A Tour of Stirchley Island in association with Artefact.

This Saturday 1st at 11am I will be presenting a tour to support my booklet “Welcome To Stirchley Island”, which I wrote for the exhibition heralding the rebranding of the excellent P Cafe as Artefact. My booklet and accompanying postcards are featured as part of their current exhibition which opened last Saturday.

Artefact has been open as P Cafe since 2015, and has been a marvelous venue for damn good coffee, art exhibitions, an excellent poetry night and many other events since then. This year they have decided on a re-brand to make best use of their collective contacts bringing arts to the people of Birmingham and beyond, and were looking for artists to feature in their inaugural exhibition.

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I decided I’d produce a booklet for them, containing four or five stories on Stirchley, detailing walks, discoveries, thoughts and memories of that area. Indeed, on the lead up my writing of the book, I popped into The British Oak for a quick pint of Titanic Plum Porter (4.9%) and overheard a gentleman at the bar opining that Stirchley was in fact an island, and you would need to cross water to get through it. On putting this theory to the test, indeed, the gentleman was right, there are bridges everywhere around Stirchley, making it it’s own little people’s republic, cast aside from the big guns such as Cotteridge and King’s Heath.

This gave the booklet a name, “Welcome to Stirchley Island.” It was printed, and copies went on display for sale at the opening night last Saturday. I was asked by one of the Artefact collective, Jonathan Charles Graney to present a talk from my book in the following week. Me being a bit deaf, I thought he said tour, so I got my thinking hat on for a psychogeographical ramble around the areas featured in the book. On presenting my proposal to him, he finally got where I was coming from, and we decided to go ahead with a walk and talk.

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The event will start at 11am with an introduction to the tour and then and a presentation on the section entitled “The Legend of the Super Stirchley Island Generator.” This is as much as an introduction to my fascination of the links between of computer games and urban exploring as it is to you as it is to me. Seeing side-scrolling beat-em-ups in urban distopias such as Double Dragon and Final Fight in the late 80s and early 90s, I have already been intrigued by place in computer games, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to explore 3D worlds, connect with people and liberate islands in Rainbird’s Midwinter and it’s vast sequel Flames of Freedom.

 

Further exploration was to be had when I has given a Super Nintendo for Christmas in 1992. From the Mushroom Kingdom in the Super Mario series, I then went on to play on of the King (or Queen) of exploration games – being the world of Hyrule in the Legend of Zelda series. Here, the option to power up as seen in many games past was made more real by your character going into a shop and making a transaction with money that you have gained on your adventures. Hanging around the villages in these games has always been a favourite way for me to kill time, especially in later games such as Konami’s The Legend of the Mystical Ninja, where the player can engage with quizzes, horse racing and even arcade games within games.

After this brief presentation, I will then take the the guests outside and on to Hazelwell Road
to prepare  those going for a spot of “Mind Projection on the Stirchley Trading Estate” where I  will read from my booklet about my time packing frozen beefburgers into boxes at Canterbury Foods in the late 90s, which is now the site of the Birmingham Brewing Company. Guests will be invited to smell the smells of the defrosting meat and sweat, imagine the clang of machines and whirr of the fork-lift trucks of yesteryear, the incessant cigarette smoke and blazing sun of that summer.

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On from that the group will walk back where they came, back past Artefact Projects and left onto Ivy Road,  however, the group may have to make it the long way round past the contours of Stirchley Island (just past Balti Hut) if the entrance via Ivy Road has been sealed up. Whatever happens, the group will make their way onto the wasteland for a reading of “Welcome to Stirchley Island part 3” which details my discovery of a previously unseen wasteland around the back of the shops on Pershore Road.

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The area itself is a vast clearing, flanked by battered old brick walls intricately decorated by local graffiti artists in a shock of colours, and where wildlife springs from cracks in pavements, where buddliea is queen.  Here, the group can explore for about five minutes and take photos, before heading back to Artefact for a Q&A and to have the opportunity to purchase drinks, snacks and light refreshments.

The event should last around an hour and a half. If you want to come, there is no booking necessary, but do be in your seats promptly as spaces may be limited if there’s a high demand. Guests must wear comfortable clothing and should be advised there may be some climbing and rough terrain about.

The event is free, but donations are more than welcome. Copies of “Welcome To Stirchley Island” are available along with postcards especially created for the exhibition. Facebook event details are here…

Many thanks to Joseph Lilley at The Holodeck for his printing skills in the production of the book, and all the wonderful people at Artefact for their continuous support and hospitality.

The address? 1464 Pershore Rd, Birmingham B30 2NT.

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