chapter  11
18 Pages

The Birmingham Surrealist Laboratory

Unlocking community and the avant-garde in a super-diverse city
WithSaskia Warren, Stephen Forcer

This chapter describes the overlooked heritage of the Birmingham Surrealist Movement in the context of contemporary Birmingham. It outlines an experimental project whereby the history and work of Birmingham Surrealism is introduced to communities who today live and work in Balsall Heath; the neighbourhood in which the original members collected, debated, played and produced avant-garde art. Multi-touch digital facilities were used at the Digital Humanities Hub, University of Birmingham, to test the ways in which Surrealism translates to multi-cultural community groups recruited from Balsall Heath. The project comprised two workshops that introduced Birmingham Surrealism, including Surrealist word games, interactive digital play with Surrealist images and a roundtable discussion on the legacy of Birmingham Surrealism. The chapter explains the following key themes that arose in the workshop discussions: everyday surrealism; cultural heritage and place-marketing; imagination and inclusion; and visibility and offence.