17th January 2022

From City of Empire To City Of Diversity: The Story So Far

Sampad’s learning work has always connected the community of the West Midlands with the diverse heritage of the region but this year, we have embarked on our biggest educational project yet. The legacy of From City of Empire to City of Diversity: A Visual Journey (CoECoD), will carry on for generations, connecting the past to the future. This is the story of the project so far.

Working in partnership with Birmingham Archives, Library of Birmingham and University of Birmingham, CoECoD will be curated from The Dyche Collection, one of the most important photographic collections within Birmingham archives. The exhibition will document post-1945 migration and the contribution made by those who settled in the city and will be available to visit at The Library of Birmingham from March, in partnership with Birmingham 2022.

To widen and deepen the reach of the exhibition, a touring exhibit will be resident in community venues in Smethwick, Walsall, Dudley, Solihull, Moseley and University of Birmingham, with a varied event and talks programme.

To connect with young people, an educational programme began in 2021, with a summer school for children aged 7 – 11, discussing experiences of the people who came to Birmingham after WW2. The children’s ideas to promote engagement and understanding of this piece of history, was used to write a play which was shared on the last day.

In response to the question: Why would you like to do something like this again, children said:
“I get to learn new things about people.”
“I would because it was fun learning about the history of Birmingham.”

As well as the Summer school, a schools version of the main exhibition is currently touring to our 20 partner schools across Birmingham. We held a professional development day for teachers, ensuring colleagues had hands on experience of the activities they could take back to school. This, supported by comprehensive classroom resources, including oral histories, storytelling and an interactive map, has equipped teachers with the skills to confidently discuss the heritage of the people of Birmingham with thousands of young people.

At the launch of the schools exhibition, Robert Turner, Assistant Headteacher at Selly Park Girls School said:

“In response to the training provided by Sampad we’ve been able to introduce pupils to this wonderful collection. The pupils who have seen the exhibition have connected in their own way and their outcomes clearly demonstrate the passion that helped them produce their own artwork. It gives me joy to know that pupils are speaking to their parents,’ grandparents, and great-grandparents – finding out about stories that may have been lost.”

The culmination of the project will be the launch of the main exhibition in The Library of Birmingham in March. As part of the main exhibition, young people’s response to the photographs will be displayed alongside the originals, bringing the histories of the people of Birmingham into the present. We also have volunteers assisting with the archiving process, creating an opportunity to develop skills and learning around archive research and exhibition curation.

The digitization of the photograph archive will be available for all to access in the future, the perfect research and educational tool and an everlasting legacy of this project.

If you would like to get involved in the project, please get in touch. Otherwise, see you at an exhibition!