Biennale Warm-Up Party 

Building upon the success of the previous years jubilee party we decided to launch the Balsall Heath Biennale with a street party on our road. In our minds at least, the street party represented an interesting counterpoint to the excesses of the international biennale. Occurring at the same time as the Venice Biennale opening parties, it used the structure of the wider art world – namely the cliché of the opening party – and tried to realise it differently. Unlike Venice, there wasn’t a drop of alcohol in site – Balsall Heath is a mainly Muslim area. There was also no travelling involved for the audience – it was literally on our front doorstep.

There was also the wider context of national events. A week before the street party on 22nd May 2013, British Army soldier Lee Rigby of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, was attacked and killed by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London. For weeks after this, images circulated of a bloodied Michael Adebolajo whilst the media propagated a rhetoric of mistrust between different cultural and religious groups. With the media whipping up a storm, Islam and religious tension were once again in the news. Such tensions are episodic and isolated though, as the reality, at least on our road, as in many other multi-cultural areas, is that people do live quite happily side-by-side.


Using Format