message of hope” to the people of Birmingham. The design was drawn up in conjunction with the IKON Gallery. The colours are striking and are best viewed in the sunlight which picks up the shades of red. The installation is temporary as the replacement of all the discs will be completed in time for the Commonwealth games in 2022. Therefore whilst it is on view, I encourage you to wander down to Birmingham and see Osman’s creation. The visit will be worthwhile.
These photographs show how Osman’s artwork interacts with the City and the people. The pictures tell the story of the loss of the discs, the placement of the scaffolding and the final structure. There is merchandise in the store that feature the Infinity Pattern 1 on them. The colours and the design pattern lend themselves to pictures and I like the picture with my daughter looking out over Birmingham with the Infinity Pattern 1 behind her.
The University of Birmingham has a major economic impact on Birmingham and the West Midlands region. The University educates students, is a major employer, a research leader in all sectors and a gateway bringing in global connections that benefit the city. Even though the University has a beautiful campus at Edgbaston, a physical footprint in the city centre has long been on the University’s wish list. The old Municipal Savings Bank began to look an interesting project. Especially with the location of the bank on the new look Centennial square.
The former Municipal Bank is a Grade II listed building and has historical links with the University. Joseph Chamberlain was founder and first Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. Neville Chamberlain, the son of Joseph Chamberlain was behind the building of the Municipal Bank on Broad Street. It was first opened by Prince George in 1933 and has a long history of underpinning the wealth of an ambitious city. However, the bank closed at the turn of the century and the last 20 years has seen the building empty with no tenants. It was famously portrayed as the AC-12 base in the BBC series ‘Line of Duty’. The iconic safe deposit boxes in the vault were used in a Chanel advert amongst the various roles that the bank filled in these barren years. In 2018, the University negotiated a long lease of the building with Birmingham City Council and the renovations began.
I was fortunate in my University of Birmingham role to see these renovations firsthand in October 2019 before the pandemic. During my visit, I took a series of pictures on my iPhone. I had no idea which room I was photographing, although I remember the vaults where the safe deposit boxes reside. They are so interesting to see. Rows and rows of metal doors with numbers on them. One can only begin to imagine what was contained within them. The building was being gutted and there was so much to do from floor to ceiling in each room.
Fast forward to October 2021. Hasan Patel who is part of Communications Team at the University of Birmingham invited me to coffee at the Exchange after his Marathon Run. (Follow Hasan on Twitter to learn how to sponsor him on his running diary). We spent an enjoyable couple of hours putting the world to right. Hasan introduced me to the University team at the Exchange and we visited several rooms in the building.
Not long after my visit with Hasan, IgersBirminghamUK announced an Instameet at the Exchange. Immediately I signed up and went along. This Instameet is a friendly collection of photographers. We were given access to all areas including the Board room and the former bank managers office which I did not get to see on my first visit. The other interesting feature is the balcony where the bank manager opened the doors and looked out onto the banking floor to check that the bank was running smoothly. During the Instameet, this was a favourite spot for all the photographers.
Whilst we were in the vault, we were also given access to a utility room where many of the safety deposit boxes were stored. Now many of the boxes are placed strategically around the building and are a feature of those rooms which are used as teaching spaces and meeting areas. This basement room had many of the old boxes and proved to be a fantastic place to take photographs. There were still some stickers remaining and on one of the boxes the notice stated that this box could only be opened in the presence of a solicitor. Once again one could only imagine what was kept in these boxes over the years.
We finished the tour and adjourned to the Distillery Pub next to the Roundhouse. This is another interesting place to visit and includes a wall mural of a canal horse painted by one my favourite street artists, Annatomix. The Roundhouse was used to care for the canal horses that pulled the boats and has been renovated as a historical place of interest. There is even one of the horse stables on view.
This was a day taking pictures of historical buildings that have been brought up to date in a city that is rediscovering its roots and moving forward. Thank you to the team at IgersBirminghamUK for organising the tour and The University of Birmingham for opening the Exchange for this Instameet.
I have also included a blending of the old and new photographs in two of the rooms to show how the building has been modernised between my two visits.
Pictures taken with iPhone 11 and 13, camera Fujifilm x100v
Queensway is a busy arterial road in and out of Birmingham so there is always a high volume of traffic thundering along the tarmac. With my telephoto lens and 24 to 70 mm lens, I went about taking different pictures of an area that is already very familiar to me. New building projects are always happening in the city centre and the area between the Cathedral and the Canal was an old factory site. It has been repurposed into city dwelling flats that are being built close to the canal.
The area is also a magnet for different kinds of people and as I was taking pictures, I was hassled for money, so I quickly moved on. It is something I am wary of when I am in the quieter parts of town. I know that I do have to be careful of my own safety. Still the lure of taking a few photographs around the buildings on either side of Queensway won through. I took pictures of St Chad’s Cathedral and also with my telephoto lens up past the Snow Hill buildings. After that I made my way into town for a lunch time meeting.
Parking on the top floor of Selfridges Car Park opposite the store provided skyline pictures of both the City and Digbeth, and the skyline bridge linking the two is always fun for a picture or two. I love the new covering on the Selfridges which is being put in place whilst they replace the discs on the outside. The covering is designed by Osman Yousefzada,who is a multi-disciplinary artist working in association with the IKON gallery. the pink and black geometric shapes are in contrast with the grey architecture.
It was a day of sunshine and showers and whilst I was outside there was a terrific downpour.
This then led to the bonus of several puddles for a bit of reflective photography. The puddles around Selfridges are still there and lend themselves to some nice reflections of the building as it is being renovated
On my way to New Street, there were other interesting images to capture including the queue outside Zara and the photographing of the Electric Cinema. I lingered around the reflective roof of the entrance to New Street Station. I also took a few pictures of the trams passing through which is something you have to do when in Birmingham.
Lockdown 3 is easing and in early April, I found myself back in Digbeth to take a look at what was happening. One reason was to look for the new Street art project by @Fokawolf but more of that later. I parked the car in Coventry street car park and made my way to Digbeth. I love the Suki10cc artwork by street artist Gent 48 It features the up and coming black stars in Birmingham. The house is so colourful and is great to photograph. It was one of my pictures that was featured in my recent Amateur Photography magazine feature. This visit, I decided to do some unconventional pictures by getting close to the mural.
Walking down Bordesly Street, I experimented with some street photography. It is my first venture out with my Fujifilm x100v and I was a little self conscious trying to use it. However when I reached the Custard Factory, the camera comes into its own. A few pictures on the bridge over the River Rea, and then into Gibb street where there were a few people moving around. I took a few pictures of the colourful artwork (as you do when in Digbeth). I was pleased with the one I took by the street artist 0707 as it was very colourful especially with the bicycle on the colourful bike rack.
My next stop was to see the artwork by @fokawolf. It is a larger than life blown up picture of Pat Butcher from Eastenders and it is underneath the railway arch on Heath Mill Lane. It is such a random bizarre mural. The character is not associated with Birmingham and why it is placed here is not known. What it does do is provoke comment and debate. That makes it all worthwhile. My picture shows how tall the mural is with the couple next to it. I also took a picture of the balconies on the Custard Factory and posted it on the BBC weather pages. The architecture always looks good especially when the sun is shining on it. Fortunately for me, it was featured on the local BBC weather news.
Still in a wandering mood my next destination was Lower Trinity street taking pictures along the way of some of the more interesting street art. By the time I had reached Bordesley station, I thought it would be good idea to see the canals. It is very quiet around there and I worry about my personal safety. However it seemed ok so I carried on taking pictures. I like the colour of the graffiti and in fact one of my favourite artists, Lucy McLaughlan‘s art work is under the Deritend road bridges. My first attempt at a long exposure for 3 seconds with the Fujifilm x100v gave a pleasing result. As I moved back into Digbeth along the canals it became much quieter. I did meet a friend Mullerbiker from my Slack British Tech Network who happened (as he was) passing through the canal network. After chatting for a few minutes, he left but then my courage failed me and I retraced my steps out of the system and walked along the road back into Digbeth again.
There are many lovely Christmas trees around Birmingham this year. They are more prominent as they are not competing with other decorations or events where there are crowds of people such as the German Market. However, they do look lonely as the numbers of people in the City centre are down and the Christmas trees are left to look after themselves. I have taken pictures of those trees I have seen on my travels including the one in Knowle where I live. Merry Christmas Everyone and hope you have a lovely time over the next few days.
Thursday 5th November was the start of Lockdown #2. As I pass via town on my way to work, I took the opportunity of getting my camera out to record events on this particular day. I was near to the Bull Ring and as luck would have it the sunrise was spectacular with a pinky orange tint to the clouds. I was never in Birmingham for the last lockdown so I wanted to capture the atmosphere of this event. First there were people around, not many but I suspect more that there were in March/April. There were more pigeons than people and i am not sure if it was my imagination but there was a feeling of acceptance to the new restrictions. It was quiet and people moved briskly through the area.
My pictures were around the Christmas tree outside St Martin’s Church, up to Selfridges and then past the Bull and down onto New Street. I myself did not linger very much as I was very conspicuous with my Canon D5 camera. Whilst I love my IPhone camera, the time is coming to invest in a new compact camera that does not draw attention.
On my way back I saw two young people by Selfridges. The pictures show some form of tension between them and the surroundings, especially the picture that is looking upwards towards them. Finally I also saw that the scaffolding is going up around Selfridges and there will be some new photographic opportunities of the specially designed covering going up.
I love the area around St Paul’s Church and in Autumn it starts to look colourful with the leaves on the ground. It was one of my stops on my way to walk. The sky was also very colourful with the sunrise and rain clouds making pretty patterns.
I took a picture down Livery street which is a very long street/road. There is a Brummie saying that you look like you have “a face as long as Livery street”. There are some good sign posting on the buildings in the area. A matter of opinion has been up for a while and is shown on Livery Street.
I noticed at one of the corners of St Paul’s Square that there was more signposting with the words “Compared to what…” They add a fun element to the streets of Birmingham.
A picture of St Paul’s Church was well received on social media. It is a a very photogenic church. Taking a picture of both the spire of St Paul’s and the BT Tower is another photo opportunity. The area is very pretty and it was after discussion on social media that I realised that there are more hidden squares around the Jewellery Quarter. It is a place to return to time and time again.
Now I am back in a work routine, I take the opportunity to park in the city around 7am and stay until 8am just before the car parking charging begins. I set myself an area to walk around and aim to come away with 4 to 5 pictures that I can use over the coming days. These may be for my 365 project or pictures that I can post onto Twitter and Instagram. Gas street basin is a changing place and there is always something to photography during a walk on the tow paths. On this visit, it was very still and quiet and there was a hint of mist. The water in the canal was so still that it provided perfect reflections for my photography. I had my trusty Canon 5D mark VI and my ‘go to’ lens EF24-70mm with me. Initially I did not think I would get particularly good photographs but then as I got down low I started to see the photographic possibilities.
With the reflections of the buildings, I saw that there were many different views. I took around 20 to 30 pictures and then carefully selected around 6 photographs. A selection of 4 posted on Twitter took off with many likes. At the last count it was over 20 thousand views. I see so many excellent pictures of Birmingham and I am not here to say that mine are any better. These pictures are my own personal view of the area and I am pleased that they make people happy.
Lockdown had interrupted by own personal visits to all the arcades in Birmingham. I enjoy mornings when it is quiet and so before going to work, I parked up in town and made my way to the City arcade. In some ways it is my favourite arcade but it has fallen on difficult times. There are not that many shops in the arcade and they are all down one side. When I arrived at the arcade, there was a rough sleeper outside the real ale pub. In these difficult times the city is overburdened with homeless people and I worry for them.
The City Arcade was built in 1901 and designed by TWF Newton and Cheattle. I picked up this information from the Historic England site and then you are able to search on from there. It has had a recent face lift and the interior designs have been painted and stand out showing the detail that had gone into this building. It is part of Union street which is a busy thoroughfare between Corporation St and the High St. However, step into the Arcade and the noise of people quickly dies away. The arcade is at an angle and links up with the junction of Union and Warwick passage.
There are a few shops in the Arcade but from a photographers perspective, there are many reflections of the light. When people walk through the arcade then you can get some very nice effects. I spent a good 20 minutes taking photographs before I headed off to work. Another one of the Birmingham Arcades done and photographed. As the title says a hidden gem and worth exploring.
And now moving inside to view some of the details of the shops.