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Mohammed Ali and Ewan Fernie at Percy Shurmer Primary Academy Inside
Mohammed Ali and Ewan Fernie at Percy Shurmer Primary Academy Inside - Photo by Jas Sansi

Artist and Curator Mohammed Ali – Soul City Arts has created two new graffiti murals in the heart of Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath as part of the University of Birmingham's ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project.

Created through a five-week project with pupils from Montgomery Primary Academy, Sparkbrook and Percy Shurmer Academy, Balsall Heath, with a permanent mural appearing at each school, the project has encouraged these young people to ‘Tell Your OWN Story,’ remaking Birmingham’s uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage in the process and exploring video, poetry, manga and mural painting in a series of dynamic workshops.

The new murals tell the stories of the vibrant and diverse, communities of Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath featuring their unique narratives and local industrial history and allowing them to claim “a place in the story” (Antony & Cleopatra) of Birmingham’s pioneering Shakespeare heritage.

Mohammed Ali, Artist and Curator and founder of Soul City Arts said: “We are aiming to empower children to boldly express themselves and their stories in an increasingly polarised society. Let’s face it, our society isn’t one where ‘everything is for everybody’ and we need to make a head start with young children to confront the inequality we see around us today.”

Mohammed attended Montgomery Primary Academy himself. He went back to school with ‘Everything to Everybody’ to explore questions around exclusion and inequality as well as to raise awareness of Birmingham’s unique Shakespeare heritage and open it for all, including the children at these schools.

Professor Ewan Fernie, ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project Director said:“The collaboration with Mohammed and his team of artists has been a fantastic way to open up Birmingham’s Shakespeare collection with and for its young people. It was of the utmost importance to the founders of the world’s first great Shakespeare library in the city that Shakespeare’s plays include all sorts of people from Kings and Queens to clowns and gravediggers. Mohammed and Soul City Arts have taken that as a spur to imagine a truly inclusive city and it’s been amazing and instructive to see the children expressing and contributing their own stories, memories and experiences.

“The finished murals will leave a lasting legacy in Sparkbrook and Balsall Heath, bring Shakespeare back to life for contemporary Birmingham now.”

The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project is an ambitious celebration of one of the UK’s most important cultural assets: the Birmingham Shakespeare Memorial Library – not just the first great Shakespeare library in the world but also the only great Shakespeare collection which belongs to all the people of a city. 

A collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council, with funding contributed by National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands ‘Everything to Everybody’ will give this uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage back to people and communities across Birmingham.

To achieve this, ‘Everything to Everybody’ is working in conjunction with anchor institutions and grassroots organisations across Birmingham, supporting, inspiring and championing many brilliant projects such as Soul City Art’s Tell Your OWN Story.

For more information please email Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) or call on +44 (0)7966 311 409 or out of hours office number on +44 (0)7580 744943 or  Helen Annetts, PR on behalf of the ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project on +44 (0) 7779 026720.

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.

Everything to Everybody Project

Founded in 1864, Birmingham’s Shakespeare Memorial Library was the first great Shakespeare Library in the world.  Expressly established for all the citizens of the town, it helped win nineteenth-century Birmingham a reputation as a trailblazing modern city.  The ‘Everything to Everybody’ Project - an ambitious collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council - will recover this precious heritage for today.

Working in conjunction with anchor institutions and grassroots organisations across Birmingham, it will give the city’s uniquely democratic Shakespeare heritage back to the people. Supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and History West Midlands, this ambitious collaboration between the University of Birmingham and Birmingham City Council comprises a three-year, action-packed programme of community-facing activities which will climax in conjunction with the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

Soul City Arts

Soul City Arts creates powerful artistic encounters to transform people and place. Soul City Arts use the Arts to take audiences on a shared journey towards dialogue and understanding. Art is a catalyst for positive social change and empowering communities.

SCA was founded in 2008 by Mohammed Ali, an award-winning Birmingham-based artist who has travelled the world using the arts as a vehicle for social transformation.  He was awarded the ACE Diversity Award at the Southbank Awards in 2009 recognising his work taking art into the heart of communities, bringing together art with faith, identity and social change.

He has been commissioned to work internationally with leading galleries, festivals, arts centres and theatres engaging with audiences within the communities where they work, live and play.

He has worked extensively in places like Kuala Lumpur, Melbourne, New York and South Africa, but he is passionate about change in Birmingham, the city where he was born and raised. Mohammed has also ventured into the world of cultural archiving and heritage arts, and he is passionate about capturing and re-telling the untold stories of everyday people.

He is a trustee at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and an associate artist at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre.