Our Commonwealth is a photography, film and oral history project that celebrates some of the many extraordinary people of Sandwell who give their time, energy, and support to help others in their community.
Participants from across Sandwell worked with photographer Anand Chhabra and filmmakers Lauren Hatchard and Joseph Potts to create this new exhibition of photographic portraits and two new films. The Living Memory Project team worked with each participant to record their own story and personal perspective on life. They were each asked to reflect upon aspects of belonging, identity and what community means to them. The participants were selected from over 60 nominations submitted by people across the borough.
The project also commissioned artists Ruth Turnbell, Caitriona Dunnett and Polar Bear (AKA Steven Camden) to lead led a series of creative workshops with community groups across the borough. They worked with the Dorothy Parkes Centre in Smethwick, St Micheal’s School in Rowley Regis, and the Yemeni Community Centre in West Bromwich.
The project is inspired by the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games that were staged in Birmingham across the West Midlands. It explores what our commonwealth might mean to us now and how it relates to our own lives and communities. We think that some of the real wealth of our communities is found in the myriad ways that so many people use their time and energy to help and support others and make our communities stronger and happier.
This project reflects the diverse borough and Sandwell. Many of our communities have strong heritage links with countries across the world and different parts of the United Kingdom, and some trace their roots back to the early days of the Black Country. The project includes people who have strong links to countries that are part of the Commonwealth, but it also acknowledges the contributions of people from many other countries including Ireland and Yemen.
The exhibition and films were shown at Tipton Library, The Dorothy Parkes Centre, Haden Hill House Museum, and Bearwood Community Hub.
Our Commonwealth has been generously funded by Sandwell Council and Arts Council England and is developed in partnership with The Living Memory Project and Sandwell Advocacy. It has been supported by Creative Black Country and Black Country Touring.