Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Networking at the Fire Station Open Day

Open day at West Midlands Fire Station

The local fire station at Billesley recently had an Open Day and so I popped along not so much to queue to sit in the cockpit of a fire engine or have a beefburger (even though they smelt delicious) or ice cream but to do my own public relations. There were fire crews from all over the South of Birmingham attending so a great opportunity to talk collectively about the trends in the dumped burnt out car scene in the city and introduce myself and my art practice.

Bit of a queue to get in the fire engine

There has been a massive decline in dumped burnt out cars here in Birmingham which is a great success story for the local council and the brigade but it does nothing for the state of the local culture and art scene not to mention my livelihood. I’m sure I can’t blame this crisis on the credit crunch, no its far more intentional, conceived and controlled by the authorities than that. I have been actively involved in sourcing burnt out cars for my art practice for about 5 years and in the beginning I could drive around selected areas over a weekend or Monday morning and find a burnt car. Today I would find nothing because:


Access to the waste land and parks has been barricaded with large tree trunks or metal fences and gates.

  Any car burnt over night is towed away by first light, this avoids the blot on the landscape and the risk to health and the environment from the chemicals

The major benefit from the fast clean up has been hiding the results of vandalism from the vandals and therefore they have forgotten about doing the activity, they are no longer reminded of their conquests and it is therefore not in their consciousness and routine.

At this point I should point out that I notice I’m getting my terminology mixed up – a benefit for the community and environment is no good to me, but I’m sure you understand

My visit to the open day was aimed as a fact finding mission and a chance to make face to face contact and introduce myself to the people I speak to on the phone, to reassure them that this person who telephones them at 5am to 7:30am asking for details of burnt out cars is not some kind of nutter. I am also very aware that they do a very important and dangerous job and the last thing I want to do is get in the way. There are also various legal issues for me to consider primarily with data protection and because of the nature of the vandalism: crime, forensics and insurance claims.

Sceneof crime Kings Heath

I fell foul of the law one day in Kings Heath when I began climbing all over this vehicle only to be told that it was a scene of crime, my argument to police officer as he considered arresting me was that there wasn’t even high res tape let alone a sign around the vehicle, never the less in my eagerness to get snapping I should considered the situation more.

Art work for walls 028

Here’s a resulting photograph from that car.

Emergency Call at Billesley Fire Station

Even though the firestation is transformed into a theme park for the day there was still a contingency should someone dial 999 and sure enough as I was leaving the sirens started and a couple of appliances left with blue lights and sirens in full flow.


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