Blast! Festival

Blast! Festival of Photography, Talks & Walks (24 May – 29 June 2019) invited 40 international and local artists, photographers and curators to showcase work, develop projects and collaborate with communities to present stories about every day life.  

With exhibitions, film screenings, events, family friendly activities, performances, talks and walks, Blast! was presented on the streets, the Metro line, in shops, libraries and pubs, on historic buildings and in the community spaces of Sandwell. The festival took place over 6 weeks in each of Sandwell’s 6 towns: West Bromwich, Tipton, Rowley Regis, Oldbury, Smethwick and Wednesbury; it was free and open to everyone.  We presented 34 exhibitions; held 48 events /workshops; and had an audience of 47,370.

The festival showcased a range of new commissions by diverse contemporary photographers and artists working at the intersection of social practice and documentary photography, made in collaboration with local communities.

At the heart of the festival was the Sandwell Pride of Place Project exhibition by The Caravan Gallery (also known as Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale) who worked with local people to create a portrait of each of Sandwell’s six towns. The exhibition took place in a converted former Poundland shop right in the centre of West Bromwich. Over six weeks visitors made a mark on The People’s Map of Sandwell and contributed to the exhibition by adding their own Sandwell related contributions.  All mediums were accepted, including stories, poetry, fascinating facts, memorabilia along with drawings, photographs and sculpture. The response to this exhibition was overwhelming; it was open 4 days a week for 6 weeks and became the central hub to the whole festival, underlining the need for creative spaces within our communities. Watch this space as we’ll be sharing more photos from this exhibition soon.

Blast! Festival Artists & Curators
Andrea Fernandes, Anneka French, Annegien van DoornBilly DosanjhBrendan BarryBrian Homer, Craig Ashley, Chantal RensCzesław SiegiedaDawinder BansalEmma CaseEmma PurshouseErik KesselsGraham PeetDavid AttieInka and Niclas LindergårdIona FergussonJan McCulloughJanine WiedelJaskirt BooraJennifer PattisonJocelyn AllenJohn MyersJon TonksLaura PannackLiz HingleyMahtab HussainMartin ParrNiall McDiarmidRobert ClaytonThe Caravan GalleryUzma Mohsin.

Community Partners and Venues
‘Celebrate Sandwell’ via Sandwell Networkers Group; CHAS; Cradley Heath Creative; Dudley College; Guru Nanak Gurdwara (Smethwick); Haden Hill House; Langley Park Lodge and Park; Lightwoods House and Park;  Living Memory Project; Sandwell College; Sandwell Libraries; Sandwell Youth Service; Smethwick Heritage Centre; Tibbington Residents’ Association (TRA); Tipton Community Association; The Vine; Wednesbury Museum & Art Gallery; Wednesbury Market; West Bromwich Indoor Market; West Bromwich Town Hall; and Why Not Coffee.

Festival Partners
With thanks to our partners: Sandwell Council; Sandwell College; Creative Black Country; Cradley Heath Creative; Flatpack Film Festival; Centrala; GRAIN; British Gypsum; Canal & River Trust /Birmingham Canal Navigation Society; University of Wolverhampton; Urban Audio Productions / CPL; Hill Shorter; West Midlands Metro; Exterion Media; Taydec; Interbold Ltd.

Blast! Festival was funded by Arts Council England and the National Lottery, through their Strategic Funds Ambition for Excellence programme.

Visit the website; view the festival brochure; and see the evaluation report here.

Forge Programme

Multistory offered 12 West Midlands based artists the opportunity to make new bodies of work for the festival. Chosen through an open call, the Forge artists were invited to create work that reflected the community of Sandwell. They took part in a mentorship programme during 2018, attending masterclasses led by our major commission artists along with practical sessions on fundraising and marketing. They Forge artists were: Anand ChabraAndrew Jackson, Bethany KaneFaye ClaridgeKate Jackson, Mark MurphyNilupa YasminRob HewittSound KitchenStephen BurkeTrevor Pitt and Vicky Roden.


The Forge programme allowed my work to reach a bigger and different audience from what I was exposed to. It allowed me to connect with other artists and practitioners in the field who are in various stages of their arts career. I was able to learn from them as well as bounce off my own ideas and opinions in a positive environment. Making work with, and for, the market place has been a very rewarding process. I had many conversations with the Multistory team regarding how and where I would display my final outcome. Making work that is, firstly, for the people and to tell their stories allowed the sense of belonging, I wanted my work to have.

Nilupa Yasmin

Image: Where can I find this? © Nilupa Yasmin

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