Words & pics by Ed King
On Saturday 15th August, volunteers from across Erdington kick started a new community art project – transforming the hoardings that have ring-fenced the old Maplin site into a vibrant mural ‘to celebrate Erdington.’
In huge display of community spirit, members from a wide range of local action groups worked across the morning and into the afternoon – preparing a blank canvas to be filled throughout the week by four Birmingham based artists.
Displaying the very unity that they want to celebrate, the mammoth task was completed by 1pm – aided by hard work and camaraderie from organisations including Erdington Litter Busters, Erdington Community Volunteers, Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, Witton Lodge Community Association, Urban Devotion, Good Gym, Erdington Arts Forum, and Active Arts.
Erdington Councillors Robert Alden and Gareth Moore, who helped the project get up and running, also rolled up their sleeves on Saturday – working alongside the collage of community groups to get the job done quickly and professionally.
“The idea is to celebrate Erdington as a place to live,” tells Claire Westmacott – a member of the Erdington Community Volunteers group who were helping whitewash the hoardings.
“When you drive through here, you are going to see this mural… it’s to celebrate the different areas of Erdington and what makes Erdington so good.
“It’s the people, it’s the people getting together – you can see here the community spirit. It’s been brilliant… people have been asking what’s happening and saying that’s a brilliant idea.
“People passing by have taken notice of what we’ve been doing; it’s the community making improvements.”
Steve Allen – the first of the four artists commissioned – began his painting immediately, completing the front face of the mural by the evening on Sunday 16th August. Steve, aka Nozzle and Brush, is a local ‘mural and spray paint specialist’ who uses aerosol paints to create ‘one off artwork for bedrooms, walls, shop shutters, gym spaces and more.’
Further work will continue on the mural throughout the week, with local illustrator and designer Edward Thrush using the boards along Summer Road for a piece celebrating the volunteer groups that work in and around Erdington.
Keely Iqbal, an illustrator and fashion designer with a studio at The Custard Factory, is using the Sutton New Road side for an artistic exploration into the history of Erdington.
Whilst Abian Richards, a local artist who ‘works with an expressive mixed media style’ will be painting a special piece that celebrates the green spaces from across the constituency.
Organisers hope the full mural will be completed by Sunday 23rd August – hoping to see selfies and photos captured by members of the public across social media, tagging Erdington Arts Forum or one of the other groups.
Supporting this act of community spirit, Mercia Real Estate have financed the lion’s share of costs attached to the mural – fronting £2250 for the project, with an extra £750 added by Active Arts who have helped coordinate the artists commissions as part of their Erdington Arts Forum role.
Maplin Electronic Supplies went into administration in February 2018, closing all of its UK stores and putting it 2,500 strong work force into unemployment.
Since then, the site that looks out over Six Ways Island has been boarded up – sitting as both a public eyesore and an unpleasant reminder to the employees at the Erdington branch who lost their livelihoods.
Mercia Real Estate, the Birmingham based company who took over the land following the Maplin closure, said:
“Mercia Real Estate acquired the site in 2018 with a view to redeveloping the buildings into a terrace of convenience retail units.
“Whilst this has been in planning we were approached by community leaders earlier this year who had expressed an interest in creating various murals on the site hoarding.
“Wherever we invest we are always keen to engage with the community and in this case were happy to extend a donation to support the creativity of the various groups involved.”
For more on Steve Allen, visit www.nozzleandbrush.co.uk
For more on Edward Thrush, visit www.elthrush.com
For more on Keely Iqbal, visit www.keelyiqbal.com
For more on Abian Richards, visit www.facebook.com/faffabout