Monthly Archives: January 2012

Black Country Touring: Mad Gyms and Kitchens

Ever wondered how you achieve that ultimate wellbeing factor? Well look no further… Bobby Baker is bringing her exciting and moving one woman show to the Midlands.   Mad Gyms & Kitchens’  will be performed at Blakenhall Community and Healthy Living Centre from 1pm on the 27th February.  Giving you the opportunity to benefit from her own experiences to guide ...

Black Country Touring: The Beauty of Bandstands

After a day last month touring round Bandstands in the Black Country – well two, one in Lightswood Park, Bearwood and one in West Park, Wolverhampton – things are starting to progress on our collaboration with The Other Way Works, as part of their Bandstand project. After researching around the bandstand in question, The Other ...

Fierce Festival: I work in the arts in Birmingham (1): Charlie Levine

We’re kicking off a new series of micro-profiles of various individuals working in the arts in Birmingham. First up is Charlie Levine. . .

Charlie Levine

What do you do?
I am an independent curator, Director of TROVE, Curator at Aedas Presents and a writer/art critic.

Where are you based?
I work nomadically and in the offices of various partners.

Who are your key collaborators (or who would you like to collaborate with)?
I have personally collaborated with:
Editor/Curator Matt Price namely on the 5th Prague Biennale UK painting exhibition ‘Some Domestic Incidents.’ We are co-curating another exhibition later this year (2012) showcasing contemporary Hungarian painters entitled ‘The Happiest Barracks’.
Curator Trevor Pitt as Curatorial Advisor to his ‘anticurate’ project at mac birmingham.
Photographer Liz Hingley on her ‘Under Gods: Stories from the Soho Road’ an international touring photography and religious object collection exhibition.
Artist Nathaniel Pitt vis Pitt Studio as guest curator and the Worcester Open as mentor and curator.
Artist Caitlin Griffiths who I have worked with on many projects, she provides a constant soundboard for all my ideas and Kate Eagle who manages Aedas Presents, a contemporary art programme at Aedas Architects Birmingham office.

Organisations, festivals and people I have collaborated with at TROVE include:
Museum of Lost Heritage
Fierce Festival, Birmingham
Minnie Weisz Studio, London
Matt Roberts Art, London
Birmingham City Council, Birmingham
Brilliantly Birmingham Festival, Birmingham
Birmingham Jazz Festival, Birmingham
The Event, Birmingham
Crowd 6, Birmingham
Clarke Gallery, Berlin
Hereford Photography Festival
DownStairs Gallery, Hereford
Fargo Space, Directed by Talking Birds in Coventry
The Burlington Fine Art Club, Manchester
Birmingham Architects Association, Birmingham
ARC, Birmingham

People I would like to collaborate with:
It was a great experience co-curating an exhibition at Curzon Street Station with Minnie Weisz, so I would ideally like to bring in external to Birmingham curators into the city to highlight and respond to Birmingham’s amazing heritage and unused buildings.

What keeps you working in Birmingham?
There’s always more to explore curatorially, and it’s my home.

Is there anything about the city you find difficult in terms of what you’re trying to do?
Access to buildings can be extremely difficult depending on who owns them and how much money they want for short term access.

If you were trying to persuade someone to make a living in the arts in Birmingham what would you say?
I would encourage them to seek part time paid work on the side whether it be in a shop, temping or writing, and be prepared that the arts won’t be a 9-5.

What’s your next project?
TROVE are one of ten plot holders at mac Birmingham in a project entitled ALLOTMENT. The TROVE space opens 28th January and runs until 9th September 2012. I am also Associate Producer of the project.
Aedas Presents has an exhibition by Sparrow + Castice opening on 26th January 2012.
As an independent curator, the next will be the Hungarian painters exhibition with Matt Price in the Spring.

The Other Way Works: Bandstand Development Blog – Old photos and things I am thinking about… – by Katherine Maxwell-Cook

Bandstand Development Blog – Old photos and things I am thinking about… – by Katherine Maxwell-Cook

We are currently making two new Bandstand Audio Experiences for the bandstand in West Park, Wolverhampton. We are working with our commissioning partners Black Country Touring to develop and promote these new works.

I’m Katherine Maxwell-Cook, and I’ll be writing the story and the text for the experiences. One will be for a solo listener/participant/audience member, and one will be written for a pair to experience together.

I’ve been looking at old black and white photographs of the bandstand in West Park and trying to imagine what it was like to be there in a bygone era. The Black Country website ( is an amazing resource of historical pictures, pamphlets and articles from the region. It looks like the actual layout of the park hasn’t changed much since it was originally landscaped in the 1880s.

But a photo of the bandstand from 1994 looks rather miserable and decrepit in comparison to the restored glory in which it now stands, with its red and white striped pillars like old Victorian sweets along with the refurbished roof and floor. How it looked and was used in 1948 when part of our story is set, still remains somewhat of a mystery.

Questions I am asking…

What was it like in the park after World War II when much of it had been turned into allotments for the war effort? Were bands playing on the bandstand during this time?

How will the male and female sides of the story differ?

What effect did the war have on the relationship between the man and the woman?

What is it about the bandstand that is so alluring, even today?

I enjoyed reading this description of the Black Country from the mid nineteenth century, ‘The appearance of the country around Wolverhampton and Bilston is strange in the extreme. For miles and miles the eye ranges over wide-spreading masses of black rubbish, hills on hills of shale, and mashed and muddled coal dust, extracted from beneath and masking, as it were, the whole face of nature.” (

It reminded me of the importance of public parks in the industrial heartlands; even in the last century they were weekend sanctuaries; an opportunity to stroll on the green grass, go boating or picnic under the sheltering trees. Somehow I’ll try to weave this sense of escape into the stories I’m writing.

Katherine Maxwell-Cook