Wholesale Memory

Digbeth-based Friction Arts is pleased to announce they have received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to undertake a project focused on the history of the Wholesale Market in central Birmingham.


Wholesale Memory will focus on the living memory history of the Wholesale market, and its accompanying Sunday bootsale market, collecting and preserving some of the myriad stories from Birmingham’s historic Smithfield market site, before it closes forever in early 2017.


A supporter of the project since its inception, Councillor Waseem Zaffar (Cabinet Member for Transparency, Openness & Equality) commented: “Birmingham’s early growth and subsequent development depended in no small part to the market. Birmingham’s markets have always reflected the diversity of the city, reflecting to tastes and cultures of the communities that have settled here. In recent years the Sunday morning Car Boot Sale has a particular significance for the city’s newly arrived communities as its 300 or so stalls offering many their first chance to trade locally.”


The project will focus on creating an archive of oral histories and other materials that will be made available to all online. Working with internationally acclaimed, Birmingham-based photographer, Dan Burwood, Wholesale Memory will be taking photographs of market traders and their stalls – some of the traders and their families have been at the markets for generations but have never had their photos taken on site, or shared their stories in this way.


Sandra Hall from Friction Arts said: “We are working closely with market traders and customers and a range of diverse community groups and individuals living in the area. The market is its own world, with its own rules and ways of working, and its own colourful characters. It’s important that this history and these stories get captured now, before the market makes its move; there is a danger these stories may be lost forever, if we do not act now.


Heritage workers, supported by a dedicated team of volunteers, will be interviewing traders, customers and some of the many other people that use and inhabit this unique space in the city.  They will record, film and transcribe their stories and find ways of sharing them back to the people of Birmingham, both online and through an exhibition at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which will tour heritage sites across Birmingham.


Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF West Midlands, commented: “We’re delighted that we can help Friction Arts to capture and save the memories of the Wholesale Market in Birmingham for future generations. Thanks to National Lottery players, people will be able to gain a better understanding of the rich heritage of the city by hearing the first-hand experiences of traders, customers and local people.”


Katie Moran, Project Manager for Wholesale Memory said “As the markets close for the last time we will celebrate and help to preserve this important place, ensuring it lives on in the collective memory of the people of Birmingham. We are looking for contributors and volunteers to help us with all aspects of the project - If you are interested in preserving our heritage at this crucial and unique point in our city’s development, please get in touch – we need to work together to retain our history, while there is still time to do so.


If you would like any further information regarding the project, or how you can get involved, please contact katie@frictionarts.com or call us on 0121 772 6160. 



All Images © Geoff Chambers