Silent History Project (2019-present)

As part of our Hidden Histories exhibition programme at The Hive, we are exploring the history of deaf, visually impaired and disabled workers in the Jewellery Quarter, and wider Birmingham area. We will be looking at the representation and attitudes towards disability historically, alongside contemporary views and stories in a new exhibition from April 2020.

As part of the project Deaf artist Olivier Jamin and partially-sighted artist Fae Kilburn have been running workshops with groups and schools in the area to create artworks for display alongside their own, and recording the experiences of D/deaf and disabled people in the workplace.

The Bee Yourself Project (2018-2019)

As part of the welcoming committee to our rooftop bees in June 2019, a new tapestry artwork featuring 902 individual tapestry bees has been unveiled on the ground floor. Hundreds of stitchers have already been to see this new collaborative artwork. Below are some pictures of the 'great reveal' event on Saturday 29th June, along with two of the schools visiting.

THAT'S MY BEE!

Suzanne Carter, Community Outreach and Learning Manager at The Hive, who started the craft campaign with needlepoint tapestry artist and maker Tina Francis back in October 2018, explains the idea behind the seven-month stitching project which involved over 1000 people stitching.

“Bees are a fantastic inspiration in the way they work together, and this project is all about collaboration. We worked with 11 schools, 40 community organisations, social groups and businesses, and other individuals and families living and working in Birmingham. What is clear from the tapestry is that every stitched bee is unique, just like its stitcher! Alongside the artwork we have also captured something of our stitchers’ individual stories and personalities to illustrate how Birmingham connects to the rest of the UK and world, and how important these connections and shared heritage is for making our City such a culturally rich place to live. Migration is nothing new; people have been moving to Birmingham to live and work for hundreds of years. Former occupants of our Jewellery Quarter building, built in 1879, where the artwork will be on display, migrated from Canada, Moldova, Poland, Germany and across the UK to set up their business. Our stitchers have global connections; in fact, from what they have told us, their families have originated from 77 countries outside the UK. The artwork not only looks stunning but also offers a fantastic illustration of how beautiful things can happen when people who are different in so many ways, work together. There is strength in diversity”.

Below are two data maps which visually show our stitchers' family origins and global connections (left) and where our stitchers live today using a ward boundary map of Birmingham (right).

Tina Francis, the creative lead of the project tells us

“Birmingham is and always has been a city of sanctuary. This project has shown that everyone has a place. I have stitched at workshops with 620 people across the city, and many hundreds more have stitched in their own groups with our tapestry kits. I have seen how one symbol has united children in their own classrooms and brought people together in a different way in their social and work environments. Everyone has been working together and towards the same goal, learning more about each other as they create their bees. As a stitch artist I am also very pleased that hundreds more people can use a needle!”

The Bee Yourself artwork is on display at the Hive Café and Bakery, Vittoria Street. You are welcome to pop in and view the artwork and other heritage exhibitions for free from 7.30am-3.30pm Monday to Friday and on the second Saturday of the month, where you can also enjoy a tour of the building, including up to the rooftop to view the honeybees at work. www.hiveJQ.org  

The Bee Yourself project has been possible thanks to a National Heritage Lottery Fund grant and is part of The Hive’s ongoing public engagement and activity programme.

For more information about the project, please contact Suzanne Carter [email protected]

Memories of Home (2019)

Renowned artist Silvia Levenson was invited to spend a week in June working with groups of refugees at The Hive in Birmingham. 

Silvia worked with a group of 50 refugees to create a series of fused glass panels inspired by participants’ memories of their homelands. The aim was to give each person the opportunity to learn a new skill, create something beautiful that has strong personal meaning, work creatively together and make new friends in a positive, inclusive environment. It also made a strong statement about the home they have lost and provided a safe space to discuss their feelings and memories.

Silvia Levenson has extensive experience of working with groups of vulnerable people, such as mothers in Argentina who children disappeared and victims of domestic violence. Silvia herself had to go into hiding for three years as a result of the military gaining power in her native Argentina. “I come from a country where a lot of people were killed during the dictatorship including some of my friends, so I consider myself a bit of a survivor. I mean, in the end, all of us are surviving something.”

Silvia writes: 

"Memories of Home originates from the perception of a world in movement. It is a choral project, with many voices, many languages and many colours in different inflections. These pieces have been created by migrants and refugees, by citizens who have had to cross deserts, oceans and frontiers to reach the UK, leaving war, famine and persecution behind them. We asked them to use glass to tell us about the colours and memories of their country.

After the initial surprise, they accepted the challenge and a few minutes later, everyone was at work on their projects. It was amazing to see their dedication and the concentration they devoted to understanding and using glass, definitely not an easy material to decipher.

Memories of Home tells us of emotions and experiences. The participants in the workshop created flags, houses, crowns, animals, landscapes, flowers and hearts, they wrote words and in doing so managed to communicate their feelings. When we move, we take our memories and our knowledge with us, but also a desire to understand the world and begin a new life."

The workshops were documented by a professional photographer from Milan, Italy; Marco del Comune. The glass work and photos featured in an exhibition at the International Festival of Glas in August 2019. 

We are very grateful for the generous sponsorship and support of Bullseye Glass, KilnCare and the National Heritage Lottery Fund