Taking part in the @24hoursproject did challenge me in my photography. I learnt about it from a fellow photographer who also happened to be the UK ambassador for the project. When Anu told me about the project then I just had to get involved. After registering and donating to the designated charity, I got ready for the day. The charity chosen by the 24 hour team was supporting the work of Yonton Te which means “heart of the tree”. The donations will go to a local community in Chapas Mexico and the website provides more information on this worthwhile cause.
The theme of the 24 hours was to document the general human condition with emotions of love, humour, sadness, joy, fulfilment, pain, loneliness). As you will see from my photographs, I strayed away from the brief. This was not my intention but I was so focussed on getting a picture done once an hour that I forgot about the theme. Reviewing the photo feed of the project, many people went into their local cities, whilst I decided to base my 24 hours around my life at home. You will see that my first 8 hours evolved around sleeping and my breakfast. Also there were not many people stirring in Knowle village early on a Saturday morning.
At 10:00 am I went into Birmingham. By chance, my train driver was Yo Naysan, a fellow photographer. As the train pulled in he stuck his head out of the driver’s window and said hello. On arriving into Birmingham, I met up with Anu and her partner Kate and wandered around the city. I photographed the PoliNations display in Victoria Square, the Library of Birmingham, Gas Street Basin and the University of Birmingham, Exchange. There were people queuing for the book of remembrance for the Queen.
Many of these are linked to tackling climate change and foolishly I did not take pictures of people. However in my outtakes I did and you will see many of these were fun pictures. Driving back home I pondered my contribution to the 24 hour project and took several pictures in the village at night. To recap, the main aim for this project was to experience 24 hours of pictures and see if I was able to complete the task. I succeeded in this task next year will be able to tackle the project in a different way as I know what to expect.
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