Downlow arts trail in Lozells: reggae band Siffa Sound System at Handsworth Carnival in 1983
Digbeth isn’t the only Birmingham neighbourhood where you will find vibrant street art.
These bold urban creations have transformed ten walls with untold stories, quotes and thought-provoking activism, with plans for more to be erected in coming years.
The stunning artworks featured in the community arts trail called Downlow celebrate important milestones in the neighbourhood.
The Windrush generation of nurses “who saved the NHS” are featured in Heathfield Road and Lozells Road.
Civil rights activist Muhammad Ali is also part of the showcase along with a vivid flowers mural commemorating lives lost during the ongoing pandemic.
Take a trip back to the Handsworth Carnival in 1983 for another artwork depicting a performance of reggae band Siffa Sound System, inspired by a photograph captured by renowned photographer Vanley Burke.
Additional artworks portray a young Muslim skater girl who consented to her likeness being recreated on a wall in George Street, and an African proverb illustrated on large letters on the same street.
Who has organised the Lozells community arts trail?
The murals have been designed by artist Bunny Bread as part of Gallery37, a city-wide three-year visual arts project helmed by community social empowerment organisation Saathi House.
It has been commissioned to “re-animate” and bring together local communities and encourage more physical exercise post-lockdown.
The artworks have been produced in partnership with The Active Wellbeing Society, Sport England and Punch.
Artist Bunny, who is also an established DJ and designer, collaborated on the community arts project with Jason Caballero and Simone Linton; who form creative group ‘Create Not Destroy’. The trio said their work reflects empowerment of the "ecosystem that lives within the community".
The artists also used the opportunity to also update murals previously created in Georges Park, working with local residents to spruce up a key recreational spot in the area.
The Downlow project also features interactive QR codes which visitors can scan on their phone to find out the full story behind each artwork.
What have the creators and organisers said about community arts trail Downlow?
Leading the mural trail launch at Georges Park on Saturday (October 23), during Black History Month, Bunny told residents it was “designed for distance! Street art is not just about Digbeth.
“The Commonwealth games is coming. When people come to Birmingham, I want people to be like ‘there’s some great art in Lozells too’.
“There’s economics to art. People will visit the murals and buy food, which will hopefully continue to invest in Lozells.”
Mashkura Begum, chair of Saathi House, said: “Creating public artworks that are local and accessible to our communities is incredibly important in north Birmingham, especially in areas such as Lozells, Handsworth, Perry Barr, Erdington and Aston.
“We want to ensure we work with talented artists from these communities to produce engaging art that reflects the stories and experiences of residents in these very neighbourhoods.
"We want this to be their opportunity, their space and essentially a representation of their voice, which often gets missed in the sphere of celebrated public art in this city.
“What Bunny Bread and his fellow artists are doing here is dynamic and exceptional, the impact of their work will transcend its original purpose."
What has the reaction to the Downlow project been so far?
Lozells ward councillor Waseem Zaffar, cabinet member for transport and the environment, said: “I was awestruck by the amazing work from Bunny Bread and his creative team.
“The murals they’ve created represent many untold stories from the community of Lozells and not only will all of these public artworks positively engage local residents but they will unite the diverse communities of Lozells, using arts as a vehicle for change.
"This is an incredible project. Thank you to everyone who has been involved, in particular Bunny Bread."
Lozells Police team attended the launch and commented: "Great to see more amazing work in Lozells adding vibrant murals that reflect the community, lovely to chat with Bunny and the passion behind his work."
Is there more to come?
As part of Birmingham’s Gallery37 creative development project "bridging multiple locations through participatory creative activities and social action", producers aim to “kickstart the creation of up to twenty new public artworks”; including an upcoming mural at Saathi House in Aston, celebrating local pride, with support from Aston Villa Football Club.
"Saathi House has worked to empower local communities struggling with access to active and artistic opportunities for over 40 years and we continue to do so. When they see these murals, it will inspire them in ways that will have a lasting impact. This is why this Gallery37 is so important,” added Mashkura.”
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