The Hive JQ

The Hive is a community hub for Birmingham in an historic building, with an award-winning organic café and bakery, craft workshops, exhibitions and event spaces.

After 13 months, Freya looks back at her experience at the Hive from start to finish: working as one of our team of Heritage Programme Assistants, it has been an unforgettable experience.

I remember when I applied for the internship offered at the Hive in July 2019: it was advertised through the University of Birmingham where I was studying, and it looked too good to miss! So I applied and got an interview, and was thrilled when I found out that I had been accepted at the Hive; it remains one of the best experiences from my time in Birmingham. The internship involved choosing an historic building in the JQ, then researching and curating a wall display for the Heritage Lounge. I chose to look at 15-17 Regent Place, the home of Deakin & Francis (the oldest jewellery business still operating in the area). This experience was the perfect introduction to learning about the history of the JQ, and also allowed me to meet people and build up a network. I visited the factory and offices which are located just next door to the Hive, and organised the loan of some very interesting items for the display, including a 19th century ledger, a cast for a silver mirror, advertising materials, and a set of brass buttons. Working with Deakin & Francis really helped to bring the exhibition to life, creating a dynamic and engaging display. I also learned how to make the display accessible; this included accessible text, separate large print text and reading glasses to borrow, an easy-to-follow layout, and buttons with audio recordings of the text for our blind and partially sighted visitors. I learned a lot throughout the internship, but this turned out to just be the start!

With my 15-17 Regent Place display

I really got to know the JQ, and enjoyed the perks of an RBSA Kate Fryer exhibition opening in the JQ!

Once I had completed the internship project, I decided to stay on at the Hive as a volunteer through the Jewellery Quarter Heritage Squad (JQHS). I came in one day a week to help out with tasks for the Heritage Lounge and the Gallery. Just some of the activities I got involved with included helping at the Stourbridge Glass Festival, writing blog posts, compiling feedback data, library research (using trade directories, maps, planning applications, and levy books on microfilm), helping out with craft workshops, and creating heritage-based children’s activities. A highlight was learning how to fuse glass using the kiln in our Maker’s Studio (and later, delivering glass workshops to local groups!). Volunteering at the Hive was such a varied experience, and I loved that it allowed me to explore areas that I wanted to develop professionally, like curation and community engagement. In December 2019, I applied for a job opening at the Hive as a Heritage Programme Assistant, and the rest is history! 

A gift from a little visitor to one of our Saturday Sessions! 

Meeting with the JQHS

At first, I was unsure about working two days a week whilst studying full time for my degree. However, it turned out to be the perfect combination: working alongside studying ensured that I used my time at university efficiently, re-creating my timetable to attend lectures and study in between my two days at the Hive. In terms of work experience, the Hive has been absolutely invaluable. I now feel confident and ready for a full-time role in a gallery or museum setting, and I have gained so many applicable skills: co-curating exhibitions in the Gallery, running research projects with JQHS volunteers, creating social media content and blog posts, devising and delivering craft sessions, and developing and running a successful remote craft campaign during lockdown… and these are only some of the amazing opportunities I have had whilst working at the Hive. It has also been a pleasure to work with such a lovely, energetic, dynamic, and driven team: thank you to Naomi and Roseanna, and especially to Suzanne! The whole team has such an infectious energy, and I know that everyone who visits and works with the Hive is inspired by their passion. The Hive continues to develop into an even more amazing place every single day, and I can’t wait to see what the team do next. 

Thank you for everything!


The opening night of Franziska Schenk’s co-curated exhibition