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Tag Archives: West Midlands

Key 01 - Artfull Expression, Jewellery Quarter

Collection and the first lock

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. 

Key to the City Brum 2022
Key to the City Brum 2022 passport box.

 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.

Key to the City Brum 2022
The reception desk at New Street Station
Key to the City Brum 2022
Sarah from the Birmingham 2022 festival who signed the pledge with me.
Key to the City Brum 2022
Me and my key!

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. 

Key to the City Brum 2022
The board showing where all the participants live

There is a website for the key to the city Brum and also a link to Fierce Festival who are also involved with the organisation. Finally a link to the artist Paul Ramírez Jonas.

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.

If you want to know more then visit David at the website for Artfull Expression


Hay Wood Adventure

Forestry England have a number of woodlands located across the West Midlands and my closest one, Hay Wood, is located near Baddesley Clinton. I have been a number of times and always found it a wonderful place to visit. It is best described as a peaceful ancient woodland site with a great diversity of wildlife. Usually I have walked around or cycled into the Wood via bike.

Hay Wood
A beautiful day in Hay Wood

When walking, I have usually stayed around the front part of the forest near to the road as it is a bit of a hike into the far end of the wood. This time I wanted to delve deeper into the wood and therefore walked up to he end of the central road and instead of going left or right at the end, heading into the deeps of the wood. It had been raining heavily the night before and I started to regret my decision as the going was very soft and wet. There were old tractor grooves which allowed you to walk on the ridge away from the water.

Hay Wood
Sunlight streams down

Deeper into the forrest the light became more interesting. The sun came out and there were small pockets of light that managed to get through the trees. I encountered a young conifer and it was bathed in light which made for a good photograph. The dying ferns had turned a yellow orange colour and added an interesting layer to the forrest floor. It appeared to be a carpet of colour.

Hay Wood
A new hope in the Forrest

It was very difficult moving through this part of the wood and after a while I made my way to the roads where it was obviously much easier to move around. I took a selection of pictures and they show the light and colour of the forest.

Hay wood
Sunlight above, water below

The web site encourages you to escape to Hay Wood for your next forest adventure. Whether walking or riding, Hay Wood is the perfect place to get away from it all and relax. I could not agree more.

Hay Wood
Paths in the Woodland
Hay Wood
Mos growing on logs of wood
Hay Wood
Hay Wood Colours

The Jewellery quarter is one of my inspirational places for photography. Affectionately known as the JQ, it contains so much history wrapped in its character. Old and new blend together with interesting details including churches, shops, doors, alleyways and jewellery shops. Arguably the centre piece is St Paul’s square with the beautiful Church in the centre. The spire is taller than the building making it difficult to frame for the photograph. However, there are a few areas where you can frame it correctly using the surrounding trees. I wandered around the square and then down Bennett’s Hill on a quiet Sunday morning. The only company were cyclists and joggers. A few people were sitting on the benches taking in the early sunshine. These are a few pictures taken around the square and down the hill.

There are a few places that are active on social media including the Soda Bread Cafe and up and coming photographer Rebecca who posts lovely photographs of the JQ skyline. It is sad to see the Jam House as I have many happy memories of nights out there. It will be a while before it opens again. The square holds many happy memories for me. It was here that one of my photographs first got featured as a BBC Midlands picture of the day. The Jam House, Andersons and St Paul’s House all have special family and work memories. So a quiet Sunday in June was spent not only taking photographs but reliving memories of a favourite Birmingham spot. Don’t let me have it all for myself why not visit it yourself but remember to take your camera with you.