Fierce Festival 2019 / Birmingham, UK / 15 – 20 October

I work in the arts in Birmingham (2): Bobbie Gardner

Name: Bobbie Gardner


What do you do? 

Musician, (Composer, Keys Player, DJ),  Project Management, Facilitator, Social Media facilitation for Education and the Arts.


Where are you based?

Birmingham, but work all over.


Who are your key collaborators (or who would you like to collaborate with)?

Kismet team – Rose Oliver; visual artist and curator, Ian Sergeant; arts administrator, curator extraordinaire, (made films back in the day in Brizzle), Saad Bashir – project management, wordsmith, journalist , Ross Cotton – (the future) music journalist, they are beautiful, driven people who inspire, feed and humour me, young people I teach and do workshops work with.

I’d like to work with Arvo Part and John Adams, two amazing composers, oh and Williard White – I met him when a kid singing in the CBSOYC. 


What keeps you working in Birmingham?

Love for my nuclear family.

The strong connections I have with my artistic family and arts organisations/schools.

I have forged national and international connections and am continuing to do so with inspiring creatives – social media is great for this. The rent is considerably cheaper here, for the £600 I was paying a month in the smoke, I had a tiny box in what became a rapidly gentrified area of Hackney and didn’t feel particularly safe. I now pay a lot less than this, in my abode I have space to rehearse, compose and practice capoeira moves, oh and a garden!


Is there anything about the city you find difficult in terms of what you’re trying to do?

I initially found it hard to connect with musicians, as in when trying to join bands, found the scene very male dominated, (which is not to say that this was down to a conspiracy by Birmingham based male musos to shut ladies out). However this is changing, I’ve found an amazing reggae band and am hoping to start an ensemble with some very talented ladies.

I used to struggle with people’s attitude to Birmingham; those who have never stepped foot here can be very opinionated, some (mainly Southerners) see Brum as the countryside/backwards. Brummies are quite humble and on the whole understated. I feel that  because we don’t blow our own trumpet we are overlooked by cities such as Bristol and Manchester.

Type into your search engine of choice “What’s On in Birmingham” and behold the results. The top websites that come up I think are pretty  dire, they read so corporate. Does it really assist tourists or people new to the city in finding the wealth of creative goodness here? A stronger online presence (or joined up one, as there are some great sites out there, CiBLiveBrum) can help artists connect with new audiences.

Signage – we need to work on this too, there is so much amazing stuff happening in Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter but not much work has been done to make this easily accessible.

Transport networks – wish there were more trains South Birmingham side (Moseley, Kings Heath). god bless the no. 50 route! If we could connect the city a bit better (and not make it extortionate in price) it might enable greater exploration of the city.


If you were trying to persuade someone to make a living in the arts in Birmingham what would you say?

Come! Check it out, the more the merrier, it would be great to have a influx of creatives, come take advantage of the great transport links, dive into a community of salt of the earth, friendly, artistic folk. The more creatives who reside here the more competitive it will make the artistic scene which would be really exciting!


What’s your next project?

I am working on all of these and sleeping a lot less:

1. March 17th -as part of Flatpack Festival, Kismet (based at club PST cafe space) will host a fantasy/spiritual themed space for those in need of a little respite in between events. We will be armed with seasonal herbal teas, freshly made cakes, mellowing incense, short films, and a sound and animation – created by myself, illustrator StinaJones and woven together by Leon Trimble.”

2. 30th/31st March world premiere of “Push and Pull” by Uchenna Dance Co. I have written the score for it.

3. Film project soundscape score to complete.

4. Film and music events for my promotion Rea River Soul in partnership with Mr. Sergeant, April, May and hopefully a biggie in June.

5. A personal composition project based on my hometown – and the different wards – inspired by Mr. Sufjan Stephens.