Our Social Fabric (2022)

‘Our Social Fabric’ has seen the creation of a large tapestry in the empty Gala Pool space at Moseley Road Baths.

The tapestry boldly weaves together the stories and cultures from a diverse, dynamic neighbourhood, and showcases Moseley Road Baths as a Grade II* listed heritage and sporting venue as part of the Commonwealth Games programme. It has been created by women from Amal Creative, a local Yemeni women’s organisation, and visitors to Balsall Heath Second Saturdays in the Daily Thread textile studio in the Old Print Works.

Workshops in the community

Art Works commissioned artists Tia Parmar and Mahawa Keita, both graduates of BCU’s Textile BA programme, to deliver community workshops, using weaving, embroidery, crochet, beading and fabric painting to allow participants of all ages and levels of confidence to get involved.

I haven’t done this before, I watched my mum once, but I didn’t even know I could do this! I just love it, I want to take it home, take some beads home so I can finish it at home. I always wanted to do embroidery, I practiced at home, but I didn’t know I was this good! I really like embroidering now and it feels like my true passion!

Erin – 8 year old participant during a Balsall Heath Second Saturday workshop

As well as developing textile crafting skills, women at Amal Creative had opportunity to practice conversational English. Many of the Yemeni women are eager to develop their language skills and attend regular ESOL classes with their teacher, Miss Hussain. The project has supported this, through creating opportunity for the group to connect and converse with facilitators through the act of making and showing their existing skills.

I’ve always wanted to put back into the arts industry in Birmingham and I’m from this local area. To see that people from PoC backgrounds are getting involved in the arts, whether it’s their children or themselves is really nice. The fact that we’re able to provide that, it’s very special to me.

Tia Parmar – ‘Our Social Fabric’ textile artist

At the heart of the project was a desire to respond to the ideas and experiences of participants, giving opportunity for people to pursue approaches that felt right to them. Latifa from Amal Creative enjoyed developing her crochet skills to embellish materials. Mark, a founder member of the Friends of Moseley Road Baths, supported his brother, currently experiencing limited mobility and dexterity due to a head injury, to feed the needle through fabric in their cross-stitch contribution to the piece (read more about his story here!).

So often in community arts, the artist takes people’s ideas and then makes something and the engagement of people stops with the ideas. What we did was, we took people’s ideas and we encouraged them to make something of their ideas. The artist’s role is then to encourage them and talk to them about their ideas and to give them support in that making and then to sort of work to put it together into some sort of cohesive artefact at the end. And I think that’s what we’ve done here. Every one of those squares was done by a member of the community who can come in and point at it… and the artists put it together in a way that it can be looked at and celebrated by the community. For me, that’s what community art is.

Ted Ryan – Chair, Art Works

Unveiling the work at Moseley Road Baths

Tia Parmar and Mahawa Keita unveil the work to an audience of participants

The work was unveiled on 17th September 2022 during Birmingham Heritage Week. Participants and some of their grandchildren enjoyed a tour of the building, including the newly renovated First Floor Flat and Board Room, with Arabic translation for those who found it useful.

I’m very pleased to see the communities’ voice out. Their sentiments for this place and them seeing the work they’ve done as a community, all with different skills or with different textile skills. Saying how they feel about Moseley Road Baths, owning it, having that sense of belonging, taking pride in the the Baths, showing that they want to keep it.

Mahawa Keita – ‘Our Social Fabric’ Textile Artist

The piece is on permanent display in the empty Gala Pool at Moseley Road Baths whilst the building undergoes a £32.7m capital works programme. The Gala Pool is used for a broad range of activities, including exercise classes, children’s music and drama workshops, ESOL classes, drop in social events and one-off immersive events, from sound baths to silent discos.

It’s just wonderful to see our work and how it looks. It’s really, really exciting for us because when we were doing the work it was in smaller pieces, you don’t see the beauty of it, but now we can see how and it really looks amazing.

Sureiya Alahdal – Amal Creative

‘Our Social Fabric’ was funded by Birmingham City Council’s ‘Celebrating Communities’ fund for Balsall Heath West ward as part of Birmingham 2022 celebrations to welcome the Commonwealth Games to Birmingham.