Today I though I would share with you where I like to take myself on an Artist Date. Okay, let’s back up because otherwise this post is going to land under some slightly unintentional google searches!
So, what is an Artist Date?
The idea comes from Julia Cameron’s text The Artist Way which aims to help someone recover their creative self. This isn’t just for people who specifically identify as an Artist or Creative person, its for everyone to bring more creativity into their lives and I absolutely love it. I also love a framework to well being which I know isn’t for everyone, but for me, it helps me to know where to start when knowing how to look after yourself can sometimes feel very daunting.
Exploring Birmingham through your senses
Taste: So this one is probably the easiest as Birmingham has so many amazing places to eat and explore all the amazing cuisines we have on offer to us in the city. When I was thinking about where to recommend for an Artist Date though, there was only one place that kept coming back to me: CanEat in Stirchley. I find real comfort in this lovely cafe - from the cosy decor to excellent and consistent coffee I find when I feel low or in need of rejuvenation I can usually find a piece of it here. Now just as a full disclosure, this place is popular in its now ‘trendy’ neighbourhood. You will probably find a Mum with a toddler, a WFH design person in brightly coloured clothes and a slightly louder than the rest 30-40 year old planning their next significant birthday with great enthusiasm. I know I can turn up in my favourite outfit, best make-up and excellent hair day or I can show up with beans on my jumper from yesterday, no make-up and a fresh new spot and I will feel just as comfortable. The menu is always excellent and I know I can curl up in the corner, flick through a copy of one of the well thumbed magazines and hide in the houseplants for a few hours to refill my taste sense to its max.
Smell: The Botanical Gardens in Birmingham is my favourite smell to recall. Not necessary because it is my favourite kind of smell (in truth its a bit musty and very humid) but because it is so vivid in my mind. The Gardens themselves are a little rustic, with the hot house always seeming to have work happening on it and yellow safety slip signs dotted around the walkways. You can spend an afternoon looking at all of the amazing specimens and botanical latin names but I will bet you a fiver you won’t remember them in a weeks time. You will remember the smells you encountered however and you have a little magic on your side, you might even time your trip with a day they cut the extensive lawns.
Sound: Whilst Birmingham has an array of wonderful music venues and lively music scene I decided to go with another very personal choice for this sense. As a young teen I would often get the train from New Street station to places around the country to see friends or back from university and would usually leave the platform via the alternative ‘B’ exit rather than follow the crowds up the escalators onto the main concourse. One day I noticed that the platforms went on quite a lot after the end of the roofed section and decided to walk along. From this vantage point I could hear all of the trains coming in to each platform and tune int the hurried bodies moving off each carriage as the busy commuter trains came in and out. For me, this sound is what city living is all about and I would encourage everyone to go and really listen for it next time they visit.
Touch: At the risk of sounding like Amelie, touch is actually quite a sneaky date to take yourself on and will be very personal to each of you. I decided to recommend the Rag Market because it is such an iconic place in Birmingham and without a specific textile project on the go, can be a place not many people tent to purposefully visit. Whilst some of the stall holders can be a little frosty, the amount of amazing fabrics and textures under this indoor market is truly exceptional - and you know no-one actually knows that those floral curtains you said you were making to the lady at stall B7 are in fact imaginary!
Sight: And my final recommendation for anyone to visit is Bournville village. This is where I went to primary school and I absolutely love going for a walk around all the houses. Although originally built by the Cadbury family and a large majority of properties still owned and rented out by the Bournville Village Trust, its actually the modern day occupants that I think make this area such a treat for your eyes. Whilst there are some funny quirks about the area (like the complete ban on alcohol and strict 4 colour restrictions on front door paint) I love looking at how the residents manage to distinguish their properties from each other whilst keeping themselves so inherently unified. There isn’t one particular shape of house or drive way or car model, but I like to spot one object in a person’s front garden and then count how many times I see it in others. For example, you could look for a particular kind of pansy (although pansy growing seems almost a competitive sport here) or an exact William Morris print for the curtains. Whatever you chose, have fun playing a real life eye spy game.