Living in Birmingham and being interested in photography I have long been aware of the brilliant body of documentary photographic work produced by Pogus Caesar over the last four decades. However, it only through Kieran Connell’s excellent Black Handsworth which came out last year, that I became truly aware of his status as the premier visual chronicler of the 1985 riots which took place in that area of north west Birmingham. As such, when I found Café Royal Books were publishing Handsworth Riots 1985 a series of Caesar’s work documenting the event, I knew that I had to get a copy. Published almost 35 years to the day the riots began, the staple bound pamphlet in Café Royal’s trademark austere, black and white minimalism (resplendent in connotations of the best post-war British photo reportage publications) completely fulfilled my expectations. On a primary level what the photos selected for the volume convey to the viewer a sense at once of what rioting in a mid-1980s inner Birmingham suburb looked like, and how the area looked in …
Tracing the history of a squatted social centre/resource centre which existed in suburban south Birmingham from the spring of 1975 until the winter of 1977-78.
Review of This Way to the Revolution a recently published history capturing a snapshot of Birmingham in the year 1968.
Review and commentary upon Coventry Biennial’s screening of the artist’s film “Otolith 1” (The Otolith Group, 2003) in mid-August 2020.
Review of Vivid Projects’ online showing of “African Oasis” and “Mohammed Idrish Must Stay”
Interview with the photographer Andrew Conroy about his South Yorkshire coalfield photography
This article first appeared on History Workshop Online on 13/03/2019. It was commissioned by Dr. Rachel Moss during her History Workshop Online Editorial Fellowship. In January (2019’s) issue of Tribune the geographer David Harvey explores housing commodification’s corrosive impact upon society. Reflecting upon his childhood home in suburban Kent, he shows that his family’s “house was a use value — stolid in its ordinariness”. In political economy use value refers to an object or a structure’s practical value to the user, whilst exchange value refers to the object’s potential financial or barter value if it is sold or exchanged, meaning that when Harvey’s parents owned it, the house’s purpose was primarily to provide the family with shelter and somewhere to build their lives. Harvey contrasts this with the highly financialised place of housing in contemporary society, arguing that in “…the city of speculative gain: occupancy becomes unstable and ephemeral, social solidarities and neighbourhood commonalities disintegrate.” This trend has played out dramatically and with highly detrimental results in Birmingham’s Selly Oak area, as I discovered while working on a …
On the evening of the 30th May-which was then the warmest day of the year-over fifty people, split roughly evenly between academics, students and interested members of the general public; gathered at the University of Birmingham to hear Prof. Lynda Nead (Birkbeck) present her research on “The Grain of History: Photography and Post-War Time c.1945-55”.
Its frantic approach made practitioners wince but, through Time Team, Channel 4 made archeology prime time entertainment for over two decades. That fact alone vividly illustrates a widely shared fascination amongst the public for peeling back the layers of the past and peering at the lives of those who came before us.
When Prince Charles first caught sight of Birmingham Central Library during a visit 30 years ago, he’s purported to have spluttered: “It looks more like a place for burning books than keeping them.”