Cultivating Heritage

Heritage has always been my compass in helping me to locate where I am, who I am and how I can make sense of the world around me. It’s what motivates me to use it as the vehicle for helping other make meaning and make a difference in their worlds.

This short film was created by Culture Central as the arts and cultural sector support organisation for the Midlands and features interviews with myself and some of my fantastic colleagues. It highlights the value of our work at Moseley Road Baths in creative approaches to exploring heritage and also gives a lovely snapshot of some of the highlights of our work over the past year.

Building the Village at Moseley Road Baths

In 2003 I took a part time job at a local swimming pool to earn some money whilst training as a film maker. The building had so much potential…

Social history is my first love, so working in the Grade II* listed Moseley Road Baths was pretty special. It could also be completely demoralising, with the ongoing threat of closure and redundancies as the cost of vital repairs went up and up. In 2006 I got on board the newly formed Friends of Moseley Road Baths, connecting with others who shared my belief that a renovated building could be so much more than just a swimming pool, but a symbol of pride and a space of connection within Balsall Heath.

20 years later, I am putting my energies into the development and delivery of an arts and culture led heritage programme of activities at Moseley Road Baths.  This sits alongside a £33m capital works programme in the Baths and neighbouring library, secured after years of tireless campaigning by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and our allies.  As the ‘Partnerships and Participation Development Officer’, my role defines who we work with and how, placing local audiences at the heart of this £500,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund supported programme and therefore centring their voices in the building’s longer term development.

During 2023 we delivered four pilots – creating a Living Room in the empty Gala Pool; reimagining the role of libraries through performances in Balsall Heath Library and hosting our ‘Exchange’ Festival; employing six local Young Curators to curate the stories of the building through producing their own ‘Bathcast’ podcasts and reopening the ‘Slipper Baths’ for visitors to come and bathe in their own bath cubicle. Each pilot has featured some really targeted, brilliant programming, connecting people in new ways with the heritage of the building and its people.

We are now taking findings from these pilots to develop a longer term programme of activities which we hope the National Lottery Heritage Fund will support to enable work to continue from 2025 onwards. What I have been part of over the past year reinforces my belief that when we are rooted in our heritage, communities can come together to make meaning and joy in a way that feels essential for navigating the world right now. We’re building our village – creating, connecting, crying and cuddling – and I love it.


It’s been a real pleasure to document the development and sharing of a very beautiful immersive audio experience, created as part of Birmingham’s cultural programme for the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Notnow Collective, a group of four Balkan women, came together to create the work which asks questions about migration, belonging and the rituals people create to fit in. It was an ambitious site-specific project, set within Moseley Road Baths, a busy Grade II* listed Edwardian swimming pool with active renovations.

Watch the film to learn about their approach to co-creation, use of new technologies and the team of exceptional artists whose approach to storytelling and holding space for reflection and community is truly wonderful.

We Went All Out

The Commonwealth Games arrived in Birmingham this Summer, and with it came delivery of a vast array of arts and cultural events across the city. I’ve been busy devising and delivering community-led projects. Here is a snapshot of some of the fun I’ve been having…

Our Social Fabric

‘Our Social Fabric’ has seen the creation of a large tapestry in the empty Gala Pool space at Moseley Road Baths. The tapestry boldly weaves together the stories and cultures from a diverse, dynamic neighbourhood, and showcases Moseley Road Baths as a Grade II* listed heritage and sporting venue as part of the Commonwealth Games programme. It has been created by women from Amal Creative, a local Yemeni women’s organisation, and visitors to Balsall Heath Second Saturdays in the Daily Thread textile studio in the Old Print Works.

As Co-ordinator of Art Works, I devised and developed this project from conversations within the local community and commissioned two fantastic emerging artists, Tia Parmar and Mahawa Keita to deliver workshops. The tapestry is on permanent display in the Gala Pool.

Funded by Birmingham City Council’s ‘Celebrating Communities’ fund for Balsall Heath East West as part of Birmingham 2022 celebrations to welcome the Commonwealth Games to Birmingham.

Our Families, Our Journey

‘Our Families, Our Journey’ celebrates the rich cultures within Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath. Children and adults who live in the area have been creatively exploring how people from the neighbourhood made their way here and how this contributes to the rich cultural landscape of the neighbourhood and of Birmingham.

I commissioned artists Kiz Manley of HipHop Heals and Alison Clawley of Make Good Arts to lead workshops in Conway Primary School, Nelson Mandela Primary School and Ashiana Community Project. They used stimulus such as local history, maps, fabrics and spices as a starting point for delving into the themes of the project.

Alison has supported groups to use a range of techniques, including fabric painting, printing and appliqué, to decorate fabric squares and create a fabric wall hanging for each group, one of which was displayed at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery throughout August. Kiz has taken stories and ideas from different cultures to imagine a new country, complete with its own sports teams, flags and passports.

Funded by Birmingham City Council’s ‘Celebrating Communities’ fund for Sparkbook and Balsall Heath East ward as part of Birmingham 2022 celebrations to welcome the Commonwealth Games to Birmingham.

10 to 11 Blossom Project with Kinmos

Kinmos got involved in some floral fun in June and July, creating blossoms as part of Number 11 Arts’ partnership project with the National Trust, ’10 to 11′. It builds on the National Trust’s Blossom Together in Birmingham project, which will see a ‘ring of blossom’ planted around the city. In my role as Art Works Co-ordinator, I commissioned Kinmos to deliver a series of workshops with people who drop into their regular Tuesday sessions. Using foam, ribbon and fabric, the group worked hard together with lead artist Rachael Hawkins to created hundreds of individual flowers. These were attached to a woven willow heart during weekly sessions.

Members of the public joined Kinmos on Sunday 10th July at All Saints Church Square in Kings Heath, for an afternoon of floral fun. Passers-by of all ages decorated the wicker heart with beautiful blossoms, got their faces painted and joined in with live Karaoke!

BOSA – NotNow Collective

There’s nothing quite like collaborating with a team of dynamic and brave creative folk. Notnow Collective are a group of four Balkan women with a curious, playful and experimental approach to storytelling. I was thrilled to join them to document the evolution of ‘BOSA‘, an immersive audio site-specific performance set in my beloved Moseley Road Baths.

The performance built on conversations and workshops with the ‘Chat and Splash’ women’s group of ESOL learners and pushed possibilities using 360 degree spatial audio and the chaos of inviting audiences into a busy public building undergoing renovations. Somehow, what emerged was a gentle, soothing storytelling, exploring ideas of migration and belonging. Above is the trailer, but I’ll be posting up the promotional video and full ‘making of’ film soon.

BOSA was ‘Creative City’ funded project as part of the Commonwealth Games.

Journeys of Hope

It was a real privilege to once again join In Her Shoes in their deep, important and joyful work to empower women through music. I documented this summer’s ‘Journeys of Hope’ project, which brought together migrant women from across Birmingham in songwriting and solidarity. A core group of women collaborated with Katy Bennett, Ann Jones and Lou Atkins to write songs about their experiences of making Birmingham their home. They then connected with women at Mothership Projects in Bearwood, refugee women at Allens Cross in Northfield and newly arrived Ukrainian women and their families at Moseley Hive to write new songs to be performed at a celebratory event.

Witnessing and feeling the sisterhood created through song during the project was very special. Laughter, tears, rage and above all hope were shared, giving important space for women to express themselves and connect with one another.

Reflections on the Creative Communities Fellowship

Back in November I entered the ‘Creative Communities Fellowship House’, a five day residential retreat in Yorkshire to explore how to exercise leadership in using arts and culture to drive transformational change in my community.

In early 2020 I had been selected to be part of the first UK cohort of the ‘Creative Communities Fellowship‘, an international partnership between Derby Museums and United States-based NAS with support from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Social Impact Strategy (CSIS).

The ‘House’ was the culmination of a year of online learning and gatherings to connect with other creative entrepreneurs across the UK. Through online retreats, small group work and a series of modules, we learnt new tools and strategies, completing assignments and sharing our thoughts and experiences. Eventually meeting with people and bonding over good food, silly games, dancing, singing and walks in the beautiful surroundings was nourishing and important, especially in the context of the challenges of Covid-19.

Morning walks to connect with nature and one another

Our learning was supported by a team of facilitators from the USA and the UK who generously shared their extensive experience with us. We were able to take advantage of one-to-one meetings with mentors and shape the schedule around our own enquiries.

It’s been an inspirational journey to be part of a community of people doing pioneering and important work in their communities. Getting to grips with tools such as Design Thinking and Logic Models, and seeing how they can be applied with a focus on equity and participation, is something that I’m already bringing into my creative practice and sharing with my community. I’ll be striving to continue the learning and collaborate with others on this journey.

Huge gratitude to the whole ‘House’ – there are too many special people to mention, but you know who you are and you all brought the magic in so many different ways. However, I WILL give a special mention to Hannah Fox, whose tenacity and ambition brought the Fellowship to the UK. The Creative Communities Fellowship was funded through Arts Council England and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch).

Hello Bird, Hello Fish!

An opera for pre-school children in Sparkhill? Sounds improbable, but that’s precisely what I’ve been helping to make happen with the talented folk of B’Opera.

In my role as Co-ordinator of Art Works, the Local Arts Forum for Hall Green Constituency, I have been supporting the development of an ambitious, co-created musical project with B’Opera and The Springfield Project. We successfully applied for £10,000 of ‘Next Generation’ funding from Birmingham City Council, which has enabled the development of a new musical production.

B’Opera created ‘Hello Bird, Hello Fish!’ with and for children and their families who are users of The Springfield Project Children’s Centre, Mini Springers and Park Road nurseries. The piece was devised through a programme of participatory sessions and the work in progress was showcased at The Springfield Centre on 22nd February 2022.

It’s been great fun to help plan the project, to dream alongside staff and children, to document the work and join in with sessions as much as possible. Art Works strongly believe that everyone in our area should have access to high quality arts and culture, as well as the opportunity to express themselves creatively and have their voices heard. This really has been a wonderful example of what is possible.

It is hoped that funding will be sourced to develop the piece further and tour it around other children’s centres and community venues later in 2022. To find out more, or to contact Zoë Challenor, visit the Art Works website.

Thanks to Zoë Challenor, Jac White, Aliyah Wiggins, Sophie Williams and Phil Ypres-Smith at B’Opera as well as Sarah Robbins, Rachel Hawkesworth, Asma Ammora, Rachel Vargas and the folks at The Springfield Project who have created the magic. It’s been so joyous to be part of this and I’m so excited to see where it goes next!

Enjoy this film, shot by Paul Ullah and edited by Jac White.

Represent Exhibition

For the past three years I have been project managing ‘Represent’, a community heritage project exploring the impact of gaining the vote and WW1 on the lives of Birmingham’s people.

Delayed by Covid-19 lockdown measures and our inability to connect with community participants or access Birmingham’s archives, the People’s Heritage Co-operative were thrilled to eventually launch our exhibition and learning guide in October 2021.

The exhibition and downloadable learning guide delve into the period following the Representation of the People Act 1918, exploring issues around political representation and organisation and parallels today. They feature banners created by community participants from Saheli Hub and elders from Edgbaston Community Centre, alongside stories of how people have historically made change in their communities, in our city and farther afield.

As we find ourselves in a period of political upheaval, tentatively emerging from a pandemic with questions around inequality, discrimination, our climate, racial and gender violence and our economy coming to the forefront, voices from the past have an important role to play in helping us reflect and consider how we can effect change ourselves.

I am currently developing a digital game to accompany the project, thanks to a ‘Thrive’ bursary from Arts Connect WM. It will take players through the 1918 ‘Representation of the People Act’, prompting them to consider issues around political representation and how we can effect change in the world today.

Represent was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Boundary Way Declares a Climate Emergency

I’ve been working with Boundary Way Project for a few years now, jumping at every opportunity to head down to the allotment and spend time on the plots.

This most recent film I’ve creates explores Boundary Way Project’s pioneering work in shaping the project in the context of the Climate Emergency, as well as considering how nature and creativity support wellbeing and link to the five ways to wellbeing – Connect, Take Notice, Be Active, Keep Learning and Give.

It was premiered in October 2021 in the Polytunnel at Boundary Way during a special night-time viewing of the film alongside Graham Everitt’s beautiful filmed meditation on the site and the community of plotholders.

Find out more about this important work and how to join in with upcoming events on the Boundary Way website.

Boundary Way Autumn 2021 from Boundary Way project on Vimeo.

My Doorstep, My Culture

The right for everyone to express themselves creatively and share their ideas, opinions and talents – what is currently coined ‘Cultural Democracy’ – is something that I strive for in all of my projects. ‘My Doorstep, My Culture’, an Art Works project I’ve been co-ordinating, aimed to do just that.

‘My Doorstep, My Culture’ was an exciting programme of creative workshops across three community organisations, led by local Artist ILdikó Nagy and culminating in a group exhibition at Moseley Road Baths. We worked with Amal Creative – a group of Yemeni women who meet in Balsall Heath, Kinmos – an organisation for people with lived experience of poor mental heath and Smart Women CIC – a women’s group who are based on Stoney Lane in Sparkbrook.

Each group started by viewing a selection of images depicting different artforms and artworks, including some of ILdikó’s own projects which include the huge woven willow hare in Moseley Park and a recent recycled plastic sculpture in Coventry (examples of her work can be seen on Instagram at @_usefool_). These prompted stimulating conversations about each group’s interests and hobbies, with some people even pulling out their own craft projects. It was clear from the outset that there were keen artists within each group.

Quite quickly, this developed into a co-designed programme of creative activities for each group. Participants were eager to express themselves creatively and committed to working collaboratively to create something reflecting their talents and perspectives and cultural identity.

The exhibition was launched to an invited audience of participants, their families and friends on Saturday 22nd February in the glorious setting of Moseley Road Bath’s empty Gala Pool. Over 30 people attended the launch where groups viewed each others’ work for the first time and reflected on their achievements with food and drink.

More information on the project can be found on the Art Works website. I am currently Co-ordinator for Art Works, the Local Arts Forum for Hall Green Constituency.

Funded through Birmingham City Council’s ‘Culture on our Doorstep’ fund.

Sustainable, clean and creative Balsall Heath

This week, I launched ‘Sustainable, Clean and Creative Balsall Heath’, a series of portraits of Balsall Heath based people and projects for Balsall Heath Neighbourhood News Online.  They illustrate the ambition of people who live and work here and show the sheer hard graft put into making good things happen.

Balsall Heath Neighbourhood News Online is all about amplifying the positive work that happens in our community on a daily basis, signposting people to services that can support them in their daily lives and making connections with one another to build a better Balsall Heath.

You can link to each of the articles below. Thanks to Elisabeth Charis for her work on interviews and writing these articles as well as to The Active Wellbeing Society for funding this strand of work.

If you think this work is important, get in touch for a chat about how you can get involved in making Balsall Heath Neighbourhood News a sustainable community media project, representative of the many people who live and work in our neighbourhood.

Cannon Hill Litterpickers

Cannon Hill Litterpickers have come together to make a tangible difference to the streets of Balsall Heath West. They began in early 2020 when a small group of local residents shared concerns about how the amount of litter on the streets in West Balsall Heath gave a very negative impression of the area.

The Bike Project

The Bike Project is a charity which takes second hand bikes, fixes them up and donates them to refugees and asylum seekers. Yasmin Nestor talks about the project, the impact of the pandemic and her own involvement with the project.

Deb Day Sewing Room

Deb progressed from an amateur seamstress, making clothes for herself, to launching a space at The Old Print Works where she teaches people to sew their own creations in a dedicated ‘Sewing Room’.  She speaks about how she has built her business and developed new skills – and why The Old Print Works was the perfect base.

Elliott Packham

Elliott is a Balsall Heath based artist whosework is inspired by a broad range of modernist architecture, with a particular passion for the bold structural forms of brutalism. He discusses his perfectionism, art in lockdown and what painting and sport have in common.


Mel Berman of Metallix creates hand embossed pewter items such as journals, keepsake boxes and original mixed media canvases – and is looking forward to returning to in-person markets and workshops. She discusses the versatility of pewter and how she has needed to adapt to change.

The Old Print Works

Hannah Greenwood, Chair of Trustees at The Old Print Works chats about making things happen in a Grade II listed building, the challenges from Covid-19 and being part of a designer-maker community, as the charity ‘Make it Sustainable’ approaches its 10-year anniversary.