On the 17th of July at Muthers Studio in Digbeth, Robert Horrocks will be presenting ‘Purple With Orange Sparkles.’ Three acts of vinyl playback, featuring the Black Sabbath albums Masters of Reality and Vol.4, complete with introductions, annotations, a stage set, lighting, and more. The event is the third in a series that marks the anniversaries of ‘Birmingham’s greatest band’. I was invited to Roberts’ house in Handsworth last week to find out more about this event and his plans for the future…
After a lunch of sausages from Eastwoods of Berkhamstead, Baked Beans and a slice of toast, I am in a front room in Handsworth. 400 metres away from where Black Sabbath’s guitarist Tony Iommi was born. Robert is in the middle of telling me a story of when he was given a metal object whist walking one Sunday afternoon in the backstreets of Deritend. Three figures approached him, and told him that it contained all the keys to the Birmingham Treasure. He immediately threw the object away for someone else to find. However, he says, all the clues to where the treasure is, are in this front room.
I look around this front room again. Not just an artists studio, but a full size cabinet of curiosities full of intricate sculpture, found objects and handcrafted posters. Shrines to Black Sabbath, who Robert insists are most important band who ever were are everywhere. Vinyl records hung on hooks with bulldog clips are fixed to the walls each representing rites and rituals. Slides, old photographs, newspaper clippings. Themes recur and form before my eyes. Tubes of purple poster paints and week old orange quarters used as ashtrays. And of course, the all-important amps and guitars.
To my right an old amplifier has been adapted into a shrine of Sabbathology, each fader representing the five members of the band. Robert has modified this into a sculpture depicting the five fingers of Newtown, Geezer, Tony, Ozzy, Bill, and the final fader being Aston 1968. On top of the amplifier/sculpture is a model of the Newtown Community Centre, where the band had their first practice of the song that would become the first track off their first album.
So many different treasures in this art gallery. Where to start if you want to locate the Birmingham Treasure? He references Kit Williams’ Masquerade, released in 1979, ‘a pictorial storybook which contains clues to the location of an 18 carat golden rabbit named Jack Hare, who seeks to carry a treasure from the Moon (a woman) to her love object, the Sun (a man). On reaching the Sun, Jack finds that he has lost the treasure, and the reader is left to discover its location.’
After this, we would go on another treasure hunt outside the house. Robert walked me around St Mary’s Church, the cathedral of the Industrial Revolution, being the resting place of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch, members of the Lunar Society of Birmingham. Also within the graveyard is the resting place of William McGregor, one of the founding members of the Football Association and Aston Villa. The graveyard is a superb place, awash with overgrown grass and weeds and canopied by drooping trees. Cruciforms smashed by fallen trees, each grave boasting unique design.
The intention was to retrieve an artefact for a piece of stage set for the Purple with Orange Sparkles event. It will be added to his collection in his studio to create and modify. A piece of stained glass with 12 purple and orange sections. Last Sunday, he saw this treasure outside a skip and offered the puzzled owners of the house to take it off their hands. Today it’s gone. Not round the back either. Not meant to be obviously. We head back to Robert’s house, momentarily tempted by a discarded suitcase at the turn into his road, decorated with purple and orange stripes…
‘Purple With Orange Sparkles’ presented by Robert Horrocks is three acts of vinyl playback, featuring the Black Sabbath albums Masters of Reality and Vol.4, complete with introductions, annotations, a stage set, lighting, and more. The event is the third in a series that marks the anniversaries of ‘Birmingham’s greatest band’, and will occur on Sunday 17 July, from 3pm-6pm, at Muthers Studio on 14 Rea Street , B5 6NL.
Licensed bar, free event, 50 seats and limited standing room on a first come first served basis with donations for show costs invited.