Nearly five years ago, a group of friends and I decided to take some initiative and create for ourselves the kind of organisation and event that we would most want to be a part of. The result is Project X Presents – a Birmingham based creative network producing events once or twice a year which aim to fuse many different strands of creative endeavour into one cohesive whole.
So what is a network anyway? In our case, a free association of individuals bonded by two essential qualities – an interest in creativity and a friendly, open minded attitude. We realised that between ourselves and our immediate friends we have between us a tremendous variety of interests and an urge to be together and be creative. Weekly meetings began and continue still, the network steadily grew. Our fifth event – Xhibition, comes up this Saturday in Moseley.
Something like Project X could happen and very probably is happening in many places around the world right now, as cultural change and the IT revolution put ever more power into the hands of us all. The fact that it is happening here is surely a good sign – one flowering amongst many to rise out of a rich bed of active and creative individuals and groups. The considerable diversity in both medium and content we’ve been able to manifest and the willingness to explore the boundaries of production and presentation suggest a very healthy grass roots level of creative practice and a varied and eclectic community.
The independent scene in Birmingham can seem very strong – colossal events like Drop Beats Not Bombs show how much energy and drive there is in the in the city, although Boogie Dave has been sounding frustrated in his communications lately and has mentioned last weeks’ event could be the last. Gigbeth is seen by many as an establishment based event, but closer to the real truth is that it relies on the dynamism and organisational skills of one person, Clare Edwards. Worrying then, that Clare isn’t planning another festival this year? At least Supersonic is going strong.
I wonder if there’s a bit of vacuum in the creative hierarchy of the city – which means when an organisation gets so far, its not immediately obvious where the support is at city level or the inroads to a national direction.
There is the traditional Arts Council funded route to consider – eg the successes of Friction Arts and Stans Cafe although that route isn’t going to be for everyone and creativity isn’t something that travels well on predetermined paths.
If the community and the Council really care about creativity, expression and community cohesion then how can it be that one of our best and most energetic venues – the Rainbow – is currently facing closure due to issues of noise abatement from the complaints of one person?
The City does try, but I’ve never been a big fan of ArtsFest – feeling it suffers from a lack of cohesion and direction that curation could bring. It has its place perhaps, but its not enough.
Perhaps our lack of cohesion is an inevitable product of the very diversity we celebrate. Perhaps the apparent lack of a clear, strong leadership at the city level in creative terms is in itself partly responsible for the relative strength of our independent scene? Perhaps I just need to go lay down for a bit!
Whatever is happening, or will happen, I’ve loved my time with Project X so far – its brought me into contact with a great many wonderful and talented people and for every difficult moment where it feels like an arduous labour of love, there are many more magic ones in which I sense – no, experience – our tremendous energy and appetite for progression, development, expression and fun.