Birmingham, Culture

If you go down to the woods today…

you’re sure of a big surprise…If you go down to the park today, you’d better go in disguise!  Just kidding about the disguise, but you’ll definitely be in for a big surprise if you haven’t been to Stirchley Park recently.


You may have noticed a big black wooden box has appeared in a corner of Stirchley Park, which overlooks the car park for Stirchley Baths.  It’s actually a Camera Obscura, an ancient optical device which uses a natural optical phenomenon to flip the image upside-down.  Take a look through the hole in the side nearest the Stirchley Baths’ car park and see a whole new view of the park.

The project is the latest in a series from Stirchley-based duo, Hipkiss and Graney, who crowdfunded the cost of the materials to build this impressive large-scale, permanent camera obscura.  The Arts Council and University of Birmingham have also supported the project.

(This photo of the Dead Shrine is from Green Stirchley  over on Twitter)

Jonny and Dale

Who is responsible for this?

That would be Jonathan Graney and Dale Hipkiss, a visual arts duo who live and work in Stirchley, based out of Ingot Studios.  Through large-scale interactive installations, performances and workshops, Hipkiss and Graney explore ideas around collectivity, community and counter-movements, particularly focusing on political and environmental issues.

Using magical realism to bring these ideas to life, The Dead Shrines Project is Hipkiss and Graney’s latest work; a series of public sculptures scattered throughout the West Midlands.  The Shrines are designed to look out of place, like they’ve fallen from the sky into parks and high streets around the region.  Whilst Stirchley Park might be the location of their latest artwork, it’s the fourth instalment of the Dead Shrines Project, which has seen pieces installed at the Midlands Art Centre, Coventry Biennial of Contemporary Arts and Artefact Projects.

You can visit their website at

Moonlight Symposiums

Learn by moonlight

As part of The Dead Shires Project, there will be a series of workshops and free talks taking place over the month of June.  The workshops include learning to make your own camera obscura, personal shrines and masks – I’ll leave you to find out more about them until the booklet is released.

The free talks are being presented by a number of experts, including academics for the University of Birmingham, looking at everything from experiences of refugee camps to the influence of the media.  There’s also an interactive trading game which takes place on Sunday 16th June, which I’m really looking forward to.  It is worth noting that there will be limited space as the talks take place in a specific area of the park.

Free talks

  • History of Camera Obscura – Sunday 9th June, 6pm
  • Social Justice and Climate Catastrophe – Sunday 9th June, 8.30pm
  • What is the EU? – Sunday 16 June, 6pm
  • Accounts from Refugee Camps – Sunday 16th June, 7pm
  • Influence of the Media on Behaviour – Sunday 16th June, 7.30pm
  • Fair Trade Orange Trading Game – Sunday 16th June, 8.30pm
  • Political Myths vs Historical Evidence – Sunday 23rd June, 7.30pm
  • What is National Identity – Sunday 30th June, 7.30pm

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