23 June 2021 – 31 January 2022
“When you’re redeveloping a city, it shouldn’t be in the small print, ‘this is for men only, this is for the able bodied only “
Heather Powell’s 1988 film Paradise Circus – made with the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop – features as part of the How We Live Now: Reimagining Spaces with Matrix Feminist Design exhibition at the Barbican which opened on 17 May and has been extended until 31 January 2022. In the 1980s, the London-based feminist architects’ practice Matrix was one of the first worldwide to bring issues of gender centre-stage to the design of the built environment. Member Jos Boys took part in Heather’s film, and now we come full circle to see the work incorporated into the Matrix open archive installation.
A viewing copy of Paradise Circus is held in our video archive and local visitors may have caught a screening as part of our Paradise Remix programme in 2018. It’s a wonderful record of people, ideas and the city in the 1980′s.
This work is one of a selection of films in the Participation strand of our archive. Firmly rooted in our precedent organisation’s origins as the Birmingham Centre for Media Arts, established in 1992, the Participation project (2009-10) was conceived of and curated by Yasmeen Baig-Clifford, and focused on the emergence of new film forms, politics and practices in the 1980s.
Many individual filmmakers and producers contributed material to the programme from their private archives, providing not only original film and video tapes for digitisation but also key texts, photographs, diaries and ephemera from the period. Interviews were carried out to create an oral history of the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop and a number of key works were digitised with the support of the regional screen agency.
A critical selection of works was exhibited from key film and video workshops and groups who, motivated by a desire to effect social change, forged new approaches to political themes that emerged nationally. The show included exhibition and presentation from Amber Films, Black Audio Film Collective, Sankofa and Sheffield Film Co-op amongst others, and had a special focus on the Birmingham Film and Video Workshop whose largely unknown yet groundbreaking work was presented for the first time in decades.
More on Participation: The Film and Video Workshop Movement 1979-1991 can be read here
More on the Matrix project can be found in a review by Oliver Wainwright for the Guardian here
PS – check out the participant list of Birmingham voices participating in Paradise Circus: Jude Bloomfield (Researcher), Lakhvia Chohan (UK Asian Woman’s Centre), Dick Knowles (Leader, Birmingham Council), Jos Boys (Architectural Researcher), Carol Stevens (artist), Chris Nichols & Anne Nichols (Residents of the Castle Vale estate), Lilian McVie & Doreen Brown (Users of the Sparkbrook Ashram Community Project), Evelyn Williams (artist), Jane White & Jeevan Singh & Vicki Oko-Osi (Broad Images Photography Group), Elsie Owusu (architect), Julmur Mukerji (Jagonari Asian Women’s Centre), Annie Thorne (Matrix architects), Pabi Das, Myfanwy Jones (artist), Sheila Button (Housing Director), Rhonda Wilson (photographer), UK Asian Women’s Centre.
Featured image is an installation view of Paradise Circus, at the Barbican exhibition by Matrix, ‘How We Live Now’.
Photograph © Thomas Adank