Teach me about Erdington

A month or so ago I was given a guided tour of Corby by James from the contemporary art organisation Fermyn Woods.

That the local government’s website has the tag line “Building a bigger, better, brighter Corby” might confirm your suspicions about this ex steel-working town. However, as we drove around the area, James was able to relate a non-stop series of facts, anecdotes, tales and legends about the landscape and the people who have lived and worked there.

I’m fascinated by how these stories get passed on. Some are experienced directly, others may be retold to make conversation between parent and child whilst out walking the dog. It sounds like the gamekeeper would be a good person to sit around a campfire with, too!

I grew up in the New Forest, and I’ve absorbed something of the stories of the kings, the ghostly nurses and the World War bombs. However, looking at the programme for the Still Walking festival has brought home to me how little I know about the city and culture of Birmingham – even though I have lived and worked here for […counts on fingers…] 15 years now.

I came here to study at university, and my experience of the city has been pretty much limited to the South West sector between Bristol and Alcester Roads. I’ve never been to Marston or Bordesley Greens; Perry Common remains a mystery to me; Handsworth and Nechells – places I’ve heard mention of on the news; Smethwick I would have to look up on a map…

I think this is why I’m intrigued by Kerrie Reading’s event Swanning Around Erdington.

Erdington High Street

Erdington High Street by megara_rp on Flickr

Kerrie has been meeting with Erdingtonites (Erdingtonians?) to pool their collective knowledge. Taking Erdington High Street as the starting point, Swanning Around Erdington will be a trail through people’s memories and thoughts about the town. Kerrie’s interested in how people and their collective stories help shape a place and Swanning Around Erdington forms part of a much larger body of research investigating how communities engage with their town/city. Buy your tickets for the family-friendly performance and a taster of the stories she’s gathered.

I originally started this post pondering “where is the local history?”, but I think maybe the question I really want to get at is how local history is transmitted and what micro-histories people want to share. I’m not so much getting at the sort of things that make it to the history books, but the more personal histories, the stuff that’s significant either on a local scale or maybe even to one or two people. Individual perspectives. Mass observation day diary type stuff.

So, here’s the challenge:
I know nothing about Erdington. I don’t think I have ever been there.
What can you tell me about Erdington – the Erdington you have experienced?

I’m now handing the comments section over to you… Teach me about Erdington, please!


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