Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024

Oozells Square has featured on my blog over the years.  The appearance of the pink blossom on the trees heralds the start of spring in Birmingham. The square becomes a riot of pink colour and is a magnet for photographers.  This year, the blossom has arrived very early by about 2 weeks.  The warm wet winter has enabled the blossom to flower at the beginning of March.  Whenever the blossom appears then people flock to the area especially at the weekends.  On a bright sunny Monday morning, I had the square to myself bar a few people passing through. The sun was low enough to catch some of the blossom with its rays producing lovely colours. As luck would have it a few people passed by dressed in pink which matched the blossom. Taking photographs in the square is very competitive as many people will arrive over the next few weeks to get a picture. People dress up specially and families bring picnics to sit out and admire the blossom. The IKON gallery is an ideal backdrop to the blossom.  Please feel free to visit my other posts on the blossom.

Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
The Sun catches people walking through the square.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
Standing under the blossom.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
Time to move on.
Oozells Square, Birmingham, March, 2024
The blossom will be around for the next few weeks.

The blossom story from over the last few years.

2023 – Birmingham Blossom Watch

2022 – Birmingham Blossom

2020 – Blossom in Oozells Square

2018 – Cherry blossom experiments

Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023

For the most part of the year, Oozells square in Birmingham is unremarkable.  The square is surrounded by office buildings on 3 sides and the IKON art gallery on another.  This latter building is a grand Victorian building which was formerly a boarding school.  There are several good restaurants in the square which have hosted family meals in the past. In spring, the square is transformed into a beautiful place by several rows of trees that burst into cherry blossom.  

Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023
The IKON gallery emerging from the blossom that surrounds the building.

The event is becoming more and more famous having been featured this year on the BBC News.  We went with the family to see the blossom and get the obligatory pictures.  Here Noah is reaching upwards mesmerised by the blossom.  Soon the green leaves will appear. Noah’s coat contrasts well with the pink.  

Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023
Noah reaching out towards the blossoms.
Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023
Lily, Noah and Chloë, my grandchildren with the blossom in the background.
Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023
Lily, Noah and Chloë, my grandchildren with the blossom and the IKON gallery in the background.

The event is enjoyed by all ages but as you see from the pictures, my grandchildren had a fantastic time seeing the cherry blossom. The BBC News item has made the blossom event famous at a National Level.

Cherry Blossom, Oozell's Square, Birmingham, March 2023
The IKON gallery with cherry blossom trees and admiring visitors.

Birmingham cherry blossoms draw spectators and photographers – BBC News March 2023
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-65043539


Here are some of my past entries on Oozell’s Square.

Birmingham Blossom
Blossom in Oozells’ Square
Birmingham Gems (3rd Edition)



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Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022

My next visits with #keytothecitybrum involved both a train station and a football ground. This is an account of my travels to two different venues.

New Street Train Station

Having passed through New Street Train station countless times, I wondered what surprise the key would provide.  The instructions were to go the end of platform one and announce your arrival at the door.   There was a wait as a prior party made the visit and then it was my turn.  There were two members of staff who took me down the stairs.  One of them, worked at the station but had never seen the underground tunnels.  We walked along an access tunnel and then we entered the area under the platforms.  Whilst you were allowed to take pictures along this access corridor, I was given strict instructions not to take pictures of the tunnels under the platforms.  These tunnels were originally used to connect with the Mailbox for mail delivery.  They are now used to deliver refreshments to the trains that pass through New Street. This was a good key location and gave access to a very interesting part of the City of Birmingham.

A trip to the Hawthorns

Taking part in the #keyofthecitybrum is not just about the places you visit. The key allows you to meet people who live and work in the West Midlands.  My journey with the key took me to the Hawthorns, the home of West Bromwich Albion Football club.  My key worked in the lock and when opened, the door led to a viewing platform where you could view the football stadium. The picture is of Leah who works in the WBA Club shop.  Leah opened the door to the ground and introduced me to the football club.  She and her colleague were good company.  We talked about her father who is a lifelong WBA football supporter.  In turn, I talked about my love of Manchester City.  Two of my boyhood heroes were Jeff Astle and Tony Brown even though they did not play for my beloved City.  I told Leah that I remember WBA winning the FA cup in 1968 as it was the year before City won the cup.  This stadium is a very friendly place and happens to be one of my favourite football grounds.  I just like the Hawthorns and thank you to “Key of the City Brum” for allowing me to visit once again.

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022
The Hawthorns, home to West Bromwich Albion

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival, 2022

Now that the #keytothecitybrum project is over, I can reveal my full journey around the sites. I have grouped them into themes whether I visited the sites on the same day or the story of the unlocking the venues were linked together by themes. The first Chapter was described earlier in my blog where I picked up my key and visited my first venue “Artfull Expression”.

This chapter covers the story of my visits to the IKON Gallery, Symphony Hall and Selfridges.

kon Gallery 

My second key venue took me to the IKON gallery.  When we arrived, the receptionist on the front desk gave us directions.  Our key opened a rather inconspicuous cupboard in the entrance hall.  Once opened there were the letters ‘Miss You’ lit up in Neon.  That was the surprise and I laughed out loud.  I loved the installation.  

Key to the City Brum, Fierce Festival,
Art work by Savage

My photo buddy, Nicky was convinced there was something else and looked for some form of opening beyond the cupboard space.  The reception staff were very knowledgeable and helpful, explaining that this neon letter writing was created by the artist Savage who had lifted the letters from Graffiti in the City of Birmingham.  I did return to the IKON gallery to see the “Made in Birmingham/Made in Sydney” exhibition as this was advertised during my visit.

Symphony Hall

I realise that the #keytothecityBrum is a large undertaking and that many people are going to descend on your location.  The Symphony Hall had placed an ornate box which the key opened.  Once inside there was a QR code to scan which linked to a YouTube channel. I understand that if you were lucky there were prizes to be gained but we were not winners.  

I was disillusioned with the venue as the Symphony Hall looked uninviting, and the box office personnel were not that interested in what was taking place.  Compared to the other venues, this was the most disappointing.  The success gained from this location was that we had used our key, opened the box and therefore another key location was done.  I left thinking that so much more could have been done and it was an opportunity missed.

Selfridges 

This was a fun door to open and Selfridges had put a lot of thought into what you would find.  The key gave you access to the music system in the menswear floor of Selfridges.  It was a bright yellow compartment with a bright yellow door.  Once inside you accessed a touch screen that allowed you to add your choice of music being played in the store.  My choice was “Whiskey in the Jar” by Thin Lizzy.  The bright yellow colours against the dark surrounds were a photographer’s dream and I had fun taking lots of pictures.  Well done Selfridges.  To oversee the music in the menswear department was an inspired choice.

My Journey with the Key
If you wish to review my journey then I have published all my visits on my blog as follows.


IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022

Amongst all the excitement along the colourful streets of Birmingham, there is another success story of the city taking place during the Commonwealth Games. Wandering over to Oozells square and there is a public art display that has the power to match the other artistic events that are taking place. The IKON gallery features an exhibition of the work of three artists: Yhonnie Scarce, Salote Tawale and Osman Yousefzada. The work is diverse yet integrated and visual. They come together on subjects that cover different themes. Having my camera with me was a real bonus as each art installation offers opportunities for picture taking. The exhibits are on the first floor and all three have the necessary space which allows you to appreciate them. The first room I entered contained The Need Breeder (2002) by Australian Aboriginal Artist, Yhonnie Scarce. Suspended from the ceiling were 600 glass droplets each having different shades of opacity. The installation was mesmerising with the light falling on the different shapes allowing a range of interpretations. What they represent is the crystallisation of the Australia desert following British Nuclear tests in the fifties. Together the glass droplets represent a nuclear explosion. Each droplet represents the death from nuclear tests. Powerful, moving and relevant in this present political climate.

IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022
The overall powerful view of the art work.

The next room had three video projections which spanned the room. The film that ran for around 9 minutes was put together by Osman Yousefyaza. Having met Osman at a Moseley Coffee house, I immediately felt a connection. Spaces of Transcendence (2022) is a film that was made in Pakistan and contains powerful moving images of rituals set against a captivating backdrop of the country. There were gestures and facial close ups that pulled me into the story without words. I found the throw of the cloth into the saucers containing colour water fascinating. The main characters in the film absorbed my intention. I can not work out if the film is on a loop as there was no introduction or end just a complete immersion in the imagery. I loved it.

IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022
Mixture of architecture and human shape.
IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022
Hand gestures and colours.

It was nearly closing time at the IKON when I came into the room with the instillation by Salote Tamale called YOU, ME, ME, YOU. There were three TV screens as distinct to Osman’s work which was projected on much larger screens. A continuous video was playing that darted from one theme to another. There were underwater pictures and then scenes in a tropical jungle. It was a different but refreshing approach to the presentation by Osman in the previous room. Slowly my eyes took notice of the decoration of the room and the recurring pattern. After a while it was this that started to demand my attention. The repeating colourful pattern needed to be photographed as you will see.

IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022
The TV monitors contrast with the vibrant background.
IKON Art Gallery, Birmingham, July 2022
Love those patterns!

The exhibition was excellent and I felt a sense of calm coming away from the IKON Gallery. The exhibition coincides the Birmingham 2022 games and there will be many people arriving into Birmingham from different places and cultures. The work of these three artists starts to unravel and re-ravel the different interactions of people around the world. Birmingham is privileged to be able to host this unique display of art at the IKON gallery.

My pictures of these artists work provide a simple snapshot of this moving visit and there is more information about each artist on the web.

Yhonnie Scarce
Osman Yousefzada
Salote Tawale

This links you to more information about the exhibition at the IKON.


Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham

Oozells square in the westside of Birmingham is unremarkable other than the IKON gallery which is on one side of the square. The IKON is a highly acclaimed contemporary art venue and when you have finished looking over the latest exhibits, take a well earned rest in Yorks coffee shop.  However in the months of March and April the square erupts with cherry blossom and becomes one of the most photographed squares in Birmingham.  I also took many photographs.  The square was featured in a BBC news and my photograph was included.  I have also added a few more of my own in this post.

Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A favourite reflection is produced around the water feature
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
the blossom turns and ordinary square into the extraordinary.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
A traditional view of the blossom with the IKON in the background.
Oozell's Square Blossom Birmingham
Another traditional view of the blossom in the square.

Further links include
The IKON gallery
Yorks Cafe

If you would like to see previous entries on this square then please visit
Blosson in Oozells Square
Cherry blossom experiments

Osman Selfridges Story

Selfridges is always on my list as a building to photograph. It has featured in many of my picture books over the years. I have even written a blog about the building which includes several of my pictures. The building is striking with the discs spread over an amorphous design. I love the building and it has come to be one of the iconic images of the City. I also like shopping in the store as the interior design is appealing but that is another story. If you want to know more, there are several good sources of information about the design and history of the architectural design.

Osman Selfridges Story
Sunset fire over Selfridges and look closely some discs are missing
Osman Selfridges Story
Missing disc highlighted by the sunrise

In 2020, problems with the attachment of the discs to the building began to surface and this is evident in my pictures. A decision was made by Selfridges to undertake the refurbishment and replacement of all the discs on the building. There are 15,000 discs and it will take some time to replace them. The original makers of the discs no longer exist and new constructors were required. The story may be followed up in the news media when in November 2020, the official reports of the replacement began.

It was during Lockdown #2 that scaffolding began to go up around the store. So as to protect the construction workers and the scaffolding, an eye-catching temporary skin has been put in place. The striking art structure is called “Infinity pattern 1” and is designed by Birmingham born artist and interdisciplinary designer, Osman Yousefzada. It is intended to be a “message of hope” to the people of Birmingham. The design was drawn up in conjunction with the IKON Gallery. The colours are striking and are best viewed in the sunlight which picks up the shades of red. The installation is temporary as the replacement of all the discs will be completed in time for the Commonwealth games in 2022. Therefore whilst it is on view, I encourage you to wander down to Birmingham and see Osman’s creation. The visit will be worthwhile.

These photographs show how Osman’s artwork interacts with the City and the people. The pictures tell the story of the loss of the discs, the placement of the scaffolding and the final structure. There is merchandise in the store that feature the Infinity Pattern 1 on them. The colours and the design pattern lend themselves to pictures and I like the picture with my daughter looking out over Birmingham with the Infinity Pattern 1 behind her.

Osman Selfridges Story
My daughter looks out over the street below.
Osman Selfridges Story
A favourite Birmingham viewpoint. This time with Osman’s Infinity Pattern 1.

I have included some web links for further reading
Birmingham Selfridges covered in huge artistic wrap
Osman Yousefzada at Selfridges Birmingham

Osman Selfridges Story
Examples of the various merchandise that can be brought designed with the Infinity Pattern 1

Every year this arguably unremarkable square bursts into a riot of colour which is provided by the blossom on the two rows of trees on either side of the square. I am being harsh about the square, as it does have the IKON gallery which is an imposing building at one end. The blossom and the white pebbles of the square are beautifully offset by the IKON gallery. This display only takes place for a few weeks of the year. It is enjoyable taking the pictures and my iPhone picture of the square was featured on the late night news.

Sunny morning in the square
Blossom
Trees
Tree shape
Great start to the day
A row of trees
Branches

The Birmingham Gems Calendar is back and I am fortunate to have one Photograph in this years Edition. I have secured the month of May and it is when the blossoms are in full riot. The Ikon Gallery provides the backdrop to the pink blossom. Thank you to all at Birminghamweare and all the other brilliant photographers. If you want to know more about Birmingham or just follow the site which includes great pictures of the City by people with passion then here is the link

BirminghamWeAre – a Community of Passion

Oozells Square is just off Brindley Place.  It is a relatively new square and has a faceless RSB bank on the south side with the elegant IKON gallery on the North side.  Either side are a couple of restaurants which have their charms and are enjoyable places to dine the night away. The square is pleasant and whilst not unique does showcase the IKON gallery rather well.  For a few weeks in April, the square comes into its own with Cherry Blossom.  The trees erupt in bright pink and it is an attractive sight.  The flowering attracts most photographers in the area and I happen to one of those photographers that waits for this moment.  This year I wanted to be different by experimenting with a range of in camera methods.  I used several techniques including Intentional Camera Movement, Zooming and Double Exposure.  As an added bonus my iPhone picture was featured in the BBC weather bulletin that evening.

The cherry blossom in Oozells Square. The only downside was the dull skies.

This was using a Zooming technique on a 200mm lens

A double exposure using the original photograph and a larger picture of the IKON tower

This is using an upward Intentional Camera Movement

Picture taken on my iPhone for BBC weatherwatchers

And it made the 6.30pm BBC weather bulletin as well.