Friday, 7 November 2014

Off-Topic: A Real Birmingham Family

This article is about a current controversy in Birmingham, the town where I live. I apologise to my local readers who must be sick of hearing about it by now. I'm sure that it will be of interest to my readers in other countries, and even in other parts of England.

On September 3rd 2013 Birmingham's new central library was finally opened after years of planning. At the same time it was announced that a statue would be placed in front of it to represent the typical Birmingham family. This project, entitled "A Real Birmingham Family", began in April 2011. Families throughout Birmingham were encouraged to apply to be the models for the statue. A total of 372 families applied, and a panel of experts finally made a selection. The winning family posed for the statue, which was sculpted by the Birmingham-born artist Gillian Wearing and unveiled on October 29th 2014.

Can anyone spot anything wrong with the statue?

Anyone who doesn't know the statue's background might think that it's a lesbian family. Not so. Emma and Roma Jones are two sisters, both single mothers, who live together with their sons, Shaye and Kyan. When they were initially selected it was a four-person family, but Emma became pregnant again, as shown in the statue, and now has a second son called Isaac.

I have no problems with the artistic value of the statue itself or the skills of Gillian Wearing. I've examined the statue close up, and it is truly an attractive piece of art. My problem is with what it is supposed to represent. Is this a typical Birmingham family? Is this how Birmingham wants to portray itself to the rest of the world? There have been countless complaints about the statue in comments left on news sites that have reported on its unveiling. The public is almost unanimously against it. Some call it a disgrace, a waste of taxpayers' money, while others call for it to be destroyed. If I thought I could get away with it I'd take a sledgehammer and smash it to pieces. Unfortunately I'm not brave enough, so I'll have to wait for someone else to do the job for me.

Gillian Wearing supports the subject of the statue in her quote included on the plaque. So this is, in her eyes, an acceptable alternative type of family? Two women who sleep with men that they hardly know, too dumb to use protection, unable to work and reliant on benefits, scrounging on our welfare state to bring up their children. What will happen to their sons? They'll follow the example of their mothers by going out and getting women pregnant, then abandoning them to live as single mothers. After all, that's what a Real Birmingham Family does, isn't it? The statue praises a level of modern delinquency that we should be ashamed of rather than presenting it as normal.

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