New Exhibition at National Trust property Birmingham Back to Backs – Moving Stories 

A new exhibition highlighting the parallels of residents who were moved out of back-to-back housing in the late 1960s and those being rehomed from tower blocks in Druids Heath as part of a regeneration programme, is opening at Birmingham Back to Backs 14 June.

Together with Artist Jayne Murray from Place Prospectors, who has worked with the community over the last three years to follow resident’s experiences of being rehoused from the tower blocks, this community co-curated exhibition – Moving Stories – shares the story of social housing and the experiences of those living through it. The work highlights the emotional, health & social impact of a large-scale regeneration programme.

Although many of the residents want the area to be improved and don’t want to live in overcrowded and rundown homes, they also want to remain in their area. The community they’ve built over many years – for some, since the 1960s – is like family; looking out for each other, helping them raise their children or getting the shopping. These residents have same mixed feelings felt by Birmingham Back to Backs residents as they were moved out of back-to-back housing almost 50 years ago.

Commenting on the exhibition, Isobel Grove, Senior Programming and Partnerships Officer at Birmingham Back to Backs said:

“The Birmingham Back to Backs have been telling the stories of working-class people, documenting their homes and life in the city for the past 20 years. The Birmingham Backs to Backs story ends in the late 60s, when these houses were deemed unfit for human habitation and residents were moved to tower blocks and social houses across the city.

“The current plans to regenerate Druids Heath represents the next phase in the history of social housing in Birmingham. Like the experiences of those in the 1960s, each resident has a unique perspective to share and we’re proud to be working with Place Prospects to help provide a platform for their stories to be shared.” 

Visitors will see visual artwork, contextual photographs and portraits of those who have been involved in the project. They can see and hear stories from residents such as Sandra, who moved to the estate in 1966 and has lived there ever since; Sue, who lived there for 41 years and was heartbroken at having to move; Ezekeil, who lived alone in a tower block for over a year, while being desperate to move somewhere with his children; Tamika, who advocated for a fair regeneration and for people to be treated with respect and Jean, who wanted to stay where she knew – to name but a few. The exhibition will be accompanied by a programme of events over the coming months.

Jayne Murray, from Place Prospectors, said of the exhibition:

“I am delighted to show the Moving Stories work at the National Trust’s Back to Backs. It’s a perfect fit. When you hear the stories of back-to-back housing there are many parallels with Druids Heath: the overcrowding, damp, cheaply built buildings and nowhere to move to, but also the community and sense of home.

“The exhibition aims to raise awareness about social housing, how valuable it is as part of our national picture and to encourage empathy for those currently being cleared from their homes, as the area is redeveloped.”

The exhibition opens Friday 14 June and runs until the end of December. It’s free to enter and visitors do not need to have been on a tour of the Back to Backs. Visitors don’t need to book to visit the exhibition, they can turn up on the day. Viewing times are Tuesday and Wednesday 1pm – 5pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sundays 10:30am – 5pm. The entrance to the exhibition space is via the second-hand bookshop, located on Hurst Street.

Photo by Ella Carman