Seven new bus stops lining Birmingham’s busy Soho Road have been converted into art galleries to celebrate the area’s diverse communities and history.
China Plate Theatre artist Nilupa Yasmin has spent months working with local groups to create the dazzling displays for the bus stops along the National Express West Midlands number 74 route between Dudley and Birmingham.
Reflecting on how buses continued to run throughout lockdown, ensuring hundreds of thousands of key workers were able to get to work, On Our Way celebrates how, although the 74 route has barely changed, the people who use it and the buildings around it have. The pandemic experience is one episode in its long history.
On Our Way artist Nilupa Yasmin (right) chatting to Daniel Richards, the barber who runs Dallaz. His tools of the trade - the barber cape and scissors are a part of the design in the pilot bus stop gallery
The stained-glass style wrapping for each bus shelter tells a different story about the area and its people. These include collages created with the Soho Road Business Improvement District (BID) celebrating the range of independent businesses in the area and another, from the Black Heritage Walks Network, highlighting the civil rights struggles of Windrush generation bus workers.
Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), which is responsible for more than 5,000 bus shelters across the region, have worked with China Plate, Birmingham Hippodrome, Soho Road BID and National Express West Midlands to get the bus shelters wrapped with the designs.
The seven groups who designed the bus stops are:
On Our Way is presented as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival and supported with funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England and further backing from Birmingham City Council, Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), Garfield Weston Foundation, and TfWM.
Deborah Bonnique of Handsworth Association of Schools said: “We were very privileged to be involved in the On Our Way project. We pride ourselves on creating opportunities for our young people and local schools to participate in experiences that will leave a legacy within their community. These bus stops are definitely an excellent example of that and can be enjoyed by everyone.”
For further information on the project visit: https://tothestreets.co.uk/on-our-way/
Bob Balu of Soho Road BID said: “On Our Way has been a success for Soho Road, it has brought art, culture and much-needed rejuvenation to our busy and vibrant shopping district. The Soho Road BID worked closely on this project and welcomed that it accelerated the instalment of 11 brand new bus shelters at stops that desperately needed changing along the 74 bus route in our BID area.”
Nilupa Yasmin, artist curator of On Our Way said: “Soho Road is a road that has been a part of many generations. Many elements of art history document the changed landscapes around us and our mini bus stop galleries are telling you all the stories we heard and we want you to be a part of them too.”
Rakesh Soni and Arihant Parekh from Soho Road BID
Aksana Khan, associate producer of On Our Way said: “Residents joyfully remixed photos from Birmingham Museum Trust’s Picture Library with images on their phones, social media, and family albums. We hope that with these final results, the eye-catching designs will capture your attention when you’re walking past/waiting for the bus!”
Lead member of TfWM’s transport delivery committee Cllr Chaman Lal (Soho and Jewellery Quarter) said: “The community has come up with some fantastic ideas and designs and which, along with our partners, we were only too pleased to turn into these mini-art galleries on the bus shelters on Soho Road.
“They have really brightened up the street and will maybe make that wait for their bus a little more enjoyable for people and maybe encourage a few more to give the bus a go.”
Anita Bhalla, interim chair of GBSLEP said “This project has been supported through GBSLEP’s Cultural Action Zones (CAZ) pilot programme which aims to create thriving and dynamic places for everyone. We’ve provided grants which, along with other funding, are supporting the recovery of local businesses, cultural organisations and communities.
“It’s fantastic to see organisations coming together to co-create these bus shelter art works. The importance of making our local areas attractive cannot be underestimated as a catalyst for investment and instilling pride in place – a driver for our mission of driving inclusive economic growth in the region.”