Thursday May 23 2019



Village Art & Literature

Hidden treasures

Posted on October 20 2011 at 1:26:06 0 comments

Buses at the Transport Museum

Hopwood-based artist Paula Hamilton visits two exhibitions.

We moved to Hopwood from Solihull nine years ago because we wanted a change from living in suburbia. My husband had reservations – our country idyll should be near the motorway system, airport, railway station and shops with at least an acre of land. 

When we started looking for this unlikely property dream and discovered Alvechurch and its surrounding Green Belt it was so surprising that it became irresistible to us, and the two excellent pubs within walking distance of our new home proved to be a clincher. 

And I love it here, particularly the countryside which I frequently sketch, photograph and paint. 

But I am quite ashamed that I don’t know more about our shared local area. Here is an example: I have walked past the Transport Museum in Wythall many times while out with my dog, but until last month I had never been inside.

We decided to visit on the last main operating day of the season, which was also “Midland Red Day” – I didn’t have a clue, before visiting, that Midland Red was a bus company that manufactured red buses for 50 years.

There was no car parking at the Transport Museum so we were shuttled there from Wythall Green for free in an old double decker which was great and, of course, we sat on top in the front seat. 

The car park attendant joked that I might be the only woman at the show, which made me feel slightly nervous. Certainly most visitors were male but there were a few devoted female partners in evidence and quite a lot of kids – mostly young boys. I know the colloquial word for bird-watchers is “twitchers”, but I’m not sure what the word for bus enthusiasts is – there must be one!

My husband has a background in engineering and so was able to understand, and even lap up, the details of bus and coach engine components, which sounded like a strange and incomprehensible language. 

All the bus-twitchers, although a strange breed, were very friendly and wanted to share their enthusiasm and knowledge.  In the Heritage Lottery-funded Power Hall there was a lot of history – posters, models, memorabilia as well as many full-size buses and coaches and a Wolverhampton trolleybus.

There was also a lot of potential bus-related shopping to be had.  Passing quickly by the small “Ladies’ Stall” offering lavender-scented bath salts, we came to the extensive male area of videos, models and books where I was strangely tempted to buy a collection of toy-sized buses.

After a sandwich lunch in the retro café with jazzy melamine tables, I visited the ladies where there was an authentic full-length mirror asking: “Are you a credit to yourself and your job?’” Those were the days!

Before leaving we talked to John Matthews, a volunteer, who used to work at Yardley Wood Bus Garage and who explained that the Transport Museum has been going since 1977.

We admired the wonderful Alvis car and shiny collection of old Austins as we walked towards our bus, remarking that it is a surprisingly good afternoon out right on our doorstep. 

Unfortunately, if you want to visit the Transport Museum, you’ll have to wait until March 24, 2012 as the museum closes in the winter, but you can have a look at their website:

It is the beautiful countryside that we share, coupled with its proximity to the M42, that I found so compelling in the article entitled “The Concrete Waterfall” in last month’s Village.

The photographer George Benson, whose work was featured, had his pictures in an exhibition in the Artrix Arts Centre, Bromsgrove – a bit of hidden gem of a place. 

What I liked about this show from the first is that it announces: “This isn’t a project about how there used to be green fields here and now there’s a great, big, ugly motorway there.”

In a way, it would be too easy to do that. Instead the photographs allow the viewer to glimpse aspects of the motorway through the landscape – a shimmer of the metal roof of a car through brambles or the back of a motorway sign looking surreal on top of an embankment. 

I’m not normally a fan of conceptually-based art – and don’t know if this is the right category for this photography project – but I really loved the exhibition. Perhaps because we are local, I found poignancy in the work which turned it from being conceptual to being approachable and even touching. 

There is a beauty in the photographs as well as a sense of the surreal. This exhibition is really worth a look although it ends on November 6. But then, the Artrix is always worth a visit if you have an interest in the visual and performing arts.

With Christmas fast approaching I know there are a lot of interesting events coming up.  I’m looking forward to Barnt Green Art Group’s Exhibition and Bromsgrove Craft Market, neither of which I have attended before. I’m also off to London for a city vibe and to have a look at the Affordable Art Fair. 

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