I have just returned from a few days in Birmingham, a city I had never visited until now, I must admit that I was very surprised just how much we enjoyed my time there. I visited, with my mate Jim, to attend an interview for a volunteers role at next year’s Commonwealth Games, spending time exploring what the city had to offer. We flew to Birmingham Airport and took a short shuttle ride to the nearby railway station to catch one of the many frequent trains into the city centre. We were booked into the Premier Inn beside New Street Station, which proved to be a great place to stay as its slap bang in the middle of town and close to all the main attractions.
My interview went well and I left feeling quite confident, however, there is no guarantee of a role, but at least I will have tried. Birmingham’s Christmas celebrations had kicked off while we were there with a massive German Christmas Market spread throughout the city centre and a giant Ferris wheel, an ice skating rink and a Walking with The Snowman trail amongst many other attractions.
As many of you know, I love to search out street art while in a new city and Birmingham certainly delivered onthat front too. I was directed to an area known as Digbeth and the Custard Factory, originally built by Alfie Bird to produce Bird’s Custard in 1906, it is now a creative hub and home to many independent shops, cafes, bars, restaurants, and galleries, there is even a dedicated graffiti supplies shop.
I discovered art by many artists new to me, some by other other well-known artists, there were also some by artists I have met in Glasgow. I took so many photographs around the area, a sample of some are shown below, the remainder can be seen in a separate page, which can be seen here:
I have been quite busy recently volunteering at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, I was based in the City Chambers in George Square in a Protocol role, this basically was a meet and greet role at the many Civic Receptions being held there. It was good to see the reaction of many of the delegates to the mosaic of the city’s coat of arms at the entrance to the building, and the many other mosaics found throughout the building, on the ceilings and domes, with an estimated 1.5 million individual tiles used and laid by hand. However, the greatest surprise was shown by many delegates when confronted by the marble staircase, made entirely from imported Italian Carrara marble, they were stunned to hear that it’s the biggest of its kind in Western Europe, meaning it’s one storey taller than the one in the Vatican City.
COP26 gave some of our artists a chance to put up some new related works with some on the arches at SWG3 facing towards the SEC Campus. Although I was disappointed to see Guido Van Helten’s badminton player disappear from Wilson Street, I was pleased to see a new mural by the Fearless Collective showing the faces of indigenous leaders who have been at the forefront of the COP26 conference. If you look closely at the top of the mural you can see the top edge of the shuttlecock, a little bit of Guido’s legacy left behind.
While travelling around the city during the conference, I did manage to catch some good street art, with an especially nice piece by Frodrik at the side of CASS Art on Queen Street, a good mural about youth homelessness in Midland Street opposite James Kling’s portraits, but what really pleased me was a little charcoal type drawing of a figure in a doorway on Candleriggs, I noticed that as I made my way down the street after having a rather good pizza in Nonna Said with it’s ghood artwork by Conzothrob, he also pooped up in the St Enoch Centre with a funadvert for the new cinema there. I’ve also included a mural from Mikaku on Queen Street painted by Rogue One.
From the 11th of June until the 11th of July, I was busy volunteering at the EURO’s in Glasgow. Originally scheduled to take place in 2020, the event was postponed and held this year. There were two volunteering streams, one for Hampden and the other for the Fan Zone, which this year was held in Glasgow Green instead of the intended George Square.
I applied for both streams and was lucky to be selected for both. We were all kitted out with a nice uniform and were well looked after during the event by both of the management teams, with meals provided and a free rail travel card for use during the tournament.
I was at Hampden for the four matches held there and had great fun with 2 girls, at one of the main entrances to the stadium greeting the fans as they arrived, once all the fans had entered the stadium we were then able to go and watch the games, I must admit that I’m not much of a football fan, however I suppose the occasion got to me and I did enjoy what I saw.
I was really comfortable in the Fan Zone, in addition to showing the games on match days on three giant screens, there was also a series of concerts and gigs to suit everybody, we had some really good bands, street theatre, comedy nights, a series of concerts by local school kids, who surprised every one with their talent, there was a cinema night and we even had The Queens on the Green Drag Show. I was on duty for many of the concerts as an Artist Liaison, a role I have performed in the past.
As this was, for many of the 300 or so volunteers in the Fan Zone, this was their first taste of freedom following the lockdowns, it was good to see so many happy and smiling faces, although not amongst the Tartan Army, who were a wee bit dejected when their team were put out of the competition. It was a really fun month and I enjoyed meeting old friends and making loads of new ones.