Back in December we launched a Best Year Ever idea out into the world to celebrate the here and semi-immediate now, whilst acknowledging that this will be Impact Hub Birmingham’s final year. Moving through seasons of Best Intentions, Best Efforts and Best Wishes, we shifted thinking to this year’s efforts with a Mission Mondays meeting together earlier this month — and, despite not having much opportunity to communicate it at the time, it was really a transition I felt deeply in my gut. I know now is the time to make things happen. Now is the time to manifest ideas into reality, a time when being too scared to do it gets overridden by being too scared not to.

My personal intentions for this final year have all been around artists being able to make use of our space whilst it’s still here, in the heart of Digbeth, be that to host events, make and show work, meet other people, gain skills and resources they need etc. And this has felt, and continues to feel, really urgent as much change lies ahead for this district, beyond our departure. The reality is, I know that artists in and around the hub community will be some of those most affected by hub’s forthcoming closure, many of whom work-trade with us for membership, host and attend events for free at Open Project Night, and gain a sense of community here that is hard to come by.

I was lucky to gain crucial collective motivation, shared knowledge and creative space through mac’s Next Generation programme after I graduated, and whilst none of my intentions are exclusively considering young artists, I can see big holes in the resources and infrastructure artists need in this city, with initiatives such as Cannon Hill Collective, IdeasTap, somewhereto_ vital to the development of many of the generation of artists currently working tirelessly to make the creative landscape amazing here. Those resources are now no more, and funding is the reason, not because the need changed or lessened. If anything I can only see that need growing; deepening.

Whilst there is lots to celebrate happening across Birmingham, I think it’s going to take the best continued collective efforts of many to truly make Birmingham a place where artists can live and work sustainably and interdependently, where opportunity benefits individuals, families and communities more than institutions, where creativity transcends and challenges injustices that divide the city and prevent people’s participation in their places.

Here’s some of the things I’m personally working on this year, to manifest my best intentions as an artist myself in the city — keen to do what I can to lift other citizens and artists from all backgrounds up along with any steps I take towards developing my own opportunities.


Visual Arts Programming

This month we took part in Digbeth First Friday for the first time with the launch of the PMT Postcard Show curated by myself and Danni Ebanks-Ingram, celebrating the work of women — cis, trans, femmes and non-binary people (enby) — in the form of postcards. The show was totally open submission with over 100 cards arriving from around the world, with women making and contributing their own designs as part of the launch event too. I’m really keen to continue experimenting with how multi-purpose collaborative spaces like hub can be a home for the visual arts in particular, and help bring other people’s ideas into fruition throughout the year as part of our programming.

If there’s something you’d love to see or work on, just drop us a line: louise.byng@impacthub.net


Artists Mean Business Residency

To ‘mean business’ means “to be in earnest” — and it is this idea, along with exploring themes of work, value, money, power and commerce as artists that forms the purpose of the residency, taking place in one very colourful colour of the hub this month. It is also to test the hypothesis that artists need space, time, trust and resources to create and explore and think, and investigate the conditions for creativity to thrive. The 6 artists will present their findings in a group exhibition, launching on Friday 5th April, so join us from 6.30pm to find out more. Themes arising so far include places and spaces for creative work, complementary currency, DIY publishing and more. This work is supported by UnLtd, and has evolved from previous Creative Entrepreneurs Club sessions held at Open Project Night.


Brum Zine Fest

Rebooted last year after a 6 year zine-festival-shaped hole in Birmingham, Brum Zine Fest celebrates independent publishing and DIY making, bringing people together using zine approaches, methodologies and formats. Making this happen again this summer is one of my main priorities, with a focus on building and strengthening networks between makers and other zine organisers around the UK and further afield. Find out more about the festival’s objectives and outcomes here, and pencil Saturday 6th July 2019 in your diary…


Zine Library Prototypes

As part of TEDxBrum 2016 we organised a zine library pop-up at Birmingham Hippodrome, receiving around 100 zines from an open call for different perspectives in zine form. Since then these have mostly been hanging out in a plastic box at the hub, coming out for different events, or when someone wants to visit and make use of them. I’m desperate to make them more openly accessible and useful, and be able to properly open submissions for it as a working Brum Zine Library collection, and am excited to try some prototype models, working closely with Hannah Prentice from TIC. I’ve also received funding to visit Brooklyn Art Library and Barnard Library later this year to learn more from them about building a library made and directly contributed to by its users, as well as creative citizens from around the world.


Open Project Night

Pretty much all of my intentions got shared first at an Open Project Night, hosting a small meet-up or session to bring people together around an idea, such as those interested in zines, those interested in making their practice more sustainable etc. I’d love to welcome as many artists as possible to make use of Open Project Night, which happens every Monday night, as it’s totally free to use (you don’t need to be a member) and the space is so flexible that pretty much anything you can dream up could be possible here. Want to start a crit club? Host creative talks? Plan an exhibition? Come in and draw with some friends? Art book club? The space is here for you to use. You can register here or get in touch with me if you’d like to chat it through first over a cup of tea: louise.byng@impacthub.net


I’m deeply passionate about continuing to nurture Impact Hub Birmingham as a place for the city’s creativity to come alive until the very last day here, when the lights go off for the final time, and then further into our bold future vision for Civic Square.

Find out more about how artists fit into the wider Mission Birmingham here, and explore our Creative Resistance work here.