Hi! I first became aware of Inhabit on the Hagley Road when I was persuaded, or dragged, by a young lady to come inside for a free cup of tea and a piece of cake. That lady was Samina who explained to me the aims of these pop-up art tea rooms in the Birmingham area. With the help of Karen who was kept busy making tea, I met Anand a photographer involved in the project, Stan another photographer and Mel an artist who was creating various pieces of art based on the idea of the tea rooms.
With Mel I designed a spoon, took part in gilding part of a table and printed part of a table cloth. During this time I met a lot of other people interested in art projects and took part in discussions over tea and cake, being photographed by Anand and Stan the man on many occasions. I attended the Grand Opening of the project and met Steve who helps, or hinders, Samina and Karen to organise events! Samina gave me a panetone cake tin, which I am still using, as a momento of the Ladywood tea shop before it closed down. Thanks.
I travelled to the ends of the earth otherwise known as Handsworth, a new part of Birmingham to me, to visit the next tea room there before Christmas, and was warmly welcomed by Karen with more tea and cake! I found out that the next tea room was to open in Stirchley after Christmas. This was far easier for me to get to.
At Stirchley more projects than ever seemed to be on the go. The residents of the area seemed to warm to Inhabit, whether it was the tea, the cakes and biscuits, the art or the banter. Karen taught us to fold origami cranes, Wanjiku persuaded Jen and I to take part in some creative writing and to fold both an origami dove and a beating heart, both of which were incorporated into her project. I met Mihaela and Dottie, from Parrabbola, who were collecting stories of old Stirchley to make a strolling performance piece to be performed along the High Street at the end of Inhabit’s stay in Stirchley.
An exhibition of the work to date was to take place at the Pavilions in the City Centre but beforehand there were some workshops taking place. At one of the workshops ran by Caroline I did part of a mosaic. One of the exhibits required a lot of origami cranes to be folded from paper with different words on to make up various quotations. I helped Karen to fold some of these origami cranes, so many that I now need a rest from them, but at the exhibition they looked good. Looking round the exhibition I was amazed at how many projects I had been involved in, far more than I had realised. Thanks for my spoons and the hand decorated tea towel Mel. A lot of different people who had been involved at different tea rooms visited the exhibition and it was great to see what they were doing now in terms of art. The second part of the exhibition was an audio visual piece by Geoff, who I’d met at Hagley Road but always seemed to miss at other times. This piece was about Handsworth and Stirchley with impressive use of three screens, both in panorama mode and separate. It certainly made me wish to go back to Handsworth and see the park, which I had not known to be there.
The next tea shop opened at Bromford, another part of Birmingham I had not been to before, in a facility called the Hub. Not the best looking of areas, quiet depressing really, in the shadow of the elevated motorway over the railway and possibly the canal, but the people seemed friendly when you could get them through the door. I helped Caroline finish a mosaic on a table top which looked good when grouted and completed. Nasreen showed how a simple folded piece of paper could become part of a beautiful piece of art by the use of repetition and met up again with Dottie and Wanjiku. I might not fold the perfect origami dove every time but I can work out where I’ve gone wrong so as to correct it the next time. I also exchanged a dream of Bromford for a sweet, hopefully to be part of the Parrabbola performance later.
I must be one of the view people to have visited all the tea rooms and the exhibition. Talk about punishment!
I hope that this experiment with pop-up tea shops will be repeated in the future. I send my best wishes to those who took part. I hope that Steve (aka Pegleg) recovers, maybe not enough to play football this year but at least walking normal. I hope that Samina enjoys her holiday and that Karen, who must hold the record for making the most cups of tea, finds what she is looking for in the USA. Thanks for all the opportunities that I’ve had to take part in creating art. I am looking forward to the farewell Bromford session. Missing you already!!!