The festival has invited 40 artists, photographers and curators to showcase work, develop projects and collaborate with communities to present stories about everyday life. With exhibitions, film screenings, events, talks and walks across Sandwell, Blast! will be presented on the streets, the Metro line, in shops, libraries and pubs, on historic buildings and in the community halls and venues of Sandwell.
The festival takes place over six weeks in each of Sandwell’s six distinct towns: West Bromwich, Tipton, Rowley Regis, Oldbury, Smethwick and Wednesbury.
The Caravan Gallery / Sandwell Pride of Place Project
24 May – 29 June 2019. Open: 11am – 6pm, Wednesday to Saturday.
Former Poundland, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NW
Photographers Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale of The Caravan Gallery will turn the former Poundland shop (next to West Bromwich bus station) into an exhibition space and alternative ‘Visitor Information Centre’ for the duration of the Festival. The Sandwell Pride of Place Project is a dynamic, diverse and creative celebration of Sandwell and its communities, evolving daily as visitors add to the artwork on display, share stories and make their mark on ‘The People’s Map of Sandwell’. The Caravan Gallery will exhibit their own photographs of Sandwell and publish a set of unofficial visitor guides to the six towns, inspired by people’s responses to their Sandwell Surveys.
Black Country Living
24 May – 29 June. Public locations across Sandwell throughout the festival.
Black Country Living revisits the work of two photographers renowned for their portrayal of the industrial landscape in the West Midlands during the 70s and 80s. Presented across the six towns of Sandwell, the photography of John Myers and Janine Wiedel reflects a rich social history at a time of significant change and upheaval. As a divided Britain contemplates a future outside the EU, how will the changes brought about by Brexit impact on Sandwell, here at the heart of the nation? Curated by New Art West Midlands Director, Craig Ashley.
Girl Gaze: Journeys Through the Punjab & The Black Country, UK
24 May – 29 June 2019. Opening times: Wednesday – Saturday, 11am-4pm.
The British Muslim School, Latifiah Fultali Complex, Lodge Road, West Bromwich, B70 8NX
Girl Gaze is a photographic exploration of the Punjab and diaspora communities in the West Midlands through the voices of young girls and women. Bringing together newly-commissioned work by four women artists: Jocelyn Allen (UK), Jennifer Pattison (UK), Andrea Fernandes (India) and Uzma Mohsin (India), the exhibition explores diverse themes regarding gender, identity, patriarchy, tradition, culture, memory, place and the differences that shape the lives of women in both countries.
Erik Kessels: Comeback
24 May – 29 June 2019.
West Bromwich Town Hall, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 8DY. Open: Thursday: 1- 6pm, Friday: 10am – 6pm.
West Bromwich Indoor Market, Kings Square Shopping Centre, West Bromwich, B70 7NW. Open: Monday, Wednesday – Saturday: 9am – 5pm, Tuesday: 9am – 4pm.
Comeback is a two-part project by Dutch artist, Erik Kessels, which reappropriates photographic archives found through meeting community groups in the Sandwell area. Tipton Carnival Queens Shine Again will present images of former carnival beauty queens in an installation at West Bromwich Town Hall. Market Hall Turns Into Gallery presents images from Kessels’ own photographic collection placed onto the blinds of the West Bromwich Indoor Market; each image responds to the type of goods being sold in the market stall.
Jon Tonks: Stories of Home
24 May – 29 June 2019. Open: Wednesday – Saturday: 11am – 6pm.
Former Poundland shop, Unit 3, Kings Square Shopping Centre, High Street, West Bromwich, B70 7NN
Jon Tonks’ exhibition is a portrait of the Central and Eastern European communities living in Sandwell, home to the biggest Polish population in the UK. The photographs were taken during a two-year period against a 3 of 8 backdrop of divisive geopolitical rhetoric following the 2016 EU referendum. Thanks to their generosity, the project also reveals much about the cultural identity and hopes and fears for the future of each subject. The series explores a question that reaches beyond borders: what binds a community to make a place home?
Artist Talk & Film: Janine Wiedel
Friday 21 June, 1-3pm. Booking essential. £3 per person.
Former Poundland, West Bromwich. B70 7NN
A screening of Camera in the Streets, a documentary about Janine Wiedel’s work photographing industries in the West Midlands, followed by a discussion between Janine Wiedel and curator, Craig Ashley, as part of the Black Country Living exhibition.
The full festival programme can be viewed here.