Tag Archives: Arts

The Drum

The Drum Archive in the stores at the Library of Birmingham

Hi! I’m Davinia. I’m studying for a PhD in Sociology at Warwick University. I recently joined the archives in the new, voluntary position of research associate, and I’m working with the newly formed archive from The Drum arts centre, which sadly closed just over a year ago, at the end of June 2016. My project’s working title is called Learning from The Drum: Toward a decolonization of the arts in the UK.

The Drum

For any who may not know, The Drum was originally conceived in a series of conversations in 1986, then existed in a number of iterations in The Cave and The Big Peg until it was established in its Newtown building in 1995. The building was originally endorsed by the City Council as part of a series of ventures, intended to achieve social and economic gains for that part of the city. It was also created to provide an inclusive creative space for the city’s African, Caribbean and South Asian populations. In 2015 it celebrated 20 years of service to its local community and to the arts of the UK. But in March 2016, six months into this PhD and, incidentally, half way through Arts Council England’s creative case for diversity, The Drum closed its doors, and the consequences of this are yet to be fully comprehended.

The Drum closing its doors

Why Am I in the archive?

My project, now half way through, has changed a lot since it was proposed in 2015. Originally, it was to focus on how The Drum was working as an arts centre. I was to collaborate with Drum staff in using the archive of ephemera within the building to create an online platform that would help to connect the local population with The Drum’s history. I would then conduct interviews and workshops with staff, artists and audiences to discover whether and how engagement with that history served to connect people in the city to the place in which they live. Given the changes that have occurred, my project now aims to preserve the history of the organisation. I also want to understand what happened at the Drum, including its closure and the broader implications of this for the arts of Birmingham and the wider UK. This is where the Archive comes in.

Collating & Housing an Archive

When the Drum was closing, the staff, including me, were in constant contact with Corinna Rayner, Manager of Archives & Collections at the Library of Birmingham, and together we embarked on the project of boxing up and labelling the Drum’s ephemera for storage. It came to over 200 boxes! Archives & Collections thankfully agreed to house The Drum’s archive, and the boxes arrived into the loading bay; a time of incredible relief for me. The Drum’s loss would leave a huge gap for many people, myself included. Once the archive is catalogued and made public, hopefully there will be a way of remembering all of the great work that it created and showcased over the years.

Following storage of The Drum’s archival material, my project is now also concerned with how the collection could best be made accessible to the centre’s former local and national audiences, and with connecting the history of the organization to other local histories, as well as to wider national and international histories. Thinking through this process is part of my project’s analysis.

Stay tuned for future blog posts on what I find as I root through the archive!

Davinia.

Explore Your Archives at the Library of Birmingham

Blue Celebrated

Explore Your Archive Week has arrived and we are honoured to have Val Birchall, Assistant Director, Culture and Visitor Economy, write our first blog of the week:

My favourite thing in Archives & Collections, Val Birchall

Val

My favourite collection in the Archive is MS 1292, the letters and papers of Joseph Moore (1766 – 1851), because it ties together so many aspects of Birmingham’s culture and history – the Town Hall, the General Hospital, the musical connection with Leipzig (which is of course one of our sister cities today), and the Birmingham Music Festival for which I have a particular fondness and which was originally founded by Moore.

 Moore founded the festival in 1799 and was responsible for its management, and as part of his interest he instigated, in 1834, the building of Birmingham Town Hall as a working venue to house a festival of growing importance in the musical world.

Exterior view of Birmingham Town Hall. Photographed in 1891. [WK/B11/407]

Exterior view of Birmingham Town Hall. Photographed in 1891.
[WK/B11/407]

The festivals were used as a very successful means of raising funds for the General Hospital and this close co-operation between the medical and musical life of the city is reflected by the fact that the Town Hall organ and an extensive musical library were the property of the hospital, the cost having been defrayed out of the festival receipts (see MS 1292/9).

The correspondence in the collection demonstrates how the festivals, under the management of Moore, acquired a high reputation in Europe for giving the public a chance to hear masterpieces by great composers which were interpreted by the most eminent vocal and instrumental artists of the day.

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Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Benjamin Stone

OXF/1: John Benjamin Stone at The Rollright Stones near Long Compton, Oxfordshire. Photographed by Stone for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey in February 1897

chamberlain joseph

Birmingham Portraits Series: Joseph Chamberlain

Today marks the centenary of the deaths of two prominent citizens and political figures from Birmingham, Joseph Chamberlain and Sir Benjamin Stone.

Both were born around the same time, Chamberlain in 1836, Stone 1838. Both grew up in families that were successful in local business, taking positions in their families’ respective firms before branching into local and national politics once they had built up their fortunes.

Chamberlain was by far the most famous and controversial of the two. As a Liberal Councillor and Mayor of Birmingham, from 1873 ‘Radical Joe’, as he became known, instigated a number of important infrastructural reforms in the city including bringing the gas and water supply under municipal control and the Borough Improvement Scheme, 1875 (see Iron Room blog piece of 30 June 2014). His time in office saw the development of municipal infrastructure, parks and magnificent public buildings, much of which remains to this day.

Despite his radical domestic agenda Chamberlain was also a staunch Imperialist. Following his election as a Liberal Member of Parliament in the mid-1870s, he eventually took a leading role in resistance within the party that helped defeat the passage of Prime Minister Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule Bill in 1885, effectively splitting the party,putting it in the electoral wilderness for the best part of twenty years.

Chamberlain joined the Conservative Party, eventually landing his preferred job of Colonial Secretary. His career in his new party was even more controversial, his stewardship of the Colonies taking place at the exact same time as the notorious Jameson Raid that led to the brutal South African (Boer) War 1899-1902. Chamberlain remained an extremely popular figure in Birmingham however. The future Prime Minister David Lloyd George was almost lynched by a patriotic mob following an anti-war speech he made at Birmingham Town Hall on 18 December 1901, with Lloyd George having to be escorted out of the building in disguise by police!

WK/M6/47: Exterior of Highbury Hall, Moseley, the Chamberlain family residence. Photographed by Thomas Lewis for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey c1890s.

By the 1906 General Election, Chamberlain’s proposal of a policy of economic protectionism favouring Britain’s colonies split the party into free-trade and protectionist factions, leading to a Liberal landslide. Despite his reputation of being possibly the only political figure to effectively split two parties, his actions did nothing to harm the future political careers of his sons nor did it tarnish the reputation of the Chamberlain family brand in his home city. The energy he devoted to municipal politics and the great reforms and infrastructural improvements were amongst his greatest gifts to the city and the nation, hence the affection felt for him by many in the city. Not for nothing was he later referred to as ‘The Uncrowned King of Birmingham’.

WK/E2/114: The library in The Grange, Erdington, home of John Benjamin Stone. Photographed by Stone for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey in 1897.

By contrast, Stone’s political career was relatively quiet – it was in the arena of photography that Stone made his biggest impression. An avid collector of images as well as a keen amateur photographer, Stone built up a huge collection of negatives and photographic prints at his house at The Grange, Erdington, as well as a large library of books, journals and periodicals devoted to the hobby as well as his other myriad academic interests. His photographic work is well represented in the Library of Birmingham’s Photographic Collections.

His own personal archive (Collection MS 3196) comprising tens of thousands of photographic prints, negatives and other papers. The collection has a local, national and international interest, Stone having photographed all over the world. His work is also well represented in the Birmingham Photographic Society (MS 2507) and the Warwickshire Photographic Survey (MS 2724), having been appointed President of both groups. A selection of Stone’s work from his archive and the Warwickshire Photographic Survey is available on the Library of Birmingham Website.

His pioneering work alongside William Jerome Harrison in the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, effectively the first photographic record of the country, inspired him to set up the National Photographic Record Association in 1897. Digitised material from this short-lived organisation is now available on the V&A Website. He also took a series of Parliamentary Portraits of members of the Houses of Commons and Lords. Digitised content is available on the National Portrait Gallery on-line resources, as well as the Stone galleries on the Library of Birmingham Website.

Stone was exceptionally well-travelled, and he was keen to document ancient folk customs and ways of life of all peoples, particularly where rapid economic, social and technological change were transforming everyday life. His portraits of Native American tribes and their leaders were particularly powerful; by the end of the nineteenth century their resistance to the encroachments of white settlers moving west had practically been broken and many were forced to live on reservations.

Travelling could be dangerous, especially on his trip to Brazil in 1890, which he visited on behalf of the Royal Astronomical Society to photograph the solar eclipse. He visited the town of Cerea whilst the country was in the grip of a revolution. His obituary in the Birmingham Mail of 3 July 1914 recounted what happened next:

MS 3196 Box 376 Print 36: The Revolution at Ceara. Brazil 16th Feb. 1892. Prepared for Bombarding (firing out) of the Governor’s Palace. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

“It might also be said that the camera proved mightier than the sword. At one point in Cerea a barricade was constructed by the rebels, and cannon were posted that the Governor’s palace might be shelled.

When approached by the photographer the rebels readily agreed to postpone the bombardment for a few minutes that Sir Benjamin Stone might picture the revolution, and stood to their guns posing.”

MS 3196 Box 376 Print 38: Reception Room at the Palace of the Governor after the bombardment (firing out) of the 16th Feb. 1892. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

On the 8 July 1906, celebrations were held in Birmingham to mark Chamberlain’s seventieth birthday, who would be in the city to attend the various processions and visits to mark the big day. Photographers from the Warwickshire Photographic Survey, including Stone, were in attendance to capture the festivities for posterity. This print by Stone shows Chamberlain, his wife and other family members meeting locals and civic dignitaries at Ward End Park that day.

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain and Grandchild. His Birthday Celeb

MS 3196 Box 17 Print 16. Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Chamberlain and Grandchild. His Birthday Celebrations. Ward End Park. July 7th 1896. Photographed by John Benjamin Stone.

By 1910 Stone had retired from politics due to ill-health. Despite increasing health problems, Chamberlain continued to represent his constituency as a Conservative-Unionist until January 1914.

On 2 July 1914 Joseph Chamberlain suffered a heart attack and died in the arms of his wife Mary surrounded by his family. He was buried at Key Hill Cemetery following a Unitarian ceremony, in the heart of the town he grew up in, worked and represented as a Councillor, Mayor and Member of Parliament. His family had refused an official order for a burial at Westminster.

Stone died at his home the very same day, his wife tragically passed away just days later. The couple were eventually buried in the parish churchyard at Sutton Coldfield, the borough he too had once represented as Councillor and Mayor, and close to the city he served as an M.P. and the home that, at the time of his death, had become a repository of visual and written records dedicated to his extensive travels and his fascination with photography and other educational interests.

Michael Hunkin, Archivist

Some initial further reading:

1. Elizabeth Edwards, Peter James and Martin Barnes, A record of England: Sir Benjamin Stone & The National Photographic Record Association 1897-1910 (Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2006)

2. Peter T. Marsh, Joseph Chamberlain: Entrepreneur in Politics (London: Yale University Press, 1994)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

It’s been a fine autumn so far for all of us, what with having a new building with its lovely roof gardens (shown here with local celebrity Alys Fowler) and we’re heading back into our collections to inspire us in our gardening endeavours.

Pomona Britannica - George Brookshaw (AF096/1817)

Pomona Britannica – George Brookshaw (AF096/1817)

These lovely illustrations come from the wonderfully illustrated book “Pomona Britannica” by Birmingham-born artist George Brookshaw (1751-1823).    Brookshaw was from an artistic family – his brother Richard became a noted engraver.  For a time George was apprenticed to the japanner Samuel Troughton but eventually George set up in business as a cabinet maker in London and sold painted furniture to the great and the good of London high society, including supplying a commode to the Prince of Wales.

Pomona Britannica - George Brookshaw (AF096/1817)

Pomona Britannica – George Brookshaw (AF096/1817)

Brookshaw’s furniture was the very last word in regency style and they graced the interior’s of the best homes. You can see examples of his work at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Many of his designs were inspired by the artist Angelica Kauffman who was also popular with Matthew Boulton and members of the Lunar Society.

In the  mid 1790’s Brookshaw disappeared from public view, only to re-emerge ten years later with the publication of Pomona Britannica in 1804, dedicated to his erstwhile patron the Prince of Wales. There is speculation that there was some sort of scandal associated with him perhaps linked to his marriage which broke down some time during this period.  Whilst his botanical drawings were widely praised, he never again achieved the heights of success that he had with his furniture.

Rachel MacGregor

The Warwickshire Photographic Survey project update

The Warwickshire Photographic Survey project is now into its third year since work began in November 2010 and continues to make good progress. Staff and volunteers have now digitised and catalogued over half of the collection, accounting for 17,000 of an estimated total of 30,000 prints.

Black and white photograph showing a general  view with locals stood in village street near the Holly Bush Inn.

WK/K3/53 Outside the Holly Bush Inn, Hurley, near Kingsbury, Warwickshire. Taken by J.H. Pickard for the Warwickshire Photographic Survey c1895

The Survey Collection has always been one of our most popular visual archives from both the perspective of our users and staff engaged in outreach work with schools, community organisations and local history groups. The main impetus for the project has been to improve access to the collection by presenting the digital content in a way that will make the collection more accessible to users both within Birmingham and outside of the city.

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NEXT LUNCHTIME LECTURE

Sealbox

The next regular Tuesday lunchtime history lecture will be on
Tuesday 10th July at 1pm
in the Library Theatre.

We are delighted to invite an expert on the japanning and tinware trades, Yvonne Jones, to talk to us about her new book “Japanned Papier Mache and Tinware c.1740-1940“. Copies of her lavishly illustrated book on this truly West Midlands trade will be on sale at the lecture.

Please don’t forget that there will be no lecture in August, but that the autumn programme will be announced in due course.

We look forward to seeing you all there.
Free admission, no need to book.

 

Easter at the Theatre

The Bower of Spring title page

The Bower of Spring, from a manuscript book of Pantomimes & Comic Scenes, Birmingham Theatre Royal collection, 1803 (Ref: MS 2899/1/1/1/DibC/1)

‘Behind you!’
Pantomimes have been popular for hundreds of years, but their nature has changed through the centuries. In the early nineteenth century they were often described as harlequinades, as a harlequin character played the main role. Christmas was a popular time for pantomimes, but theatres also put them on at other times of year. ‘The Bower of Spring and Harlequin Labor’ is an example of an Easter pantomime. It was one of many pantomimes and spectacles written by Charles Dibdin, in 1803, one of the new owners of Sadler’s Wells Theatre. Sadler’s Wells was licensed to open as a summer theatre on April 11, Easter Monday. Easter was an important date in the calendar, and Easter Monday performances were very popular. Continue reading