The borough of Sandwell is taken over this June by the Blast Photo Festival, a series of exhibitions, screenings and talks that largely highlights the people and places of the West Midlands, with a particular focus on working class lives and community integration. The list of venues is pleasingly eclectic - alongside art galleries and libraries, the festival also invades Mad O’Rourke’s Pie Factory, Smethwick’s Red Cow pub and a number of indoor markets. Check out some highlights below.
A former Poundland in West Bromwich plays host to a very rare screening of photographer Martin Parr’s short film Mark Goes To Mongolia, focused on Black Country pigeon breeder Mark Evans and his journey to Mongolia, where pigeon racing is undertaken on a scale that even Mark is impressed by. Parr himself will be on hand to discuss his four year project Black Country Stories and the screening itself will be followed by a pigeon masterclass.
Visual artist Billy Dosanjh has made a career out of documenting the South Asian experience in the Black Country, often interspersed with cinematic references and featuring elaborate lighting and sets. To coincide with his new photographic piece The Exiles being featured at Smethwick Heritage Centre during Blast, Dosanjh will be chatting at Smethwick’s Red Cow pub about his wide body of work, as well as screening some unseen Super 8 footage from his collection.
American photographer Janine Wiedel has documented Black Panthers, eskimos and squatters across a long career, but a key part of her artistic CV is her document of the back-breaking world of West Midlands industry in the late 70s. This event will feature a screening of a short documentary about Wiedel called Camera In The Streets, with the artist herself on hand to chat with curator Craig Ashley about her time documenting the changing landscape of the Black Country.
Centrala Discussion Film Club
Birmingham’s Centrala art space has become a hugely important part of the city’s cinematic programme over the past few years as well as a beacon for the city’s Polish community. Now they bring their popular film club to West Bromwich central library for a screening of Piotr Stasik’s 2013 documentary A Diary Of A Journey, about Polish photographer Tadeusz Rolke and his lifelong mission to document postwar Poland and Germany.
Blast Photo Festival runs until Jun 29 across Sandwell.