The Transfer Co-working space

Recently my lunches have got a lot more interesting.  Instragram-able even.  Not that I would expect people to get too excited by what I’m putting in my belly when I’m at work.  However, what it does represent is something very exciting happening in the way I work.

You see, over the past few months I have been co-working out of The Transfer, a co-working space within The Old Print Works on the Moseley Road in Balsall Heath.  Co-working involves pitching up in a shared office space to work for the day and paying a daily, weekly or monthly fee to do so.  It can be as flexible as you need it to be, which is so important for freelancers as work shifts and changes.  Here there is tea and coffee included, and a variety of spaces to nestle down.

You may know The Old Print Works through one of its many tenants – the cosy community Ort Café, the Artist led exhibition space at Ort Gallery or Sundragon Pottery.  Or perhaps you’ve been to one of the events here (monthly Muzikstan nights are highly recommended!).  It’s a work in progress as the community of freelancers, makers and creatives try to breathe new life into an old industrial building, but this is the vision…

If you haven’t yet explored the Old Print Works, we are an eclectic and growing bunch of makers, doers, designers, artists, musicians, teachers, dreamers, builders and thinkers, sharing our skills and art and creations with the community in an even more eclectic and exciting space. The Old Print Works is full of studios, galleries, spaces and surprises – both indoors and out.

For me, it’s a small haven, a cosy place to hide away and be productive which is right on my doorstep.  There are so many little hideaways here and it’s full of greenery.  Tea and coffee are on tap, and the sustainable ethos of the place means that there is a mish-mash of furniture and decor, giving it a really homely feel.  I’m even managing a weekly lunchtime swim across the road in Moseley Road Baths whilst I still can!

I’m not really one of the ‘doers or thinkers’ here, but I do enjoy being around people with a ‘can-do’ attitude to making the building viable and vibrant.  It’s very much what Balsall Heath is about.

Which is where my lunch comes into the equation.  Co-workers gather each lunchtime for a communal lunch, tucking into food prepared at home or bits and pieces grabbed from nearby shops (cheesy naan bread made in front of you in a tandoor oven at Kurdistan Mini Market anyone?).  In the Summer bits of fruit, veg and herbs are picked straight out of the garden at the back of the building.  Everyone contributes something and somehow the result is always greater than the sum of its parts.  It’s also a chance to get to know co-workers, catch up with each other and step away from the screen properly.  The upshot is that my time at the computer is far more productive, even if I feel like I’m being really indulgent by stopping for a sociable lunch.

So, given the option of staying at home trying to work, sitting in a café trying to make a Cappuccino last a few hours or coming to a dedicated, friendly and affordable co-working space I think it’s an obvious choice.  Come along for a free trial and see what you think.

#keepswimmingmrb

Anyone who has read the blog for a while will know that I’ve spent a chunk of the past ten years championing Moseley Road Baths, a Grade II* listed Edwardian Swimming Pool in inner city Brum.  It’s a spectacular building, full of marble flooring, stained glass, original tilework, huge steel arches and wooden panelling.  It houses old ‘slipper baths’ for washing, which were used up until 2004 and closed during my brief stint working on Reception in the building.  It even has a steam heated drying rack, a remnant from its former days when the public laundry was a busy and important amenity for the local community.

But really those bits are incidental.  What really makes the space so alive and vital is the way it embraces the local community.  It’s not just somewhere to swim, it’s a real community hub.  Many swimmers have been coming for decades.

The Friends of Moseley Road Baths wanted to capture this, so asked me to make a film as part of their ongoing collaboration with the World Monuments Fund, since Moseley Road Baths was listed on their 2016 Watch List.  The resulting film was used to kickstart a month long social media campaign to show some love for the building before the scheduled closure in Summer 2017.

If you need that again, here’s the deal…

  • Share online through words or images why you want to swim at Moseley Road Baths
  • Use #keepswimmingmrb – and #moseleyroadbaths if you can too!
  • Share the posts that are being put up by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths and spread the love!
Moseley Yoga want to #keepswimmingmrb

To see the results, head over to the group’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages.  And don’t forget to contribute and share!

Pool of Memories progress

35 pupils in four schools have now been part of creating a total of eight films about the history of Moseley Road Baths in Balsall Heath, all of which will eventually be added to our online archive of the building at www.poolofmemories.co.uk.

PoMP - Park Hill School

The Heritage Lottery Fund supported project, run by the Friends of Moseley Road Baths has involved pupils in researching the history of the building, taking a tour around the Baths, learning how to make films and conduct interviews, and then finally editing their interviews together into short films to be added to our archive.  Ever since I started making films in the community, back when I worked as a Receptionist at Moseley Road Baths it’s been my aim to get this lovely building celebrated more within the surrounding area.  We certainly seem to be achieving that!

PoMP - Park Hill SchoolPupils have really loved the tours and have asked some really great (and challenging!) questions about the building and how it was built and is maintained.  On several occasions I’ve seen pupils dashing up to parents and teachers to tell them all about the things that they’ve learnt.  Apologies if you’re one of those people who has been bombarded with trivia!  However, we know that young people are exactly the kind of ambassadors we need to ensure future generations enjoy the building.

PoMP - Percy Shurmer SchoolAll of the children have picked up on the film-making really quickly.  We’ve had some real giggles mucking around with the microphones and playing around in front of the camera!  We soon managed to form film crews with a Director, Sound Recordist, Camera Operator and Interviewer.  Many of our interviewees have commented on the professionalism of the group.

IMG_4461

All of the questions for the interviewees have been written by the pupils, who have shown a great level of maturity in their questions.  These budding young historians have really grasped the concept of oral history recording and its importance for helping people to understand the past and its relevance to us today.

PoMP Clifton Junior

The quality of the interviews has been excellent, with some really interesting stories coming out as a result of the groups asking such good questions.  We’ve learnt about the diving boards and drinks for a penny in the 1950s, competitive swimming in the 1960s, school trips to the Baths in the 1970s, someone almost having a baby in the pool in the 1980s and then in stories from more recent years we’ve learnt about the technical side of rebuilding the windows, what it’s like to work there, as well as hearing about the campaign work to keep the building open.

With five more school projects budgeted for over the course of the three year project I am now looking for other local schools who may wish to participate.  The project is aimed at Year 6 pupils, but can be tailored for other year groups.  The finished films are added to our archive, and many will appear on our online archive, www.poolofmemories.co.uk.  They will then be used as part of our exhibition work and will form the basis of an extensive drama project.  If you would like your school to be involved then you can contact us at memories@friendsofmrb.co.uk.

Here is an example of one of the films, created by Year 3 pupils at Clifton Junior School.

Pool of Memories at Anderton Park School

We’re now full speed ahead with the Friends of Moseley Baths’ Heritage Lottery Fund supported Pool of Memories project after months of planning and interviewing the public.  Last month I went into Anderton Park School and worked with eight Year 6 pupils, researching the history of the building, learning how to make films and then interviewing people with memories of the building.

Pupils at Moseley Road Baths

I had a huge amount of fun with the group, and it was especially exciting to see the enthusiasm for the building that the pupils developed over the course of the week.  The aim of the project, as well as teaching research, speaking and listening skills, technical film-making skills and interview techniques, was to instill a sense of ownership of the building in the pupils.  The upshot is that they can’t wait for it to reopen so that they can go swimming with friends.  They can also reel off a whole list of facts and figures about the building, particularly the boiler room, which is astounding!

We’ve now got two short films, edited down from almost an hour of interviews, which we showed to all of Year 6 at the end of the project. The reaction we got was great, and both pupils and teachers asked lots of questions and were interested in running the project again. It really is the case that Moseley Road Baths inspires and excites people of all ages and backgrounds.

Here are a few short films we made with the Flip which is the pupils talking about the project in their own words. The first is a rehearsal of the presentation that the pupils gave to the rest of the Year group. Enjoy and feel free to add your own thoughts on the project using the comments box below!

I’m starting projects at Clifton Junior School and Park Hill School in the next month… more news to follow on that soon!

What we did this week from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Ibrahim talks about the project from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Umar’s thoughts on the project from Rachel Gillies on Vimeo.

Moseley Road Baths

As you may or may not be aware, when I’m not making films I’m running around doing stuff with the rather lovely group that call ourselves the ‘Friends of Moseley Road Baths‘. As the Baths’ friends we highlight its current plight (open at half capacity with just one pool, in need of urgent repairs and with its future hanging in the balance), campaign for its future and importantly, help celebrate its past.

Pool of Memories Day

As part of that I worked with members of the group to make a successful funding application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a whopping great £48,000 for a ‘Pool of Memories‘ project!  I won’t go into huge detail about the project here as I’ve already spent the evening blogging, tweeting and mailing like crazy. However, I draw attention to it now as we have a rather exciting event coming up on Saturday 30th October.

It’s the Memories and Memorabilia Day and there’s loads of stuff going on, including a talk by the lovely people at Victoria Baths in Manchester, tours of the building, and yours truly interviewing people about their memories of the place.  We also have cake!

Come along and find out more about it!

Friends of Moseley Road Baths

I’ve been a member of Friends of Moseley Road Baths since 2006, and to my shame we’ve only just got round to putting up our own website. OK, that’s not strictly true – we’ve tinkered a bit with a MySpace page, we have a Facebook Group and we also launched the fantastic Virtual Tour last year which is packed full of photos, video and facts about the Grade II* listed building.  The Virtual Tour explores many places which are strictly off limits to the public at present.

So, it’s taken a while but eventually here is the official Friends of Moseley Road Baths website which will be a one-stop spot for information about the campaign, events such as the ‘Memories and Memorabilia Day’, our ‘Pool of Memories’ project and articles in the press, such as the recent news that the building has made the Victorian Society’s Most Endangered Building list again for the third year running.  In time as the project expands we hope to add more information, but in the meantime have a look and please get in touch with your thoughts and ideas!

Wonderful people

I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment that have got me quite excited. The kind of projects that make you want to shout from the rooftops about good people doing great things!

I’m currently completing an edit for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals Trust. I’ve been privileged to interview some great people who have spoken openly and frankly about the warmth, kindness, care and attention they have been given throughout their treatment. Whilst the media often portrays the NHS as a huge, unwieldy, impersonal organisation, it’s heartening, and absolutely vital, that these human stories illustrate just what a great service the NHS can provide. If you were one of the patients interviewed, thank you so much for sharing your story!

Another group of amazing, caring people are working away tirelessly at CATS, an organisation based in Balsall Heath which provides respite care for families of children with disabilities. It’s an absolutely vital service which the parents I met so eloquently described as making a world of difference, yet it currently operates on a shoestring, short-term budget. They provide a unique service, through one-to-one care, playscheme places for siblings and plenty of varied and exciting trips and activities!  I had a great time meeting parents and exploring the ThinkTank with the group!  The website, produced by the lovely people at Matrix Graphics is due to launch soon and the film will be added to the website soon after that – links to follow soon!

Be Yourself!

Girls in action

With only a few days to go until I get married, I’m running short on time to type out a much needed post about the absolutely fantastic Mediabox funded project with ‘Girls in Action’. It’s been a whirlwind of a project, with the weeks rushing by in a haze of planning, filming, editing and lots and lots of giggling! However, to give a bit of a taste here’s the press release. I’ll try and write more soon! Well done to Anisa, Sabriya, Hannan, Houaria, Maryam and Eaman for all of their hard work!

Be Yourself Birmingham, Urge Young Movie Makers

A world-premiere brought a touch of glamour to the Millennium Point ThinkTank Theatre last night as friends, family and excited fans were treated to a new film by six young Muslim Women from Sparkbrook, Birmingham. The fifteen minute short-film, Be Yourself, which stars and has been written and directed by members of the Girls in Action group, works to challenge stereotypes and combat prejudice.

Girls in Action was formed as part of the Balsall Heath extended schools programme, in April 2007, as a direct result of consultations with parents and young girls living in the area who wanted a safe and secure place to meet and the chance to develop new opportunities.

The Balsall Heath extended schools programme brings local schools and organisations together to provide young people with the opportunity to engage with new and exciting initiatives including healthy lifestyle projects, family learning programmes and after school clubs such as sports, arts and crafts and cookery classes.

“It has been great to be part of this media project and watch the group develop together,” said Alison Moore, Extended Schools Coordinator. “This film is a great example of the really positive impact schools can have on the community by providing extra opportunities for all.”

The premiere was brilliant and the whole night went so well. In the end, it was a wonderful opportunity for the girls to showcase all of their work and people commented about how impressed they were with the professional standard of the film.”

“Seeing the film on the big screen was a fantastic feeling,” said Houaria Mohammed, 18, one of the young women involved. “  It gave us the chance to show everyone what we have achieved and also give people an insight into our lives and experiences. As young Muslim women, people put us into pigeonholes and it’s about proving to people that we’re more than those religious stereotypes – we have a life with interests and ideas that are common to everyone. Plus, the after party was great!”

With research showing that extended schools are already benefiting the children and communities taking part, every school in England will offer extra services by 2010 ensuring that all communities can participate and benefit in this way. More information about extended services offered through schools can be found at www.direct.gov.uk/parents.

 

Written By Pat Awty
Geronimo Communications