A neglected and forgotten strip of land under the M5 motorway was transformed into a buzzing hive of creativity as part of MADE’s M5 Mile project. The project, funded by Creative Black Country, saw six local artists undertake a day long commission with a simple brief to respond to the site.

Diverse in their practice the artists were chosen to provide a varied programme of activities and arts forms alongside the canal and in the shadow of the iconic seven storey Chance Brothers Glassworks building.

The aim of the commission was to give the smallest of flavour of what a place which is ‘taken-over’ by creative communities may look like. The inspiring, yet often overlooked space under the M5 Motorway to the west of Spon Lane, Smethwick was temporarily enlivened and animated by the artists at work.  

The original concept for the M5 Mile came as part of a vision for a Black Country Garden City which MADE developed as an entry to the Wolfson Economics prize. MADE are now working with the Black Country LEP to deliver part of this vision.  

Before the event the site sat empty, save for the odd cyclist and dog walker, just like on any other day. This Saturday was different; artists Danny Griffin-Hayes, Nita Newman, Bryan Hancox, Jayne Murray, Fusion Dance Company and Samuel Rodgers all came to transform it.

Danny, a street artist pasted images of some of the most famous midlanders – and adopted brummies like Malala, onto the columns either side of the canal. Nita Newman’s work referenced the Chance Brothers Glassworks building and the recent campaign to save the building from the skip hire business operating from the site.  

Bryan Hancox spent the entire day sat at a desk between the canal junctions creating a bespoke animation about a troll who lived on the M5 Mile while artist Jayne Murray (pictured above) strung oversize bunting between the giant columns – exploring ideas of scale, shelter and trade. Six dancers from Fusion Dance Company animated the site through bespoke choreographed pieces and finally Samuel Rodgers developed an installation/durational performance working with field recordings gathered on-site and in its immediate vicinity.

The ambitious Black Country Garden City proposal between junctions 1 and 2 offers  an ‘edgy canal-side happening of shops, cafes and bars in shipping containers, performance areas, boat trips, skate-parks and other attractions, in the unique and stunning canal-side environment under the motorway’.

The one-day event was a fleeting curiosity, providing a snapshot of potential for the unused space. For those not lucky enough to be there an exhibition will take place later in 2016 and a film of the events will feature in the Flatpack Film Takeover at Sandwell Arts Festival in West Bromwich on Saturday 13 August.

The M5 Mile project is part of Creative Black Country’s Imagine That! season.


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