Artists. Dave Sherry. Rob Colbourne. Stuart Mugridge. Mathew Beckett.
Client. National Express Ltd
DPAP is an award winning public art strategy written and produced by EC Arts and commissioned by National Express Limited as part of the £15 million redevelopment of the Birmingham Coach Station.
The strategy primary objectives were to:
- fulfil local authority planning conditions through artistic intervention into the coach station boundary perimeter
- enhance the expected 1.6 million visitor experiences to the coach station (one of three major gateways to the city)
- engage the local community within the artistic and redevelopment process
The £450,000 strategy was majority funded by National Express with additional funding from The Arts Council England (£66,000), Birmingham City Council (£15,000) and Glenn Howells Architects (£5,000).
DPAP consists of three permanent public art commissions: ‘Boundary’ by Rob Colbourne and Stuart Mugridge, ‘A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’ by Dave Sherry and ‘A Short Film’ by Mat Beckett.
Consultation and partnership was integral to the success of this project, the project team worked closely with key local and national stakeholders including Birmingham City Council during the artistic and redevelopment process. DPAP strategy produced outcomes aligned with Local Authority regeneration aspirations and in 2009 National Express Limited and EC Arts were recognised for this work by winning a Jaguar Land Rover Arts & Business Award for specific community engagement and contribution to regeneration and sustainable growth.
The realisation of the two corporeal iconic artworks was the result of an in-depth, two-year research project in which all the artists involved looked closely at the historical and cultural traditions of the area, in order to produce innovative artworks that serve to symbolise and herald the importance of Digbeth Coach Station as a gateway to Birmingham.
Through artist collaboration and consultation with the local community, the projects design process was both guided and informed by the residents of Birmingham. Creating public art that truly encompasses and reflects the diverse nature of the city itself. The final installations serve to evoke a sense of place and pride within Birmingham’s residents, celebrating the cultural identity and rich heritage unique to Digbeth whilst the universality of the artwork also allows it to reach out and speak to new audiences.
Each year Birmingham Coach Station receives 1.6 million passengers through its gates. DPAP installations provide the area with a strong visual identity, creating a lasting impression of the city as innovative and progressive. The project was inspired by Birmingham’s Big City Plan and is a huge landmark for the future of the city centre’s regeneration and redevelopment. The collaborative artworks are testament to the creative and enterprising nature of the area, improving the aesthetic reputation of Birmingham by investing in the city’s art and culture.
Artists. Rob Colbourne and Stuart Mugridge
Boundary – the 623ft long fence which spans the perimeter of Digbeth Coach Station comprising of 320 steel panels varying in height from 7ft to 20ft is public art with both form and function.
Commissioned artists Rob Colbourne and Stuart Mugridge describe it as a ‘fencescape’ – in that is not ‘one object’ but an array of related features, or a landscape of relations. Individually the separate components of the fence provoke a sense of intrigue but as a whole it embodies all that the site is and was. It is not the object itself but the experience it provides that really reveals the aesthetic beauty of ’Boundary’.
The design concept for the fence was developed following extensive community engagement and historical research. The overarching theme taken from this process was one of ‘balance and flow’ – balancing the identity of the existing communities with the flow of visitors and changing landscape through regeneration. Echoing W & T Avery’s forms of a 19th century weighbridge the site, in effect, becomes a weighbridge as it is a place where people are loaded and offloaded – a place of transition and flow. Approaching the fence at some angles it appears solid, whilst at others gaps open up between the haunches, seemingly reacting to the movements of individuals as they walk around and change direction. The unidirectionality of the L plate haunches serve to create this sense of ‘motion parallax’, which in turn echoes the language of transportation, evoking symbols of travel and transition.
A Hundred Thousand Welcomes.
Artist. Dave Sherry
Design Team. Glenn Howells Architects, Irish Quarter Partnership and Central Signs
‘A Hundred Thousand Welcomes’ is the first iconic visual representation of the Irish Quarter in Birmingham. The artwork by artist Dave Sherry – a 10.7m by 7.5m is a fully recycled manmade composite installation produced by Central Signs.
Artist Dave Sherry, works with a range of artforms and exhibits his work in galleries around the world. The artists large scale text installation intends to give the passengers arriving at the coach station ‘the biggest possible Irish welcome’ to the city. The origin of the phrase ‘A hundred thousand welcomes’ is taken from the Gaelic saying ‘Cead mile failte’ and as the first thing that visitors will witness when entering Digbeth Coach Station the installation can be seen from various vantage points across Digbeth as well as a greeting to those returning to the city or arriving for the first time.
The concept was developed following extensive research and community consultation. The reddish brown colour featured on the background panel was chosen due to its connection with both the Irish rural landscape and the exposed brick buildings that typify Digbeth’s rich industry and Birmingham’s Industrial heritage as a whole.
The handwriting that appears on the installation is that of Digbeth resident Sister Sabina MBE who is known for her outstanding work with the homeless. Sister Sabina’s handwriting was selected following a community event to encourage members of the public to pen the phrase in their own writing. A Hundred Thousand Welcomes is both artist and community collaboration to create a landmark which encapsulates both the cultural history and vitality of the area.
Audiovisual Artist. Mat Beckett
Production team. Haroon Adil. Mohammed Atif. Sikander Najib. Mohammed Shoaib
‘Short Film’ – this short audio visual piece is the first documentary footage of public art process in Digbeth to enter the Birmingham archives, providing an incomparable record of this unique art project at the heart of Digbeth’s regeneration for years to come.
Audiovisual artist Mat Beckett worked with EC Arts and a group of young people from Aston, Birmingham to film the unique and energising developments of DPAP in a visual form. The group were sponsored by National Express in order to achieve their Silver Arts Award for the making of this film.
The film details the process of the Digbeth Public Art Project over the 2-year period including artist interviews, workshops and community events as well as the fabrication and installation of the artworks. The footage features a timelapse of the coach station build – which can also be viewed as a stand-alone piece – capturing the main part of the redevelopment. The film will become a permanent digital media installation within the coach station, increasing passenger awareness of the public art project whilst also providing visitors with an invaluable insight into the public art process.
The timelapse camera was positioned on the site for 1 year in order to document the construction and development process. Over 12 months the camera took 1 photo every 2 minuets, 30 photos per hour, 720 photos per day, 5,040 photos per week and 262,080 photos over the entire year as the coach station site was transformed each passing day and night.
Digbeth Public Art Project – Short film documenting the 18 months project, produced by EC-Arts, Directed and edited by Mathew Beckett.