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Photo exhibition captures life in Balsall Heath in 1968

Ghost Streets Of Balsall Heath pictures by Janet Mendelsohn go on display at Old Print Works

One of the photos taken by Janet Mendelsohn in Balsall Heath(Image: Janet Mendelsohn, (Cadbury Research Library / University of Birmingham))

A four-day exhibition of photographs taken in Balsall Heath more than 45 years ago will pave the way for a major retrospective at the Ikon Gallery next year.

Taken as part of her studies by American photographer and filmmaker Janet Mendelsohn, they were discovered in the run up to last year’s 50th anniversary celebrations for the University of Birmingham’s pioneering former Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.

The photographs document the neighbourhoods of Balsall Heath and Highgate in 1968, at a time of controversy over housing conditions, traveller camps and the sex industry.

Mendelsohn’s work touches on these issues as well as capturing every day stories of life in general.

They will go on display at an exhibition called Ghost Streets Of Balsall Heath at The Old Print Works, Moseley Road, Balsall Heath, from July 9-12.

Mendelsohn was fascinated by the child’s-eye view of Balsall Heath, and explored the dizzying freedoms as well as the gnawing poverty that young people experienced at that time.

Throughout 1967 and 1968, she captured a community on the brink of demolition amid the streets and bomb-sites of Balsall Heath and Highgate,

Birmingham’s Flatpack Film Festival is contributing to the wider project by masterminding a temporary installation in the place where many of the photographs were taken.

Take a look at some of the photos in the exhibition

Why should we see this exhibition?

Flatpack director Ian Francis says: “Using images and archive film to map out the huge changes that the area went through in the 60s and 70s, Ghost Streets of Balsall Heath will be partly shaped by the people who come to see it.

“This weekend’s temporary exhibition will include work by Mike Jee and Phyllis Nicklin and also feature archive outtakes from a 1965 ATV report, a 1980s project which gave kids from Tindal Street School an opportunity to photograph their neighbourhood, and a map where you can add your own stories and images.

“Throughout the day visitors can also take their own images of Balsall Heath, and create a self-portrait with help from Some Cities.”

Who is supporting it?

The exhibition is being presented in partnership with the University of Birmingham, Queens University Belfast, Library of Birmingham and Some Cities. It has been supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

FESTIVAL TIMETABLE

Launch night Thursday July 9, 6-9pm

A first chance to see the photos, with food and music (courtesy of DJ Ruthless Toothless) upstairs in the Printworks.

Downstairs, Ort will host a series of discussions involving Kieran Connell, Brian Homer and Andrew and Dan from Some Cities, as well as a selection of archive footage.

Drop-in day, Saturday, July 10

11am-4pm – free screenings and talks all day in the Ort Gallery

11.30amThe Geography of Immigrant Housing (24 mins)

1973 Open University film looking at Birmingham’s housing policy, with a particular focus on Sparkbrook.

12.15pmA Touch of Eastern Promise (30 mins)

Half-hour drama from Pebble Mill by first-time scriptwriter Tara Prem, about a starry-eyed shop boy who meets his Bollywood idol.

The street scenes were shot in Wolverhampton, but the cinema is the Imperial (later the Cave) on the Moseley Road.

1pm – Balsall Heath on film (32 mins)

Selection of local new stories from ATV in the 1960s and 1970s, courtesy of the Media Archive for Central England.

2pm – Dylan Waldron Q&A

A recent graduate from art school, Dylan Waldron (RBSA) spent the latter part of the 1970s living in Strensham Hill and painting detailed studies of some of the buildings around Edward Road – many of them soon to be flattened.

Now based in Leicestershire, Dylan will discuss some slides of his Balsall Heath work.

2.45pm – A Touch of Eastern Promise (30 mins)

Repeat screening – see above.

3.20pm: Balsall Heath on film (32 mins)

Repeat screening – see above.

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