Wednesbury Day is fast approaching! With all sorts of wonderful events set to take place on Saturday 17th June, we thought we would highlight one of the many things to do.

As a family business, we have been here for over 160 years. We are our 6th generation.

Bridget Coles, O’Connells

High Street Portraits is a photography exhibition at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery (14 June – 20 September 2023) , featuring the work of Marta Kochanek. Between January 2021 and May 2023, Marta engaged with some of Wednesbury’s high street shops and business owners to gather their stories, listen to their hopes for the future and take their portraits. Spanning the turbulent and worrying time of Covid-19 lockdowns, Marta conducted these interviews online and it is clear to see how the pandemic affected these businesses, but also the people behind them. Despite this, and the huge increase in living costs, this exhibition demonstrates the positivity and future ambitions for these local people and Wednesbury as a town, with old and new shops opening their doors.

Image credit: Marlon outside Island Lounge, Wednesbury. © Marta Kochanek.

Standing or seated proudly in their places of work, the photographs depict the shop owner’s personalities, as well as the array of products on offer in Wednesbury- whether you are looking for a cake, DIY materials or even a tattoo! Accompanying the photographs are captions, and of course the interviews booklet, providing the opportunity to learn more about the participants. Even more reading can be done in the exhibition’s reading corner featuring books selected by local bookshop Blue Sheep Books.

I also am thankful to the community of Wednesbury as I have received so much support and love from them. Honestly, beautiful people in this town. I am glad I can offer such a beautiful place for people to come and enjoy.

Shokat Ali, The Orchard Coffee Lounge
Image credit: Photographer Marta Kochanek talking with Kate (daughter of Maggie) in Maggie’s General Store, Wednesbury © Marta Kochanek.

For those of you interested in local history and heritage, we have also placed some archival images of the town in the glass display cabinets to show how Wednesbury has changed over time, as well as some products bought from the local shop and business owners- including a jar of the infamous Herbal Tablets!

Photograph of one of the display cases in the exhibition. Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. ©Multistory

All best memories are in this place, I am surrounded by them.

John Wilkinson, Sue’s Traditional Sweetshop

Speaking of which, this can actually be won. All you have to do is complete one of the Quiz sheets (located at the exhibition). The winner will be drawn at random and will receive the jar upon the closure of the display in September.

The exhibition is on for 3 months, but if you would like to meet Marta in person, she will be at the exhibition from 11am to 2pm on Saturday 17 June for the celebrations of Wednesbury Day. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the wonderful portraits and the fantastic work Marta does.

The exhibition is on from 14 June to 20 September at Wednesbury Art Gallery (opening times: Wed-Thu 11am-4pm; Saturdays 11am-2pm)

Photograph of the exhibition. Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery. ©Multistory

Multistory would like to thank Marta and the shops and businesses who have contributed to this exhibition.

This exhibition has been produced through the We Are Wednesbury Cultural Programme, part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone initiative funded by Sandwell Council and Historic England, to re-establish the historic character of the area and create a vibrant and welcoming space. Since 2021, Multistory, has been working with local residents, communities and groups, who are members of the We Are Wednesbury working group, and local creatives to deliver the programme of activities.