Blast! Festival is made with and for the people of Sandwell. From 24 May until 29 June, there is a range of exhibitions, talks and workshops happening throughout Sandwell’s six towns of West Bromwich, Tipton, Rowley Regis, Oldbury, Smethwick and Wednesbury. Community arts charity Multistory has curated an amazing range of artists to contribute to the Festival - here are our top picks.
Event and Exhibition: Blast! Festival launch and Sandwell Pride of Place Project
The Blast! Festival launch event will be held at the Former Poundland on Friday 24 May, 6-9pm. This is also your chance to see The Caravan Gallery’s evolving exhibition Sandwell Pride of Place Project. The exhibition will initially contain images curated by the Gallery and successful competition entries, but as the exhibition continues, visitors can contribute and add to The Peoples Map of Sandwell. To attend the launch or visit the exhibition, head to the Former Poundland shop, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NN.
Group Exhibition: Girl Gaze
Featuring new work from Jocelyn Allen, Jennifer Pattison, Andrea Fernandes and Uzma Mohsin, Girl Gaze is a photographic observation and study of the Punjab and Diaspora communities in the West Midlands. This project explores themes such as gender, identity, patriarchy, tradition, culture, memory, place, and belonging from the perspective of young girls and women within these communities. This exhibition runs throughout the festival and is open Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-4pm at The British Muslim School, Latifiah Fultali Complex, Lodge Road, West Bromwich, B70 8NX.
Exhibition: Family Portraits by Inka and Niclas Lindergård
Inka and Niclas Lindergård’s series includes surreal self-portraits of the pair and their young son. The figures are obscured by a bright light from a flash that is reflected by suits the family are wearing, creating ethereal images reminiscent of holiday snaps. Inka and Niclas' performative work explores the relationship between the photographic and physical world. You can find Family Portraits throughout the festival outside Sandwell Council House, Freeth Street, Oldbury, B69 3D.
Exhibition: Polska Britannica by Czesław Siegieda
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Czesław Siegieda photographed the polish community around the Midlands. Czesław photographed religious events, Polish Saturday school, Polish boarding school, remembrance events and daily life of a community unable to return to homeland due to conflict. These intimate black and white images show a minority community struggling to maintain a strong identity. Selected photographs from Czesław’s archive can be seen throughout the festival from Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-6pm at the Former Poundland shop, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NW.
Exhibition: The Exiles by Billy Dosanjh
By constructing large cinema style scenes which includes complex lighting setups and film sets as well as research and local stories, Billy Dosanjh has recreated scenes from the 60s and 70s in Sandwell. During this period, many male economic migrants arrived in the Sandwell area. Billy’s project aims to provide representation for these people, something which is historically lacking. Billy will present one image from this series composited from over 800 source images throughout the festival, from Thursday to Saturday, 11am-3pm at the Smethwick Heritage Centre, Victoria Park Lodge, High St, B66 3NJ.
Exhibition: Lost Generation IV by Bethany Kane
Bethany Kane is an independent curator, photographer, founder of Lost Generation Projects and Programme Co-ordinator of FORMAT International Photography Festival. She will be presenting her project Lost Generation IV, part of a wider collaborative project working with members of Generation Z. During the Lost Generation IV project, Bethany worked with three students from Sandwell College to examine the current issues they are facing. The resulting series can be seen from Wednesday to Saturday, 11am-4pm at the Blast! Shop, 15-17 Bull Street, West Bromwich, B70 6EU.
Exhibition and Talk: The Quiet Town Called Tipton by Mahtab Hussain
Coinciding with the end of his exhibition at Gallery Oldham, Mahtab Hussain presents The Quiet Town Called Tipton. Following the Tipton bombing in 2013, Mahtab worked closely with Muslim residents of the town to create a photographic series. He is well known for exploring themes of identity, belonging and multiculturalism through long-term research. This exhibition can be seen through the festival, Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm at The School of Art, University of Wolverhampton, Molineux Street (MK702), Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY. There is also an event where Mahtab Hussain and Dr Euripedes Altintzoglou will be discussing the exhibition on Thursday 13 June 5-7pm, at the same venue.
Exhibition: The Cracker by Laura Pannack
Laura Pannack is known for her accurate representations of communities through social documentary projects. For her most recent series, Laura was introduced to a group of teenagers from Tipton through Sandwell Youth Services. Over the period of a year, Laura returned to this area to document the friendships, language and local traditions she has observed throughout her time in Tipton. This series will be published in a magazine for the participants as well as an exhibition which can be seen every day throughout the festival, 5.30-9.30pm at The Tibby, Tipton, DY4 9QR.
Exhibition: Black Country Stories by Martin Parr
Martin Parr’s series Black Country Stories is a comprehensive exploration of Black Country life. Martin visited factories, foundries, pubs, working men’s clubs, shops, markets, temples, mosques, churches, St George’s day celebrations, Royal Wedding street parties, horticultural shows and dog training classes to capture the unique aspects of communities in the area. The themes explored through this series will be used as prompts for members of the Sandwell community to submit their own artworks to be included. The resulting exhibition can be seen throughout the festival from Monday to Wednesday and Friday 10am-5pm and Saturday 10am-4pm at The Art Yard, 59 Reddal Hill Road, Cradley Heath, B64 5JT.
Event: Screening of Mark Goes to Mongolia by Martin Parr
As part of the Black Country Stories series, Martin produced a film following one resident, Mark Evans. Mark Goes to Mongolia follows him as he travels to Baotou in Inner Mongolia where he is well known for his pigeon breeding and pigeon racing. The film will be screened alongside a demonstration with two of Mark's top birds on Wednesday 5 June at the Former Poundland, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, West Bromwich, B70 7NN. Refreshments and food are provided and tickets can be found here.
Launch Event and Talk: Photography For Whom?
This event will act as a launch for the biennial publication of Photography for Whom? This publication will highlight significant but overlooked works of the past as well as generating debate about contemporary practice. This is achieved by presenting a historical text with a newly commissioned piece of writing to create a discussion about socially engaged practice today. During the launch there will be a discussion between Anthony Luvera, Janice McLaren and Brian Homer on the themes of the publication. This event is on Friday 28 June 28 6-8pm, tickets for the event can be found here.
Workshop: Caravan Camera by Brendan Barry
Brendan Barry challenges traditional connotations of what a camera should be by creating cameras from a range of objects such as watermelons, sheds, bread, lego and lifts. At the festival, Brendan will be running his Caravan Camera, a large portable camera obscura where participants can produce portraits. On Friday 29 June from 10am-3pm, you can visit it to try a range of analogue processes for free with no need to buy a ticket.
More information on the festival and a full list of all events, exhibitions, talks and walks can be found here.