Sandra Hall, 9 January 2016

Sandra Hall Friction Arts.

I prompted the session for a number of reasons:-

- in 2014 Myself and Lee Griffiths prompted ‘Digbeth First Friday’ as a mechanism to

bring visibility and accessibility to the range of cultural activities happening in Digbeth.

We did this with a range of mainly visual arts spaces in Digbeth. In short - its been

overwhelmingly successful and connected a range of organisations, including ours,

that weren't supportive of each other previously. It worked because it was grassroots

led, had engagement from all key players and artists in Digbeth and has its own

momentum and centred on activity.

If this has been successful for Digbeth - how could learning frm this and aspects of

DFF successes be replacated to increase visibiliity and connectivity for Birmingham

and wider Midlands?

- as a cross disciplinary practitioner, Co-Director of Friction Arts based in Birmingham

for over 25 years, I'm continually disappointed with the lack of cohesion and

connection between all scales of arts orgs within the city and region.

- there is no central repository for information about a range of different practises,

events, artists in the region. How can this change/improve? There are a host of

individual and passionate orgs promoting and passionate about Brum and region -

where do we find them all, each other, deepen connections.

My session was at ‘The Door’ and 9 of us gathered to discuss. I had no idea how to

facilitate this or what the outcome would be, whether people would turn up etc. the

usual concerns no doubt..

- if I have ommitted any key comments - apologies! I've tried to capture the essence in

this doc.

Some context -

We spent a good half an hour creating a mercurial SWOT. Weaknesses

-there is a lack of Pride in Brum (this was discussed and not all people agreed - there

is a ‘non-shouty’ pride in the west mids region)

- Disconnected creative and geographic communities

- crippling lack of decent transport systems make it difficult for people to get to stuff.

There are networks happening - but they are very adhoc and not easy to locate, are

silo'ed into art forms etc. (recognise that lots of grassroots network is also a strength)

- that simple things like large orgs won't house marketing/flyers or support small orgs

through marketing i.e. can't put flyers out in main venues. In Cov there is no longer a

community board at the Herbert Gallery for instance.

- there is an appalling lack of connection between the BAPS in Birmingham connecting

and working with smaller arts org e.,g. ‘red carpet’ was a poor offer at 4 square


- Tyrone (Huggins) described how the city is obsessed with scale. They continually

promote ‘what is huge, ’biggest' council, ‘grandest’ this and that… so because of this

obsession with scale its hard for smaller, subtle work/practitioners to be visible and

taken seriously. This is a very interesting perception and central driving philosophical

ethic of the city - that could be usurped by us getting on and taking responsibility for

how we represent ourselves.

Fortunately we didn't dwell for too long on the weaknesses. its always important to

have a moan, but then need to move on and activate!


- networks are happening (list to follow) so how do we harness this and as instigators

of activities - how do we hold and develop this?

-There are several artform specific network portals such as ‘Midpoint’ (generally

agreed, less effective than it used to be). ‘turning Point’ for visual arts orgs.

Ali Belbin came and talked about her ‘theatre Cuppa’ and that this is increasing in

popularity. An informal network of individual and groups meeting to discuss what they

are doing and what's going on regionally.

how could we activate more cross connectivity across artforms and successful

grassroots groups/meetings/networks? Without making it onerous; share responsiblity

across these aspirations, lead by example.

- Lauren who works for Northfield Arts Forum - shared info on how the arts fora work -

they are beginning to activate and have more activity and visibility. She is also doing a

PhD on **(check!) Community connection(s) and work amongst key orgs in Brum.

(Opportunities and Threats folding into the following information)

- lots of discussion about building on ‘what is working’


- different people from around the region shared what they new was working and

networks/people they were aware of. (list at the end).

- could we use social media to ‘get cracking’ (YES!)

- Ali said - how do we protect and thrive our grassroots networks so that we get the

visibility but don't get caught up in marketing that we don't have time and resources


S - I suggested that we set up a twitter handle, that all the people present could have

admin on… possibly with a facebook link. S will ask Lee in Friction to set this up and

inform all present and send them relevant log-ins so we can all commit and increase

awareness - and encourage other people to log-in and share too.

- all very positive - and Karey from Dancefest network, Hereford, shared about how

twitter handles for key hours e.g.

- suggested that we could have some guiding principles of what this will do…

1) that we commit to listing info, other people/networks as well as our own work - but it

is not a vehicle for direct marketing of our projects.

2) that we all have log-in admin and share this with relevant people

3) that we check in with each other a few months down the line.

4) That as an experiment - lets not judge each other and see how it pans out.

After a fantastic discussion and a great input by Claire Woolllard we decided on a

non-corporate name, inspired by ‘Birmingham is not Shit’ (an early blog during rise of

social media) - and we will have an @shithotCentral' with the detail as follows :-

“connecting and celebrating all things creative, Midlands wide..join the conversation”.

SH - will help with first push - Lauren is getting the twitter handle ‘now’… SH will write

and share each other's emails and log in details.


List of networks and people shared by the group…in no particular order:-