Still: Stories from the Jewellery Quarter
A new exhibition running from 26th October to 10th November, exploring the past and present experiences of those who spend their lives working in this important and historic area of Birmingham.
Bringing together photographic portraits and oral histories from the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, the exhibition provides a unique insight into Birmingham’s cultural and industrial heritage. The exhibition is inspired by people who have spent their lives working in an area within the Jewellery Quarter covering just six streets – Frederick Street, Warstone Lane, Legge Lane, Albion Street, Vittoria Street and Regent Place. Focusing on an area which is experiencing intense change, the exhibition provides the opportunity to consider and reflect on the lives and memories of some of those who have helped give the iconic area its unique character.
The exhibition brings together work from documentary photographers Janine Wiedel, Andy Pilsbury and Inès Elsa Dalal as well as recordings of oral history interviews carried out over the last year by the JQ Townscape Heritage project.
Janine Wiedel is an American photographer living in London since 1971. She began photographing in the late 1960s in San Francisco – the Berkeley Riots and the Black Panther Movement in California marked the beginning of her career as a photographer. In 1977 she was awarded The West Midlands Arts Bursary and spent two years documenting the industries of the West Midlands. Her work in the Jewellery Quarter was published this year by Café Royal Books documenting the craftspeople and workshops at Turner and Simpson silversmiths in 1977, and will be exhibited as part of this exhibition. The company was based on Legge Lane and ceased trading just two years later.
Andy Pilsbury’s work as a photographer is predominantly documentary and portrait based, with an interest in subculture and community, broadly exploring themes of identity. He was the photographer for the 2018 ‘We’re Still Here’ exhibition which explored some of the few remaining heritage craftspeople and workshops, from centuries-old heritage firms to start-ups, who are continuing to keep these traditional skills alive. Andy has continued the work and ethos of ‘We’re Still Here’ in this exhibition, capturing people in their places of work and documenting their skills.
Inès Elsa Dalal is a documentary photographer who specialises in socially engaged, participatory projects, most recently the ‘Here to Stay’ exhibition which documented experiences of nurses from the Windrush generation. Inès has been involved the JQ People’s Archive project which captures the memories of people who have past experiences of the area and are no longer based in the Jewellery Quarter. The JQ People’s Archive aims to preserve and make accessible portrait photos, oral histories and historical materials relating to the Jewellery Quarter for future generations to learn from.
The exhibition includes historic companies like Alabaster & Wilson, founded in 1887 and closed in December 2018, who made pieces for the British Royal Family. It also features Henry Deakin – the seventh generation at the helm of England’s oldest family jeweller, Deakin & Francis, founded in 1786 and still based in the same workshops on Regent Place. A few participants of the exhibition were based on Frederick Street including editor and founder of the Hockley Flyer, Marie Haddleton, hand chaser Ray, and Martin and Kenneth who ran a metal finishing business based there.
Phil Davis, Chair of Jewellery Quarter Development Trust commented ‘This exhibition is an opportunity to find out about a range of people who have made the JQ what it is: a global centre of manufacturing excellence.
Their memories of the Jewellery Quarter help us understand the amount of change that’s happened in the area – as well as the skills that still remain and why the JQ remains such a unique and special place to be.
Many of the people in this exhibition represent the best of Birmingham’s gift to the world – skill in manufacturing and making. They are representative of a much wider group who have spent their working lives here and generations who went before, when our city was the ‘workshop of the world’.
We’re hoping that the exhibition will encourage others to come forward with their memories which will become part of the JQ People’s Archive’
The exhibition is being held at Iron House Gallery from 26th October – 10th November 2019, and is open Mondays to Saturdays from 10am to 5pm. Free to attend. There will also be a series of events and activities to support the exhibition, see website for further details.