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Project information

Sounding the River

In 2012 we celebrate our 50th birthday. To mark this, we are commissioning Birmingham born Jony Easterby - whose first experience of the arts was as an 8 year old at mac - to create Sounding the River, a series of bespoke art works that explore the River Rea as a key connecting point for Birmingham.

March 2012 - September 2012

Charity information: mac birmingham

mac birmingham logo
  • Need


    The River Rea, which flows alongside mac birmingham, is amongst the 'top 10 most polluted rivers' in the UK. The impact of urban life is taking its toll on our immediate environment, with various unwanted pollutants from the ubiquitous shopping trolleys to more toxic substances.

    We want to highlight the fact that reversing this is within our grasp and help artists to work with local residents and community groups to create a solution to conserve flora and fauna along the river's path.


    Working with a collective of artists & naturalists, we will run a series of practical & creative workshops to enable local residents to engage with the biodiversity of the Rea & help create habitat for riverside creatures. The project will culminate in an exciting night-time journey of sound, light & performance, flowing from mac into the further reaches of Cannon Hill Park. An innovative spectacle of discovery & adventure, the event will be suitable for people of all ages & backgrounds.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To create a greater understanding and awareness of the Rea, Birmingham's hidden river


    » Run workshops for local residents and community groups of all ages to teach them about biodiversity, flora and fauna
    » Help local residents take ownership of the problem surround urban diffuse pollution, and help find a solution which will reinvigorate the River Rea.

    What success will look like

    Success will be increased awareness of the hidden river & new support for mac's proposed programme of work on the themes of art and environment in Cannon Hill Park.

    Aim 2

    Stage a celebration of 50 years of art at mac birmingham over three nights in September 2012


    » A series of workshops for local people to create musical instruments made from natural and found objects to be used in the performance
    » Create opportunities for people to volunteer as part of the performances

    What success will look like

    Success will be welcoming over 4,000 people through our doors to share the experience, and by positive reviews in local papers, blogs and via social media.

  • Impact


    The project will engage new people with creative events as participants and audiences. We hope over the next five years to see our annual visitor figures grow from 850,000 people to over 1,000,000 next year.


    Lack of engagement: we have mitigated this by ensuring that details of this event will be disseminated widely, and that ticket prices are kept to a minimum.

    Weather: wet or excessively cold weather could hamper enjoyment of an open-air promenade performance. it's hard to deal with this, other than to say that in recent years September nights have been balmy and we're hoping for more of the same!


    Clearly we want to engage supporters of this project, to keep them up to speed with the creation of the work and to enable them to join in workshops if they so desire. We will maintain a dialogue with donors through regular emails and events for everyone to share progress.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £134,736

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £45,600 Artistic commissions A team of six artists working on this project for six months, leading workshops and creating new art
      £58,990 Production costs Health & safety, staffing, insurance, building access routes, etc
      £14,480 Communications & marketing Ensuring that local communities know about the event, and Birmingham's arts scene is celebrated
      £15,666 mac staff costs, and contingen Staff and on-costs, plus contingency

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    New Work Trust £10,000 Guaranteed
    PRS Foundation £5,000 Guaranteed
    Anonymous Supporter £50,000 Conditional
    Anonymous Trust £1,500 Guaranteed
  • Background


    mac birmingham is located 3 miles from Birmingham City Centre, on the edge of a Birmingham's most popular Green Flag park, Cannon Hill Park. The park encompasses open grassy spaces, tennis courts, formally-plannted flower beds, a wilderness meadow, and play and exercise areas.

    The River Rea runs under our front door and alongside the building in a culverted section, shortly before it disappears under the city of Birmingham. Many people do not know that Birmingham is built on a river.


    mac's local population is very mixed, with areas with indices of deprivation abutting onto housing stock used by students at the University of Birmingham. It's a very culturally diverse area - with pockets of severe deprivation and high unemployment alongside streets of relative affluence - and part of our plans is to find ways of ensuring that the diverse communities mix.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    We have a track record of providing a breadth and diversity of artistic and creative projects over the past 50 years, as well as strong links with our local community. mac birmingham has established links with key members of this artists collective, and has the skills and experience to mount a project of this length and complexity.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Dorothy Wilson

    Dorothy has been mac Birminghams chief executive for 20 years and is responsible for the overall running of the centre. Her knowledge is pivotal.

    Jony Easterby

    Jony is the lead artist and will co-ordinate the artistic team to ensure buy-in from the local community, with a magical celebration of mac at the end

Sounding the River R&D in Summer 2011

Sounding the River R&D in Summer 2011

When I lived in Birmingham, I often took my sons to mac and spent many happy hours there....a national beacon of excellence.

Sir Simon Rattle