Words & pics by Ed King / Artwork by Void One
Birmingham is full of ideas. The city of a thousand social enterprise starts ups is never quiet for long, as a maelstrom of rhetoric fills the coffee shops and square foot homes from home of the city’s eager creatives. God knows I’m one. Birmingham Review was one. Most of my portfolio started at the end of a pot of filter coffee. And as the wheat, chaff and Arts Council do their merry little dance, the city’s event programmes and flyers stands ebb and flow, and ebb again.
(I should at this point apologise for all the ‘lost’ features we’ve never published, or the pages of our website that are not yet online. Watch out for our Lost Review anthology – coming out both in print and online.)
Birmingham Review first interviewed Harley Davies, founder of Beta Birmingham and Beta Test Records, back in May 2013 – after the home grown label released its stonkingly solid album of mash up and homage, Council Pop. The cream of a precarious crop, Council Pop grabbed me as a local release benchmark worth writing about, with the man behind as someone to keep in the ‘Safe Senders’ list.
But often simplicity shines through; simplicity, alongside the graft and address book it takes to deliver a project. Oh yeah, tenacity helps as well. And cash. And time.
So with at least three of those foundations in place, Harley Davies had another idea – one that taps into our city’s desire for art, free stuff and a mad dash around the city. No, not another riot-by-twitter – something all together more creative and constructive. And following on from the beautifully curated The Big Hoot project, it’s planning to “celebrate our vibrant art community, framed by some of the city’s most iconic, intriguing and even notorious locations.” Go on…
On Saturday 23rd April, armed with a treasure map and mobile broadband, the Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt will be swooping across the city centre. And it’s exactly what it sounds like. Let the numbers come, the pirate metaphors flow, and the slow loafer hipsters beware… the Captain’s got a canvas to catch.
Beta Birmingham is a local record label. And if you’ve never heard of a treasure hunt before, it’s where you hunt for treasure. Moving on. Beta Birmingham are using the streets of Birmingham city centre for their fast grab endeavour, hiding over 30 pieces of original art from a range of genre and artists. So far we’ve been told about illustration, photography and all sorts of mediums on canvas.
But with ‘why’ hovering on one shoulder, let’s quickly look at ‘how’. And again, the idea is simple. At 12noon on Saturday 23rd April, Beta Birmingham will release a map via their website and social media channels – showing a series of locations across the city centre where they have hidden ‘X Marks the Spot’ signs. Tried and tested, even Enid Blyton children can pick this one up.
Then once a successful ‘player’ finds an ‘X’, they take the ubiquitous selfie (apparently now the world’s new form of colloquial transaction) post it onto the Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt Facebook page, and tootle down to The Custard Factory Street Art Treasure Hunt HQ to collect their loot. Kind of like Thomas Crown meets Treasure Island, with a bit of Gumball Rally thrown in. Or Battle Royale, if you’re really ‘passionate’ about your art.
The ‘why’ is a little more colourful, no pun, and Birmingham Review will be following this story with an interview from Harley Davies – letting them man behind the project explain it in his own words.
But for now, I’ll throw in a starter for ten. According to the initial press release, the Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt is being held to “celebrate” the city’s “vibrant art community” – whilst also being a showcase for “artists who may not have exhibited before to showcase their work alongside some of Birmingham’s more recognised and infamous characters”. Sounds like a solid grant application.
But what arguably makes this project stand out, alongside the unashamed variety of art being presented and the veracity of Beta Birmingham’s previous endevours, is a big fat ‘F’ word. Fun.
“I can’t give too much away at this stage,” says Harley Davies, as Birmingham Review catches him for a greedy pre-interview soundbite, “but we’re hiding the Xs in some iconic, intriguing and even notorious places. There’s original work from a range of this city’s artists and infamous characters; we wanted the treasure map to be just as colourful and just as exciting. You should see this as a friendly day time mad dash, a pedestrian Gumball Rally style race for hidden art treasure.
And everywhere is accessible – free to get to and open to all ages. It was important that everyone could be involved in the event at every stage. The Street Art Treasure Hunt map will show players places in the city centre they might never have seen before, but would love to discover. There are places with food and drink in there too, but a packed lunch and trainers might not be a bad idea.”
And if it all sounds like too much of a foot based commitment, you can always head down The Custard Factory Street Art Treasure Hunt HQ on 23rd April and have a look at some of the pieces – as they wait patiently for their new owners to come and collect them. The ‘HQ’ is at the back of the lake, next to The Mockingbird Theatre & Bar – so it all goes horribly Pete Tong, and you find nowt on your hunt, you can still be a graciously sore loser. Or a full and tipsy one, at least.
But right now I’m off to sharpen my cutlass.
The Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt will take place across the city centre, from 12noon on Saturday 23rd April – with the supporting selected pieces on display at The Custard Factory from 10am.
All aspects of the Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt are free and open to all ages. For more information, visit www.betabirmingham.co.uk
Or visit the Beta Birmingham Street Art Treasure Hunt Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/864333440332012/permalink/904617286303627/