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Exhibition showcases unseen photos and footage of Birmingham's alternative music scene in the 1980s

80s exhibition news

A major exhibition documenting the alternative music scene of 1980s Birmingham through previously unseen items has gone on display at Birmingham City University's Parkside Gallery.

Is There Anyone Out There? is a curated collection of original photographs, film footage, audio recordings, flyposters, contracts, riders and eyewitness accounts charting the history of legendary Birmingham music haunt The Click Club, marking 30 years since it opened.

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Birmingham City University

It features decades-old images of artists such as Primal Scream and Bjork as well as local acts like Pop Will Eat Itself and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin.

The exhibition draws upon the personal archive of music promoter and photographer Dave Travis, and showcases some of the thousands of photographs taken at the club which ran between 1986 and 1990.

The Click Club was the name of a concert venue and disco located at ‘Burberries on the Street’ nightclub, on a pre-regeneration era Broad Street, when capacity was limited to a few hundred attendees.

Travis said: “Steve Coxon and I started The Click Club out of frustration at having to travel all over the Midlands to see the bands that we liked or that we were reviewing for the music press.

“The Click Club operated a no smart dress policy although it was always more of an attitude restriction.” 

During its lifetime, the club showcased a wide variety of acts reflecting the varied culture of the independent and alternative music such as Primal Scream, We’ve Got a Fuzzbox and We’re Gonna Use It, and The Mighty Lemon Drops.

The club supported the emergence of other local bands such as The Wonder Stuff, Ocean Colour Scene and a group of ‘grebo’ acts from the Black Country.

Under the management of Travis and Coxon, The Click Club booked and promoted live shows by gothic rock bands like Balaam and the Angel, Fields of The Nephilim and Rose of Avalanche, as well as nurturing the so-called baggy scene with appearances from The Charlatans, James and Blur. 

Using contributions from those who attended the nights along with loaned artefacts, Is There Anyone Out There? highlights The Click Club as an important part of the region’s music and cultural heritage.

Paul Long, Professor of Media and Cultural History at the University said: “The title of the exhibition comes from 1986 single ‘Is there anyone out there’ from local band Mighty Mighty.

“The lovelorn lyric evokes the romantic angst of youth but also poses a question for the curators of this exhibition: who is out there who might know about the Click Club and is anyone else interested in this subject?”

“We are interested in finding out how people engage with the exhibition and welcome feedback from from those who were part of this community as well the wider public of Birmingham and beyond.

“We want to know: what is the value of this material? What does it tell us beyond confirming the memories of the few individuals it concerned, and does such material have wider importance and contributions to make for our understanding of the past?”

Is There Anyone Out There? is presented by Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research (BCMCR) in association with Birmingham City University and Dave Travis.

The exhibition is free to attend and runs until Friday 27 May at Birmingham City University’s Parkside Gallery. 

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