Talks Programme

The biennale talks programme featured five talks, each designed to respond to something local and Balsall Heath specific. The topics were -

Maddox, Balsall Heath & Surrealism - Dr Stephen Forcer
Localism, Narrative & Myth - Antonia Layard & Martin Maudsley
Bees, Green Roofs & Urbanisation - Dr Adam Bates
Stray Cats of Balsall Heath: Origins, History & Usage - Chris Poolman
Public Art: How Does it Get Made? - Ruth Claxton & Claire Doherty

Part of the inspiration for the talks programme was discovering that Moseley Dance Centre (located on the Balsall Heath border), a legendary Birmingham nightspot renowned for its beer-splashed floors, free Refreshers and seventies-themed parties used to be the Balsall Heath Institute and had hosted talks at the turn of the century by amongst other Oscar Wilde. Investigating the local area, we came across a number of unusual spaces - the highlights being Balsall Heath Church Centre’s ‘armchair’ rooms and the cavernous upstairs space above the Hillac Somalian Restaurant used for Somalian weddings. This was the most surreal venue we could find for Dr Stephen Forcer’s talk on Conroy Maddox, a former Balsall Heath resident and leader of the Birmingham Surrealists.

Maddox, Balsall Heath & Surrealism

Dr Stephen Forcer

Tuesday 20th August 6.30 − 8.00 / Hillac Restaurant (upstairs)

Conroy Maddox was a key figure in the Birmingham Surrealist movement of the late 1940s and early 1950s, directing operations from his Villa in Balsall Heath. At the beginning of the 1960s, slum clearance and town planning ended the Balsall Heath bohemia and Maddox moved to London. During the next 30 years Maddox frequently contributed to surveys of European surrealism, and held some 20 solo exhibitions after his first one-man show at the Grabowski Gallery, London, in 1963.

Dr Stephen Forcer is a Lecturer in French Studies at Birmingham University whose main research areas are Dada and Surrealism in French literature and film. He books include Dada as Text, Thought and Theory and Modernist Song: The Poetry of Tristan Tzara.

Public Art: How Does it Get Made?

Ruth Claxton & Claire Doherty

Tuesday 10th September 2013 6.30 − 8.00pm /  Ort Gallery / 500-504 Moseley Road, B12 9AH

The Balsall Heath Neighbourhood Plan contains a number of small recommendations for public art to be sited at the seven entry points to Balsall Heath. The biennale Public Sculpture Colouring In Posters visualise what some of these pieces of public art might look like in Balsall Heath and this event explores the thinking that informs public art commissioning and the practicalities of how public art works get made.

Stray Cats of Balsall Heath

Chris Poolman

Tuesday August 6th 6.30 − 8.00 / Balsall Heath Church Centre 

Local cat expert Chris Poolman will discuss, amongst other things, the origins, history and usage of stray cats in Balsall Heath, scraggology (the ethics of feral cats), the social order of New York cats, contemporary art (and cats), the local stray cat fur trade and the enduring allure of clowders (feral cat colonies). 

After completing his MA in Balsall Heath Studies at Oxford University in 2011, Chris Poolman joined Balsall Heath Academy of Contemporary Art as a junior researcher in 2012 where he is currently working on a PhD exploring the links between stray cats and Art Povera in the West Midlands.

Localism, Narrative & Myth                       

Antonia Layard & Martin Maudsley   

Tuesday 23rd July 6.30 − 8.00  / Balsall Heath Library          

What does it mean to live 'locally'? How do stories help us understand the 'local'? What is ‘local’?                                                                 
Professor Antonia Layard & storyteller Martin Maudsley will discuss 'Localism, Narrative & Myth’, a project that brings together academics and storytellers to consider how narratives of the local and local governance can help us understand different perspectives of ‘the local’ that the Localism Act is so busily trying to regulate.   

Antonia Layard is Professor of Law and Geography at Birmingham Law School. Antonia’s research is in law and geography where she explores how law, legality and maps construct space, place and 'the local'. She has particular interests in the legal provisions and practices involved in largescale regeneration and infrastructure projects and teaches courses on property, planning and environmental law.

Martin Maudsley is a professional storyteller based in the South West of England. He programmes and performs Storytelling at the Brewery Theatre (Tobacco Factory) in Bristol and runs a storytelling stage at Shambala Festival. In 2007 he established Bristol Storytelling Festival and was its Artistic Director for a successful 7 years. He also has a doctorate on the population ecology of cereal aphids. 

Bees, Green Roofs & Urbanisation 

Dr Adam Bates          

Wednesday 17th July 6.30 − 8.00 / St Pauls Trust             

How do bees respond to the pressures of urbanisation? How can we create environments for them that replace habitat’s lost to development?           

Dr Adam Bates will explore the role of wild bees within a healthy urban ecosystem and the design of bee friendly green roofs in urban environments.  Be warned, you may leave this talk with a desperate desire to return home and turf and landscape your roof.     

Adam Bates is a Research Fellow at Birmingham University in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. Adam's research focuses on the ecology of bees, beetles, spiders and green roofs in urban and riparian systems. He is currently employed on the Open Air Laboratories project facilitating scientific learning in local communities.

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