Over the period of one month the people of Wednesbury came together with artist duo Hipkiss & Graney to think and chat about where they lived.
Discussion about Wednesbury came from a range of people, from people whose families had lived here for generations to people who had newly arrived in Wednesbury and the UK. People shared tales of the town that they had been told by their grandparents, and that their grandparents had been told by their grandparents. Others shared their own stories and memories of life spent growing up underneath the clocktower of a market town. From great carnivals to famous samosas, historical plays, to battles for workers’ rights. Stories about founding restaurants and choirs, overcoming fears on the hilltops, and running through parks with siblings on summer evenings. Everyday memories and emotions were conjured and shared, and that is how MARKET came into being.
These stories didn’t just remain words. The people of Wednesbury painted them onto hand-dyed fabrics. Spoken words became landscapes and portraits, objects and structures that represented scenes of everyday life in the town. Places like ring roads and junctions evolved from simply being town infrastructure to peculiar glyphs that took the painter to their memories. Objects from the market became new symbols coded with the painters’ feelings and people became folk characters, running through the old market, passing the clocktower and leaping onwards into the other tales that lay strewn across the fabric. The fabrics were woven together to become the skin of a market stall, made in replica of the same market stalls that stood in the old Market Place in the 1900s, built out of old timber and reconstructed through reference to photographs and paintings. The market stall was designed in response to visual language found in Wednesbury such as The Caryatid Gateway at the bus station which features a polished stainless steel inverted tubular arch, referencing Wednesbury being renown for the manufacture of tubes. MARKET doesn’t just discuss the past but shows the current beating life of the town and explores the contemporary issues faced by its residents. The old merges with the new, with industrial heritage and pride woven alongside stories of ecological restoration and conservation.
Thank you to the wonderful South Staffs Water Community Hub (and to Becky!) for hosting the workshops; the hub is a true community venue that welcomes everyone with open arms.
Hipkiss & Graney
Hipkiss & Graney’s practice is built on public workshops and co-creation. Their workshops are designed to remove art-making from a workshop context and deliver in a more traditional social context (village fete / pub quizzes). They explore ideas around collectivity, community and counter-movements through socially engaged workshops, large-scale interactive installations and performative outputs. Their performances discuss political and environmental issues, often involving magic realism and fictional organisations.