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Arts project reflects on dreams of Birmingham’s Tower Ballroom


Academics and graduates from the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Art have launched a live arts and heritage project focused on the former Tower Ballroom at Edgbaston Reservoir in Birmingham.

Iris Bertz who studied for a Master’s Degree in Sculpture at the University and graduated in 2000, alongside Gavin Rogers, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art in the Wolverhampton School of Art, have secured grants from Arts Council England and Birmingham City Council.

They will run a participatory ‘past present and future’ arts project called ‘Dreaming Tower Ballroom’ with people living in Ladywood, Birmingham.

The Tower ballroom has been a hub for cultural activity since 1827. In recent years the Tower Ballroom has become a key venue in the city of Birmingham as place for intercultural celebrations and events but closed its doors in 2017.

Gavin said: “The Tower Ballroom was at the centre of entertainment for local people for many years and, since closing its doors three years ago, it has sadly remained vacant ever since.   

“Our exciting project is calling out to the general public for stories, images and memories of the Tower Ballroom – a place that many people across the West Midlands will remember as a ballroom, gig venue, roller skating rink, wedding venue, boxing events, gig nights and so much more.”

As part of the project, Bertz Associates, set up by Iris Bertz, has also commissioned nine artists including two recent graduates from the Wolverhampton School of Art. Jennifer Thomas graduated with an Honours degree in Fine Art in 2017 and Sharon Sutton graduated with an Honours Degree in Visual Communication (Graphic Design) in 2017.

Joining them is a graduate from the University’s School of Performing Arts, Award Winning TV and Film director Rebecca Hardy who studied for a Degree in Theatre studies and Psychology from 1996 to 1999.

Jennifer Thomas, currently studying for a Master’s degree in Fine Art and working as an experimental printmaker and a community researcher, said she was born “with the reservoir as my back yard and the park as my front garden.

“I’m really looking forward to creating work which will be a mixture of photographic images and print using a variety of techniques to explore the past, present and future of the landscape that surrounds the Tower Ballroom.

“This area holds a lot of memories for people who live in and around Birmingham. It was once hailed as the local ‘Blackpool’ when it was bought by Butlins and it’s the only stretch of water for miles around.

“The venue held lots of events which were attended by working-class people who lived in Birmingham and it will be great to gather those memories into a piece of work that will be remembered.”

Other local artists being commissioned include Cathy Wade, Marley Butler, Vik Chandla, Simone Smith, Gavin Rogers and Sam Lockyer who will also work alongside Birmingham based producer Paige Jackson, historian Carl Chinn, Sam Narr, Founder and CEO at Kibbo Kift Agency.

Find out more about Dreaming Tower Ballroom, or visit the Facebook and Instagram pages for more details about how to get involved.

Picture Credit: The Tower Ballroom Band, 1964, Image courtesy of historian Carl Chinn.



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