Shifting Birmingham: 900 years drawn and erased

See the news page for full details of the exhibition and events starting from Thursday 31st August through to Saturday 23rd September.

See below for the full story of this Arts Council funded project.

Shifting Birmingham (Scope of the project)

Shifting Birmingham was initiated to uncover the hidden history of the Wholesale Markets. The project was targeted towards a variety of interests such as historians walkers, fine art followers and students. 

The project also aimed to support and mentor other artists, in particular a young apprentice Georgia Chapman who was commissioned to draw portraits of market traders as part of the final exhibition.

The exhibition has been shown in 5 venues across Birmingham.

Shifting activities: 

  1. The maps of Birmingham flip book publication, animation and installation by Nita Newman.
  2. The photographs commissioned by Friction Arts and photographed by Dan Burwood.
  3. The Apprentice: Charcoal portraits of market traders by Georgia Chapman (Taken from Dan Burwood’s photography)
  4. Schools Engagement (Mono Print Workshops). Bournville College; 40 level 2, 3 BTEC and Degree level Students visited the exhibition. Shifting Birmingham delivered a workshop to 12 Students from Queensbridge Special School Erdington. Queensbridge Tutor had never done Mono print before, so she could add a new skill to her CPD. 
  5. A talk and two walking tours of Birmingham.


The projected animation in the exhibition.

The animated maps of Birmingham were interpreted as a ‘world’ as a projection.

The Private View



A list of Birmingham Names: ( attributed to a historians online compilation at the exhibition- contact me for full details)


A visitor views the work of Bournville College Students.


Young apprentice Georgia talks about her work.



An appreciative audience.


Nostalgic brummie books.


1st August 2017- The Apprentice- Georgia Chapman

Georgia is 15, she is currently studying at BOA Academy in Birmingham. She is a Friction Arts ‘Art Club’ member. I decided to offer her the position of paid ‘Apprentice’ on my personal project pending ACE funding.

Georgia’s ‘bus portraits’ made on her way to school were very interesting, however, she complained that she couldn’t do full face portraits. My awareness of Dan Burwoods photographic portraits of the market traders through Friction Arts led me to get Georgia to use his work as a resource. It also occurred to me that she would add a human element to my exhibition.

Twitter @georgiachaps

Bournville College printmaking session.

Around 40 students, level 2 Foundation and degree students took part in a mono print workshop as part of their BTEC and degree courses. Artist Holly O’Meara and Nita Newman led the session. The theme of the day was ‘Home’ and all the things that home means to us.

25th July 2017- The flip book: 

Joseph Lilley has been entrusted to print and bind a special edition flip book of the Birmingham maps. The cover is going to be embossed. I’m really looking forward to seeing the maps physically go back and forth in time as you thumb through the pages.

31st August 2017 Flip book available now.

Dr Joseph Lilley is a particle physicist, who has very successfully turned his hand to printmaking and bespoke bookbinding. Joseph has a business called the Holodeck. Find out about him at

20th July 2017 -The animation

1956 OS

A series of 43 Birmingham maps are now traced, turned into worlds, photographed and scaled to size. They are now in the hands of Oscar Cass-Darweish, a digital artist who is currently studying an MA in Digital Arts. Oscar has worked with me before on , a Heritage Lottery Funded project. Oscar has the knack of knowing what I want before I want it. That’s a useful skill to have, intuitive and highly skilled. The work is in safe hands.

You can find Oscar’s website at

16th May 2017

In the words of Mike Skinner from ‘The Streets’ album, A Grand Don’t Come For Free, “It was supposed to be so easy”…

I could have had the maps scanned, but I like the quality of raking light cutting across the paper and the shadows created forming contours from the folds. In book binding terms, these folds are ‘valley’ and ‘mountain’ folds; appropriate for the subject matter. This process adds an extra layer, or it can be argued, an extra layer of difficulty. I never go the easy way around.

001 Dan at the Library

Dan Burwood is pictured here lining up the maps so that they can be accurately layered over each other for the process of the animation.

Dan has completed the map photography back to 1553 so far, however, the task of ensuring they line up accurately is pretty much impossible. The width of the roads and the accuracy of the map erodes with time. So, I have decided to trace them as they are, with all of their nuances and inaccuracies; I am sure my own errors will creep into the work as I wander through the streets tracing them with my pencil.

I will be tracing the streets of Birmingham over the next few weeks and then passing my work to Oscar Cass-Darweish to animate the maps. Can’t wait to see what it’s all going to look like.

Find out more about Dan’s Darkroom Workshops click here.

To find out about Dan’s work with his associates at Some Cities click here,

Some Cities is a not for profit Community Interest Company that creates high quality and inclusive participatory photography opportunities that give a voice to people and communities. We work with all levels of photographers creating opportunities for them to learn, make and publish their work.

So, I have been asked some questions about Shifting Birmingham by a student at Bournville College….

Q.This project shows the evolution of Birmingham through maps, what was the inspiration behind this idea? What motivated you to pursue the project? Was there a significant area to you that you may of had emotional ties to that lead you onto developing this project?

A. I found out that the Smithfield Markets were going to be demolished after almost 1000 years of trading on that site. Generations of people had worked there. Some traced family ties back to the 1850’s. As I had previously worked in the steel industry (as an export sales clerk) it resonated with me as the factory I worked at and loved was demolished and replaced by a block of flats in Tipton. I went back to visit the factory, hoping it would still be there shortly after its closure only to find it completely replaced. It made my heart skip a couple of beats, it was like it never existed. The men in these mills were heroes to me. It was a very dangerous workplace, some people got seriously injured, some were killed on the mill by the yellow hot bars they handled and fashioned.

When I found out that the markets were going to be wiped away I knew I had to do something and as my practice revolves around landmarks, mapping and place I knew I had to map the space; mark it in someway; make a contribution. This was their lives and livelihood, just like the mill workers in Tipton (which may never be recorded). So I made an animated map that could be shared freely for everyone to see. I intended to go back as far as I could – this meant that the earliest map I could capture was 1553. However this had a two fold purpose, this map was not just about the market, it became about Birmingham and what I found out about the map through its social, political and religious lenses.

It’s all well and good capturing portraits through painting, but when that is sold, who is going to see it? Friction Arts ( I have worked with and for Friction for a number of years now) have been doing a grand job, taking oral histories, recording the markets through imaging, ambisonic sound and using augmented reality. The intention is to still visit the markets virtually and collect artefacts from the workers and make what they do and have been doing accessible through galleries, libraries and on the web.

I could also see that I could take others with me and it was important for me that other artists could take part…especially Georgia, I wanted her to do something she loved, but at the same time stretch her learning through a live project and get to understand the day to day struggles of an arts practitioner.

Q. Was there a specific goal/message that you wanted to achieve/make aware of through the project?

A. Well, as the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’till its gone. Both myself and Friction want people to know that the city is made from the activities of real, hardworking people. Its not necessarily about the buildings, however these are a container for the ‘ghosts’ that occupy them and they give signposts to another reality. I want to show the real centre of Birmingham. As Dobbs said, Birmingham ‘Walked up the Hill’, shifting and growing in a northerly direction. The work acts as a signpost of former activity, the animated map just goes to show how quietly things are erased from the landscape in a very discrete manner. If you look at the fast animated map it shows the markets very subtly being erased away before it goes back in time all over again. The work will also be displayed alongside Frictions Wholesale Memory project at the Library of Birmingham in January 2018 in their history gallery, so the work continues to have life and an audience.

I will go on to make more mapped cities and respond to them in a similar way to this depending on the origins of each place. I want people of all ages and backgrounds to know what’s beneath their feet, and how authorities and individuals with money and power can take this away from the very people who built it.