I’m really enjoying get out and about with my camera and exploring the world around me. The Instameets organised by Visit Birmingham are a great opportunity to do this. Last weekend I joined my third Instameet to photography the Hidden Spaces in Birmingham. This exciting Birmingham-based project is run by Associated Architects with the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Birmingham Post. It aims to share the secrets hidden behind the facades of Birmingham, educating people on its rich and diverse architectural heritage.
I had no idea which of Birmingham’s most unique, culturally and historically significant location shidden spaces we were going to be exploring and that made it all the more exciting. We met at the Old Municipal Bank on Broad Street, which is opposite the new Library of Birmingham. Stepping inside really was like stepping into the past you wouldn’t see a bank looking like this today. The Old Municipal Bank was set up in 1919 by Neville Chamberlain, Lord Mayor of Birmingham, at this time. It was the only municipal bank in the country and it enabled normal people to save and it was also used to raise money to aid World War I effort. It is one of Birmingham’s finest historic buildings.
We were given the rare opportunity to visit the vaults and safety deposit boxes in the basement of the bank.
Our next venue was the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square. It is a building that I always admire both during the day and at night. It was built in the 1920’s to commemorate the Birmingham people who died in the First World War. Further memorials have been added after the Second World War, and campaigns including Korea, Vietnam and the Falklands. On the exterior there are bronze figures, by local artist Albert Toft, which represent the Army, Navy, Air Force and Women’s Services. Inside there are three Art Deco panels, “Call”, “Front Line” and “Return”, by William Bloye, another local artist.
The final destination took us to a more sober place beneath the Birmingham Council House. In stark contrast to the opulence of the floors above ground, under Edmund Street lies a space that the public didn’t know about. Now this tiled, cold and damp warren is unused but during World War 2 this was an overspill mortuary for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The light wells, which are still visible in the pavements today, are the only link between the space and the outside world. I have to admit, as soon as I entered the space, I had an overwhelming sense of sickness in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t anticipating this reaction at all and if I hadn’t had it I would have spent longer photographing the space.
I enjoyed exploring more of Birmingham’s architecture and if you’re interested in doing the same there’s a Hidden Secrets full programme of events for 2015 which lasts through the month of June.
A collection of the images produced throughout the Instameets will be showcased from 27-29 November at the internationally acclaimed Ikon Gallery, in a first-of-its-kind pop-up exhibition. To check out all photos from this Instameet search #BrumMeetJune6 on Instagram.