A new link which will become a key pedestrian walkway and cycle route to help further connect Longbridge town centre has been opened to the public for the first time by Member of Parliament (MP) for Northfield, Gary Sambrook.
The link between the Town Centre and West Works sits on the site of a historically significant threshold in Longbridge’s famous automotive history, where unpainted cars known as ‘body in white’ were moved across the road from the former West Works factory to the paint shops.
The walkway, which was a former railway line through the car plant, has been inaccessible to the public for many years, and the route will make it easier for people to navigate Longbridge town centre by foot or by bike.
New public artworks which pay tribute to Longbridge’s storied history and enhance the key pedestrian and cycle path have also been installed.
Artist Stuart Whipps has created ‘Longbridge Colours’, a selection of five permanent steel barriers which create an attractive separation between the tunnel archways under the A38 bridge and the River Rea.
The designs incorporate a distinctive, large hounds-tooth pattern inspired by the upholstery of the 1979 Mini City which was manufactured at the famous West Works car plant.
Each piece has been sprayed in an array of vibrant colours which are synonymous with the cars manufactured in Longbridge, including Vermillion Red, Pageant Blue, Snapdragon Yellow and Java Green. The same spraying technique as was used by bodywork technicians at the original car plant was also used to spray the new artwork.
The commission has been jointly funded by Birmingham City Council and St. Modwen, commissioned by WERK with Xtraweld Services Ltd and Staffordshire Car Painters supporting the fabrication and installation process.
It is the final permanent works from Longbridge Public Art Project, a project that St. Modwen supported as part of the regeneration process, and engaged thousands of local people through participatory artist and community led activities including live audiences attending two light and arts festivals.
Over 64 regional, national and international artists created work alongside local people over a five year period in delivering this exemplar regeneration, contemporary art and community development project.
St. Modwen has done some great work, working with the council to create this new public path. The artwork in the underpass is a nice tribute to the work of the thousands of workers who once worked in Longbridge.
“Each piece of artwork is a different colour of those cars manufactured at Longbridge.
“I know I will certainly enjoy the new walkway when walking my dog on the weekend and I hope many local residents do as well.”Gary Sambrook MP
Longbridge has a famous automotive and industrial history and this new public artwork is a fantastic celebration of the innovation and craft of the work which was carried out here, and also the site’s importance and contribution to the UK’s social and economic outlook.
“The installation also has plenty of practical importance to the ongoing redevelopment of Longbridge Town centre by providing an attractive and enhanced pedestrian gateway and cycle route which hasn’t been accessible to the public for many years, and is a key part of our plans for connectivity throughout the area.
“We’re delighted to have worked with Stuart who has an immense knowledge and passion for the history of Longbridge, and this shines through in the quality of the artwork which has been created.”Rob Flavell, Senior Director for Regeneration in the Midlands and North at St. Modwen
This is fabulous news seeing the public walkway and underpass open and ready for use for the public. It creates a new safe walk route that has great lighting.
“The history around the different colours of paint on the artwork linking to the cars manufactured at the plant is a wonderful touch.”Cllr Debbie Clancy, Longbridge and West Heath Ward, Birmingham City Council
For more information about the ongoing redevelopment of Longbridge, go to: http://www.longbridgebirmingham.co.uk/