Artist and musician Bill Drummond has confused a group of mums by putting up flags across Birmingham. Here he writes about a new part of his exhibition at Eastside projects, where he plans to capitalise on a city of chatty people.

“What is your earliest memory?

What did you want to be when you grew up?

What was the first record you bought?

When did you first fall in love?”

Just four of the more obvious starter questions I might use in my Forty Minute Interviews.

This all started last week and now I feel like I want to interview everybody in Birmingham.

This week’s column was supposed to be about why I’ve been putting up 40 flags on 40 lampposts in a circle around Birmingham. But once I got a draft of it written I shoved it aside and wrote this one.

I’ve already commented in previous weeks how every time I’m out and about in Birmingham, getting on with my work, all sorts of people come up to me telling me their life stories, or their opinions on this, that and the other. I’ve come to the conclusion that people in Birmingham are more interesting than in other places or they just can’t keep their mouths shut. Actually I haven’t quite decided which yet.

The trouble was all this talking was getting in the way of the work I was supposed to be doing. All the bed making, flyposting, cake baking were being slowed down by all these people wanting to talk and tell me stuff.

It was last Friday that I decided to flip things and see if I could make these conversations into part of my work instead of a distraction from it. Maybe I should take the initiative.

On Saturday morning I was trying to catch up with some bed making in the gallery at Eastside Projects, a bed that should have been completed a couple of days earlier on the streets of Moseley. And it would have been if there had not been so much talking with the passers by.

See all of Bill's articles for the Birmingham Post here

So on Saturday morning, while chiseling my mortis and tenants, a family came into the gallery. Before they had a chance to start talking to me, I asked them if I could interview them. They looked somewhat bemused, but agreed.

The family consisted of the mum and dad and two daughters, one in her teens, the other under 10.

We sat on the chairs I had already set out for the knit & natter group that was meeting later in the afternoon. The interview was not going to be recorded. I had no plans to use whatever I learnt from or about this family.

My first question was aimed at the youngest. “What was the first thing you can remember?” The answer she gave involved the whole family and a visit to A & E.

I don’t know how long the interview went on for but it took various twists and turns. But all the time following a natural course.

Before the knit & natter group turned up I was able to get a couple more interviews done with other gallery visitors. Again these were not recorded and again they were very rewarding.

I’ve only ever interviewed one person before. That was Yoko Ono for The BBC. It was a total disaster. And totally boring.

What began in the morning as a vague idea, by the time I was on the train out of Moor Street to London that evening, was formulating into a very definite plan. Maybe these interviews should be an ongoing part of my world tour. Interviewing people from all and any walk of life in different cities and countries over the next 12 years.

I knew I didn’t want to document them in anyway. As in, I didn’t want to make a book out of them or use them as content for a website or radio programme.

But maybe I should offer the interviewee the opportunity to record or film the interview and they could use their documentation in whatever way they wanted, for a newspaper article, TV show, blog or anything. My only stipulation being the interviews would last forty minutes. If you haven’t gathered, I like the number forty – always written as a word, never just 40.

 

And before my train got into Marylebone, I wrote the following words to be used on one of my posters:

Forty Minute Interviews

You can be interviewed by Bill Drummond

You can be interviewed in private or public

You can reveal as much or as little of yourself as you choose

You can have the interview recorded or filmed

You can use the documentation in whatever way you choose.

You can respond to this offer by contacting admin@penkiln.com.

If you feel the need to be interviewed by me and for you to use that interview for whatever purpose, please contact me at the above email address.

We can do the interview at Eastside Projects or a place in the city of your choice, just as long as it is before the end of The 25 Paintings exhibition on June 14.

As for the forty flags on forty lampposts, I hope they are still fluttering in the spring breeze. If there is one outside your house please take a photo of it and send it to me.

And while you are at it you might want to visit the thread of conversation at Mumsnet, discussing the appearance of strange flags outside of houses in Birmingham: http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/_chat/a2055603-Weird-Flag-Outside-House

• Bill Drummond is writing a weekly column for The Birmingham Post as part of his three-month residency at Eastside Projects, Digbeth.