In 1976 I was working on Broadside Magazine which printed stories that the mainstream media missed or misinterpreted and which also had a what’s on section. Through that I got to know the Community Development Project (CDP) in Saltley – a Home Office project that looked at the causes on inner city deprivation. They were looking for a photographer and at that time I was busy on the magazine so I recommended Nick Hedges who went on to take some great pictures for them in 1977.
By 1978 the CDP were planning their final reports and asked me if I wanted to design and produce them. This was the impetus for me to set up an agency called Sidelines – Broadside – Sidelines – it wasn’t my greatest naming idea. The CDP work took a while to get going and so my first work was for Handsworth Law Centre. Then when the CDP reports began landing in 1978 Derek Bishton joined me after leaving the Birmingham Post Mail where he had been Deputy Features Editor. We had Nick’s pictures but to do the reports justice we needed more so I shot the images in this book.
Text from introduction to my Café Royal Book published in 2019 which featured some of these images. It’s now out of print but you can see their current books here: Café Royal Books
Text continues below the gallery of images.
In 2012 David Parker, a researcher at Nottingham University who was brought up in nearby Washwood Heath found the CDP Reports and approached Nick and I and we ended up running a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) project called Saltley Stories based on our images. Amazingly we found many of the people who we photographed anonymously over thirty years before.
Of course times had changed and now it would not be so easy to photograph people on the street as people are more aware of how images can be used and want to know why you are taking pictures. And photographing children on the street without permission is frowned upon. During the HLF project I was running a photographic project with students from a local secondary school and was taking pictures of them from across the street when a car stopped and the driver shouted “why are you photographing children.” To be fair he was happy when I explained what we were doing and the school the students were from.
Saltley remains a vibrant community centred on Alum Rock Road on or near where these images were taken. The community is still made up of many people from the Mirpur region of Azad Kashmir in Pakistan many of whom were displaced by the building of the Mangla Dam in the area.
Brian Homer 2019