Signal Failure at IKON Gallery
How to write about a city like Birmingham? Three authors discuss their recent attempts to read, reflect, and re-imagine the city through its people and pasts, its architecture, industrial history, and complex relationship with modes of transport.
Tom Jeffreys, author of 2017’s Signal Failure, approaches Birmingham as an outsider. For him, the city was a destination, the final stage of his unsuccessful attempt to walk from London along the proposed route of HS2, the controversial high-speed railway. In Birmingham, he meets with gallery directors and B&B owners, cheats by boarding a bus instead of walking, and gets laughed at by school children for looking like a tourist.
Both Honor Gavin and Chris Prendergast, however, were born in Birmingham. Gavin will be discussing her experimental 2014 novel, Midland, which was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize in 2015. Midland tells the stories of three young Birmingham women as they fight to find their feet amidst the accumulated rubble of the twentieth century. The book blends keenly observed dialect with urban theory to create a startling, anarchic history of the city.
Prendergast is the co-author (with poet Steven Camden) of Build and Destroy, an exploration of the Brummie psyche and the Bullring Shopping Centre. He is currently working on his second novel, Everything in Light of This, which is set in Birmingham during fictional riots.
Born in Birmingham in 1984, Honor Gavin is the author of Midland: A Novel Out of Time (Penned in the Margins, 2014), which was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize in 2015. Her most recent publication, Uncommon Building (Spirit Duplicator, 2017), documents a collaborative exercise in speculative fiction as a methodology for thinking about space, site, and the urban, while her current creative project, 'Never Was', is a crime fantasy about the comeback of a boyband that never existed that is also, simultaneously, an experiment in the possibility of a novel without a world.
Tom Jeffreys is a writer, editor and occasional curator with a particular interest in contemporary art that crosses over into the sciences or explores our relationship with the environment. His work has been published in, among others, Apollo, Frieze, Monocle, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, New Scientist, Cricinfo, and World of Interiors. Previous curatorial projects have included poet-led urban nature walks and exhibitions dedicated to the beauty of the mundane and the role of archives in our understanding of the natural world. Tom is also editor of The Learned Pig, an online magazine with four areas of interest: art, thinking, nature, writing.
Chris Prendergast was born in Birmingham in 1987. He is the author of Septembers (Salt) and Build and Destroy (Influx Press). Build and Destroy, co-authored with poet Steven Camden, is an exploration of the Brummie psyche and the Bullring Shopping Centre. He is currently working on his second novel, Everything in Light of This, which is set in Birmingham during fictional riots.