Photos & Projects

Beers & Cameras Birmingham – 24/03/18 – and, how we didn’t let the racists ruin our day…

A couple of weeks ago I met up with around 20 other photographers in the centre of Birmingham for a bit of a Beers & Cameras photowalk. We met some angry football fans, angry anti-racists and some full on racists on our travels. But our kinship was strong, so strong in fact that we gained an extra friend. Like a moth drawn to the light, whilst surrounded by hate a stranger saw the love in our group a latched on to it. We were happy to have him – we felt strength in our greater number! The love within our collective would not be quashed by a day of hatred on the mean streets of Birmingham!

All joking aside, you know that feeling when you make a plan that involves a lot of people on a certain date, and it turns out that said certain date just happens to be the date that something else is happening that has the potential to ruin your plans… that was the feeling I had in the few days running up to the 24th of March when a number of people messaged me to tell me that not one, but three marches were happening in the centre of Birmingham. Some sort of march of footballers demanding justice for the Birmingham pub bombings, a racist march, and in opposition to that, an anti-racist march.

Getting off the train at Snow Hill I didn’t notice anything untoward, it wasn’t until we reached our meeting place that we spotted a large group of ugly middle aged men with vile banners coming together outside the pub on the other side of the road to our meeting spot. We had a bit of a chat about the direction of our walk and decided that without knowing where said marches were happening, we had little choice but to just crack on with our day.

So after a coffee and a little session where I gave away prizes and film very kindly donated by the day’s sponsors Peak Design, Cosyspeed and Kodak Alaris (thanks guys), we started on our walk.

Walking from Cherry Reds cafe, the plan was to meander down New Street and meet by the big Waterstones. What we didn’t realise was that the justice march was planned for the exact time we were to hit New Street. Fortunately, they were walking in the opposite direction to us, but in the melee we all got separated. Not a problem, we were meeting at the end of the street by Waterstones… or at least we would be had that not been the meeting point for the large group of anti-racists who were gathered exactly where we had planned to meet.

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomography LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

At least these were the anti-racists. Being someone who thinks of racial prejudice as, you know, a bad thing, I did at least feel somewhat more of an affinity with the group. I was certainly comfortable hanging around them taking the odd photo whilst our group regrouped.

After a bit of confusion we found ourselves and made our way toward the markets, stopping briefly by some steps to reflect on our experiences so far. This was where our extra friend joined us. He saw cameras. He had a camera, so he joined in.

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

My favourite shot of the day – Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

The next meeting spot was decided as being about half an hour later by a Wagamama restaurant, the idea being we would meet there after having a bit of free shooting time wondering around the markets.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Richard looking angry (he wasn’t) – Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

Would you believe these plans were slightly scuppered by a police cordon that had been set up to stop people inadvertently walking head on in to the racist march?! Fortunately, our passage was granted thanks to one of our party sweet talking a police man.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP, Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

After a short wonder round the market I returned to a spot near the arranged meeting place to watch the racists walk past. It’s probably quite an obvious thing to say, but the whole experience left me cold. So much misplaced anger, hatred and ill informed solutions to misunderstood problems… The theme seemed to be removing an entire group of people from Birmingham, and then removing the UK from Europe… I didn’t take many photos of them. This one captures their deal.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

From there we sought out relative safety by wondering down to Digbeth. We were also acutely aware of the fact the most of the pubs in town weren’t serving booze to put the racists off.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

Digbeth had a bar, the bar was open, and the bar was good.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Sławek, Robert and Jezza – Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

Actually, before we found beer, we took the opportunity to wonder around the area. It’s a fairly run down part of Birmingham, but photographically is quite interesting.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

From here we strolled up towards the library.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

This particular part of the day was where we had our most eventful run in with a group of drunken racists. We happened to walk past a pub at the same time a group of them were leaving and walking in the same direction as us. Though very regular outbursts claiming that a certain deity was a “paedo”, (though amusingly it sounded like “peanut” through their slurs) they started asking us questions about what we were doing – I think a bunch of blokes with cameras made them paranoid.

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

Not long after, one of them slapped the front of my camera against my face as I was taking the above photo. Fortunately, they soon came across more of their mates and our parties went separate ways.

Beers & Cameras Birmingham

Leica MP Canon 50mm 1.4 and Kodak Tmax 400

From there, unfortunately, planned access to the roof of the library was scuppered by our tardiness (too much time in the pub). So we wondered back down to the train station where we went for a pizza and another drink or two.

B&C Birmingham - 24th March 2018

Lomo LC-A and Kodak Tmax 400

All in all, it was a good day. Racists aside, Birmingham makes for a great location for photography, not to mention the odd beer! I’m pretty pleased with a few of the above shots. Both Lomo LC-A and Leica MP/Canon 50mm 1.4 were loaded with Kodak Tmax 400, (kindly provided by Kodak Alaris) a film I’ve only shot with once before – it’s growing on me too! As, actually, is “street photography”… More to come on all of these subjects, I’m sure!

Thank again go out again to Peak Design, Cosyspeed and Kodak Alaris for chucking a few goodies our way.

One last note – it was really great to meet everyone – new faces and old alike! I do feel like I have lost track of everyone who came though. If you were there, and we’ve not spoken since drop me a note on twitter (or whatever). 

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Rob MacKillop
    April 15, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Good write-up, Hamish. I almost felt I was there, and the photos helped. It would be good if we could see some by your fellow photographers, if possible.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 15, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      More should be coming – cheers Rob!

  • Reply
    jeremy
    April 15, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    Excellent set of pictures Hamish. Thanks too for the narrative. It was a splendid day. I’d never wandered around Birmingham before and was pleasantly surprised at the variety of architecture and spaces.
    On top of that it was great to meet up with so many other film shooters. Chewing the fat with such good people was invigorating.

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 15, 2018 at 8:40 pm

      Thanks Jeremy – I’d agree, I think a repeat is in order at some stage!

  • Reply
    Francis.R
    April 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm

    I think both groups protesting are good persons: one side asking the government the common sense to check only the persons that need help and to abide as everybody to the law, and the other asking to citizens to be kind with the ones that we can help. Both alternatives can exist without stop to listening to the other group, perhaps both groups would agree that governments would not make tougher the situation in other countries originating the wars.
    For my part I would prefer to hang out with the photographers group, looks like it was a good time 😛 (except the part of the slap but perhaps people was angry because the anticipation of a confrontation)

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 15, 2018 at 8:38 pm

      Hmm, yes, I admire your objectivity, but the racists were chanting some very unpleasant things I wouldn’t want to repeat – certainly a little worse than not wishing sharia law to have a place in the uk… And the bit about the deity being a peadophile, that really is beyond defence. The chap that slapped the camera onto my face was at one point standing on a table shouting abusive things about muslims. As I say, based on how I have represented the people here, I can see why you would say that, but these were not good people!
      You’re right about one thing though – of all the groups, us photographers where the ones to hang out with!

  • Reply
    Martin Hugh Henley
    April 15, 2018 at 7:20 pm

    Excellent article, Hamish. That Canon lens is pretty good, and run-down areas are always “gold” as far as subject matter goes. Nice one, thanks!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 15, 2018 at 8:39 pm

      Cheers – yes, I am very much enjoying this Canon!

  • Reply
    Adam Laws
    April 15, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    Despite the vulgarity and the slightly grey day it’s always a pleasure to talk to like minded indivduals about a shared passion learning from each other.

    Thanks for arranging Hamish.

  • Reply
    Ian Gager
    April 17, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I had a great time thanks Hamish and I can’t wait for the next walk.
    Just getting out with a camera was a big deal for me, meeting a really nice group of people was an added bonus.
    Sorry I wasn’t able to react quickly enough to stop Mr Peanut bashing your face, I’m glad you didn’t get hurt. What a reprehensible bunch of idiots.
    Otherwise, it was most enjoyable and I’m trying to find something similar to do soon.
    Any suggestions appreciated!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 18, 2018 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Ian, did you see him do it? He was just being a dick, he wasn’t trying to hurt me, just get in my grill a bit I think. But yes. Dick.

      • Reply
        Ian Gager
        April 21, 2018 at 9:50 am

        Yes it happened in front of me. I watched him go over to you and as I realised he could be about to do something, he did.
        I felt bad for reacting too slowly to stop him but I know it would’ve escalated if I had. Drunk idiots can’t be reasoned with.
        Nevertheless, getting out with your group and a camera was really good for me and most enjoyable. I just wish I could do something like that regularly.

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 22, 2018 at 8:42 am

          Definitely no point in interacting with them – I regretted saying something to him afterward, there was just no point…
          Pleased you enjoyed the day – I had a cracker too! Will definitely be doing more!

  • Reply
    Mark
    April 17, 2018 at 5:33 pm

    Excellent images. If it is any consolation I have spent six months and nearly 70 rolls of film photographing pro and anti Catalan independence protests here in Barcelona. It is difficult sometimes to go out and take pictures without wanting to start screaming at everyone who puts their ideology above everything else.

  • Reply
    Tim Sewell
    April 17, 2018 at 8:36 pm

    Looks like great fun. It would be interesting to set one of these up in Brighton – or is it a copyrighted idea, Hamish?

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 18, 2018 at 8:41 pm

      You just have to speak to Juan at B&C – there are a couple of us doing them in the UK now, theres no cost or anything, you just have to work within his basic guidelines

  • Reply
    Paul Bullock
    April 20, 2018 at 8:34 pm

    Thoroughly enjoyed the day and the write up is a great summary both in images and words. Was great to meet many folk and great conversations were had, but I didn’t learn everyones names and keep seeing mentions by others of being there but can’t always connect the dots 🙂

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 22, 2018 at 8:43 am

      I’m having that problem too!

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