A Road Trip for Longbridge (cycle version)

The ford across the River Rea

Saturday 17th of May, 11am-4:00ish, free

What is it?

Radical psychoanalysts; a medieval corn mill; a stairless Paradise; and more hairdressing salons than you can shake a freshly-cut daffodil at.

A Road Trip for Longbridge starts and finishes with the regeneration works on Longbridge Lane but in between goes on a journey to a variety of locations in Hollymoor, Frankley, Rubery and Rednal that pose questions about ideas – and ideals – about the places we want to live in.

Part guided tour and part guided conversation, it is an invitation for you to share your stories about your experiences of community and the changes in the area.

Booking is not entirely necessary, but there’s a sign-up form here which would help Cycle South Brum immensely.

Where/when does it start and finish?

The tour starts and finishes at Austin Park – behind the new Bournville College building on Longbridge Lane. Go into the shared space area as if you were going to Sainsbury’s, then turn right in front of the hotel and pub. We’ll be the ones with the bikes in the corner!

Meeting point for the main ride at Austin Park

Please make sure you’re ready for a prompt 11am start. There are loos in the nearby Sainsbury’s supermarket if you need them beforehand.

There will also be a feeder ride for people who would prefer to start from Northfield. Meet Cycle South Brum at the multi use games area in the middle of Victoria Common. This group will leave at 10:30, so please make sure you are there and ready to depart by then.

Feeder ride from Northfield meets in the middle of Victoria Common for a prompt 10:30 departure

Is it far? Is it fast? Will I be able to keep up?

The route is about 10 miles long in total, but there are several stopping points, so you’ll not need to cycle more than a few miles at a time.

We’ll go at the pace of the slowest rider, waiting for everyone to catch up after uphill sections etc. We’ll also have a ‘Tail End Charlie’ whose job it will be to stay at the back of the group and make sure no-one gets left behind.

If you find you need to walk up a hill, that’s totally fine.

Will we be cycling on busy roads?

Yes. Although some of our route is on off-road cycle paths and National Cycle Route 5, the majority of the tour will be along roads – sometimes busy ones.

Because of this the tour is not suitable for children or for very novice riders. You don’t have to be a pro road racer with all the kit, but we do request that everyone taking part should be comfortable cycling on the road in amongst other traffic.

Will we stop for lunch? Do I need to bring anything with me?

There’ll be a lunch and toilet break at the Hollymoor Centre café. Please bring a lock so you can leave your bike outside and some money.

It would also be wise to bring some water to drink as we’re cycling around and of course clothing etc suitable to the weather (waterproof layers or sun protection, depending on which way it goes!).

There’s a chance for another loo break later in the day at Rubery.

Can I borrow a bike?

Cycle South Brum have a few cycles available for hire. You will need to arrange this with them in advance.

Will the tour still take place if it’s raining?

Yes …up to a point. If it’s drizzly we’ll still ride. If the weather’s shockingly bad we’ve pencilled in the next Saturday (24th of May) as a Plan B. Cancellation notices will be posted here.

I really want to take part, but I can’t do the bike ride. Is there an alternative?

Yes! We’re also running a minibus version of the Road Trip on Saturday the 26th of April. Places are limited, so you need to sign up here.
No, sorry, all the places for the minibus version have been taken!

I have another question!

Use the contact form and we’ll do our best to help.


Go get yourself signed up!


This event is supported by Cycle South Brum. Check out their website for information about bike hire, events and training.


These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit www.lpap.co.uk.

A Road Trip for Longbridge

Radical psychoanalysts; a medieval corn mill; a stairless Paradise; and more hairdressing salons than you can shake a freshly-cut daffodil at.

A Road Trip for Longbridge starts and finishes with the regeneration works on Longbridge Lane but in between goes on a journey to a variety of locations in Hollymoor, Frankley, Rubery and Rednal that pose questions about ideas – and ideals – about the places we want to live in.

Part guided tour and part guided conversation, it is an invitation for you to share your stories about your experiences of community and the changes in the area.

A Road Trip for Longbridge is available in two flavours: minibus and pedal-powered. Both events are free and start and finish at Austin Park (behind the new Bournville College building).

Minibus version, 26th of April, 2pm-4:30ish

Places are strictly limited, more details and sign up at

Also on the 26th of April there’s a Supper Club (includes a free meal) event 6-8pm at Longbridge Methodist church hall. Reserve your place here before the 21st of April.

Pedal-powered version, 17th of May, 11am-4:00ish

Run in partnership with Cycle South Brum. Sign up here. Bring a bike and meet us at Austin Park at 11 (or at Northfield Eco Centre at 10:30).


These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit www.lpap.co.uk.

Free Longbridge Art Service

Yesterday I joined forces with Hannah Hull to provide a special, for-one-day-only, free public art service for Longbridge as part of our commission for EC Arts.

We struck out down the Bristol Road and found a parade of shops that seem to have been passed by by all the regeneration efforts several hundred metres away and decided it would be nice to give them some attention.

We went into several of the shops introducing our art service and offering to provide creative services, be it drawing, painting, sculpture, performance or socially-engaged interventions.

After more or less discussion, some of the shopkeepers came to the conclusion that they were not in need of our services. We asked them to fill in an entry in our receipt book to certify that “no art is required today”.

For some, this was because they saw no need for any additional art in their life, or because they did not feel qualified to be able to make the decision themselves, instead asking us to return when other family members would be present.

For others, this was because they were more than capable of being self-sufficient in their art requirements. As soon as we introduced ourselves to the staff in the tattoo studio, one man immediately dashed out to a back room and returned with these paintings that he had done:

Next to him was sat a young woman sketching out a Jack-Nicholson-as-the-Joker portrait for what we think was going to be a calavera sugar skull.

We were quite envious of her pro pencil kit and putty rubber.

Of the 8 shops we visited, we ended up being commissioned for art services from 3 of them, and we had such an interesting conversation with a woman in a 4th that we were moved to make an uncommissioned artwork for her:

Next time you’re in a shop in Longbridge, have a think about the person serving you and wonder if they’re really a secret artist.

Of the official commissions we received, there was a strong signage theme. The man in the electronic cigarette shop is unhappy with his boring black front door and wants to paint it up so it’s more catchy.

We measured the door and then sketched out a few different approaches he might consider. Unfortunately we didn’t have much in the way of paint with us, but what we were able to do was set up a potential link with a student at Bournville College who’s interested in doing some graffiti-style work. We all thought this could be a nice pairing!

The man in the tool hire shop requested some designs for a mural on his outer side wall in a style not entirely dissimilar to the signs that could be seen around the shop counter. With added tool-based word play.

We suggested that this might be a bit sexist and sketched up a few variants on the theme that were more encompassing of other types of relationships and gender identity.

Perhaps our most successful commission was completed for Mandy in the convenience store. After a bit of a chat we discovered that she was quite frustrated at always having to direct customers towards the bread. Finding the milk often seems to be problematic too, but we really liked the signs she’d made for the fridges and so we decided to concentrate our efforts on bread wayfinding.

After checking how the sign could be hung from the ceiling, Hannah used her stencilling skills to put together a rather eye-catching three-tier bread sign.

We’re rather pleased with the results – here’s the sign being installed:

Hannah also took this rather nice portrait shot of our happy customer:

Bread, sign, portrait. Photo: Hannah Hull

All commissions were documented via report sheets detailing client details (name, age, ethnicity); description of art services provided; duration of art service; venue of art service and whether the art service made people happy.

We had a 100% success rate with that last one.

Art service recipients will also be entered into a free prize draw – more on that later…





These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit www.lpap.co.uk.

A Road Trip for Longbridge – dates announced

Austin Park, with Bournville College in the background.

I’ve been working with cultural planner Jenny Peevers to find a way to harness the Road Trip I’ve been developing as part of my Longbridge Public Art Project commission so that the conversations catalysed though it can be more effectively turned into actions.

As a result, we’ve linked two of the Road Trip events to two Supper Club meals that Jenny’s organised as part of a larger series.

Here’s how she describes the Supper Clubs:

…an exchange of food, stories and future possibilities. We bring the food, you bring the stories.

Through your stories we will map collective hopes and aspirations, getting more local voices heard as the new Longbridge grows.

So, on the 5th and 26th of April, you can spend the afternoon with me touring different corners of Longbridge and the surrounding areas looking for new angles on the theme of community, and then segue smoothly into a meal and some activities designed to identify what changes people would like to see taking place in Longbridge over the next few years.

Both events are free, but you will need to sign up in advance via these eventbrite pages (NB ticketing closes the Monday before each event so Jenny has time to prepare all the food!):

Road Trip + Supper Club combination, 5th of April, starting from Reaside Community Centre.

Road Trip + Supper Club combination, 26th of April, starting from Longbridge Methodist Church Hall.

For those of you who would like to take part in the Road Trip but not the Supper Club events, there is a Road Trip only taking place on the 29th of March. Sign up for your place on the minibus here.

Our conversation (although not necessarily the journey itself – check the sign-up pages for starting locations!) will start at Austin Park where the River Rea has been ‘realigned’ to look more natural. Our effect on our surroundings and our surroundings’ effect on us will be a recurring theme throughout the day.

Join us and add your feet and your voice.


These events are part of Longbridge Public Art Public (LPAP) conceived by EC Arts for and on behalf of Bournville College. For more information visit www.lpap.co.uk.

Tell me something about… Frankley Services and St Leonard’s Church

As part of my research for the A road trip for Longbridge guided tour, I’m keen to hear your stories, anecdotes and interesting facts about places on the route.

First up are two locations over Frankley way…

Frankley Services

Photo credit: Robert Soar

Apparently one of the oldest service stations of its kind (opened in 1966) Frankley Services must have seen some interesting things. Have you? Can you tell me about something that happened here?

St Leonard’s Church

St Leonard’s Church at Frankley – click through for location on Google maps…

A rural church a stone’s throw from Frankley Reservoir. I hear it’s really popular for weddings. Can you tell me anything about it, or perhaps describe why you chose to tie the knot there rather than anywhere else?


If you’ve got something to share, please add it to the comments for this blog post.

A road trip for Longbridge

As I mentioned recently, I’m one of a cohort of artists and other practitioners involved with the Longbridge Public Art Project (now with its own website).

Following those first explorations on foot, Colin Corke (vicar at St John the Baptist, former chaplain at the Longbridge car plant and general Austin/Rover aficionado) was kind enough to give me a motorised tour of the area.

We talked about communities, places to gather, places to get away to, landmarks, things that aren’t there and, yes, maybe a bit about cars too!

I found this a really eye-opening way to think about Longbridge and, as a result, I’ve decided that my main project for the residency will be to develop a guided tour taking in a selection of locations that relate to the themes of community, roots, travel and flows. A road trip for Longbridge.

I’m working with local residents and staff and students of Bournville College to pull together the content for the tour. See this post for my first request for stories about Frankley Services and/or St Leonard’s Church.

The draft route is currently weighing in at about 25 miles, so I think I’ll be researching mini-bus hire in the near future too!

Of sweat and shops: a project in Longbridge

I’m just getting started on a commission from E-C Arts as one of the cohort of artists contributing to their public art project in response to the regeneration in Longbridge, Birmingham.

This area has begun to see regenerational changes in the wake of the collapse of MG Rover and the demolition of most of the car manufacturing plant that previously dominated the landscape.

Map of a small section of Longbridge – the brown bits are mostly that colour in real life as former factory land waits to be built on

My brief is to investigate movement in and around the area so naturally I started off by going for a walk…

I mostly only have prior experience of the area from driving through it on the A38 (the big green road in the map above) so I took the opportunity to explore off to the East and experience different types of landscapes.

After being involved in the BMW Guggenheim Lab project in New York a few years ago, I’ve become increasingly interested in aspects of urbanism and, in particular, the ways in which design and planning decisions impact back on our experience of a place.

So the following day I returned wearing this:

A simple skin conductance meter, with GPS and logging modules

This is a device that measures Galvanic Skin Response:

A change in the ability of the skin to conduct electricity, caused by an emotional stimulus, such as fright.

If you experience a strong emotion such as fear, pain, curiosity or joy, this has an effect on micro amounts of sweat your skin produces and this can be measured by its effect on conductivity.

Those two velcro straps around my fingers are holding tin-foil electrodes against my skin. When I feel, for example, pain, this increases the amount of sweat on my skin and this means that electricity can move more easily between the two contacts. This difference can be detected by the small circuit and this in turn is logged by a small computer chip (an Arduino).

I’m interested in how this effect varies as a move around a place, so I also added in a GPS module so I can log my position. I’ve never done this myself before, but I once took part in a bio-mapping workshop led by Christian Nold where he did much the same thing, so I thought it might give some interesting results.

On Sunday I walked for a couple of hours, seeking different types of space: the residential area of Austin Village and the tower blocks; busy roads and junctions, road crossings, car parks and a small section of cycle path.

As I walked I tried to pay attention to being wherever I was. You know how, quite often we filter out a lot of what’s going on around us as we move between A and B? Well I tried not to do that.

When I got home I mapped the data according to the GPS co-ordinates and colour-coded it according to the Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) data. Lighter colours relate to greater skin conductance. Triangles show the direction of movement.

There’s a lot of ‘noise’ because of the nature of the equipment and also because my hand wasn’t being held entirely still, but here’s the bit where I was walking around Austin Village and decided to explore down an alleyway (the spur to the right). Halfway down the alleyway a man came out of a side gate to unload his car, causing me to startle.

Walking from the top of the image, feeling quite relaxed, then turning left (right as you look at the image) down an unknown alleyway

Here is an overview of all of the data:

Galvanic Skin Response and GPS data combined into a map

Can you guess at what types of space I was walking through at each point, and how I was feeling in response to my immediate environment?

Launch event ride to Longbridge

As part of the launch event for Ride (Birmingham – York) on Saturday the 14th of September, I will be cycling between Cannon Hill Park and the Bournville College campus at Longbridge.

As I cycle I will be collecting data and sending it to a sculpture in Bournville College. This data will then be ‘played back’ by the sculpture during the main launch event.

If you would like to join me on this leisurely 7 mile ride, read on…

The Logistics

The ride will be led by BikeRight! West Midlands who are very kindly supporting the event as part of the Smart Network, Smarter Choices project

All are welcome – we’ll go at the pace of the slowest rider and there will be people making sure no-one gets left behind.

Meet near the bandstand in Cannon Hill Park for 9:30am. Click on the image above to view on Open Street Map. There will be Park Run happening at the same time, so please ensure you give yourself plenty of time and please be mindful of the other people using the park.

You must be riding a road-worthy cycle in order to join the ride, as well as taking responsibility for the safety of yourself and others around you (through considerate behaviour and following the rules of the road).

BikeRight! staff will be near the bandstand from 9am in order to give your bike a quick safety check in case there is anything you are unsure about. If you do not have access to a roadworthy machine, BikeRight! have a limited number of bikes they can lend people for the ride. If you would like to borrow one of these, it must be agreed in advance – send an email to info2@bikeright.co.uk with ‘Nikki Pugh Led Ride’ in the subject.

Please make sure you have a lock to secure your cycle whilst you are inside the college.

There will not be an organised ride back from the event at Longbridge, so please make your own plans for returning home (especially important if you have borrowed a bike to get there!). There is a train station very close to the college or you can re-trace the route back to Cannon Hill Park.

There is free car-parking at Cannon Hill Park, or it is on National Cycle Route number 5 if you are cycling over from the city centre.

The Route

We will follow National Cycle Route 5 along the River Rea to Stirchley and then through Kings Norton and Northfield.

The route is about 7 miles long and mostly off-road on shared paths.
There is also a short section along a canal towpath.

The surface is not always great, and may not be suitable for road bikes with skinny tyres.

A gpx file of the route is available for download here, or you can view it on BikeHike here.

That’s it!

Let me know if you have any queries and I’ll do my best to answer them.

In short though, it’ll be a relaxed ride along a quiet route that all are welcome to take part in. If you’d rather not take part in the ride that’s fine – we’ll see you at Bournville College and you’ll still be allowed some cake!

Ride (Birmingham – York)

During the week beginning the 16th of September I will be cycling over 200 miles to York as part of my new project Ride (Birmingham – York), a commission by VINYL. (Related blog posts.)

As I cycle, I will transmit data back to a sculpture being exhibited in the foyer of Bournville College. In turn, this sculpture will change shape, colour and movement in response to the data in order to convey something of the effort being exerted on the other end.

The sculpture will be on show at the Bournville College campus in Longbridge [B31 2AJ] between the 16th and 21st of September.
Entrance is free, just introduce yourself at the front desk for a visitor’s pass.

Monday – Thursday 10:30am – 9:30pm
Friday 10:30am – 4:30pm
Saturday 10:30am – 12:30pm

Launch event:

To mark the beginning of the exhibition, there will be a launch event 10:30am-12:30pm at Bournville College on Saturday the 14th of September. Do join us for cake and a special preview of the the automaton that will be echoing Nikki’s journey to York.

On the morning of the launch event, Nikki will be cycling from Cannon Hill Park to the college campus at Longbridge. Data from this ride will be ‘played back’ via the sculpture during the launch event.

If you would like to accompany me for the leisurely 7 mile bike ride between Cannon Hill Park and the College’s campus in Longbridge, please see this page for more details.


Ride (Birmingham – York) has been commissioned by VINYL and supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

In addition to this, the project would not have been possible without the generosity and support of many different people. In particular, I would like to thank:

  • Jez Higgins and Mike Cummins for building the mobile app and database system that power the sculpture.
  • Garmin Europe Ltd for the donation of a GPS device and mapping to use for navigation whilst on the ride.
  • BikeRight! West Midlands for supporting the ride for the launch event.
  • Bournville College for hosting the sculpture.
  • Kim Wall for accompanying me on the ride to York, and all the many people in various cycling groups and fora who have one way or another helped me to do this.

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