To proceed with the project for the memorial to the former, Italian community of Curzon, we organised a community engagement session, at the Woodman pub – one of the only remaining structures from the period in question.
This was the first of these sessions to gain an insight into what life was like in this small urban community, and to draw on these references during the design process. In preparation, the latest research was presented back to the group, including some of the descendants from the original families.
Key historical points from the session:
- St.Michael’s church on Moor Street was an important centre for the Italian community. A fresco on the back of church was removed and paced in the oratory during the Second World War in case of damage or vandalism.
- Bordesley Street, are the few remaining terraces from the same period the Italian community lived in the area. Many of the window sills and doorsteps were made of terrazzo, installed by experienced Italian labourers.
- Bastonelli Shop (exact location unknown) was the only store in Birmingham to sell pasta, and became a symbol for the community.
- The nature of the back-to-backs most of the Italian families resided in, meant they retained a sense of community and shared space. Many families came from the region of Lazio from agricultural industries looking for work.
- Bartholomew Row also housed many terraces – the street is now consumed with the former dual carriageway, however, a series of four terraces remain (next to the Christopher Wray building). These terraces are considered the oldest remaining examples of domestic architecture in the city centre.
- The area around Flower Park, seen on historic OS maps) used to house the animals when the circus was hosted at the Hippodrome.
- Other examples of terrazzo work, completed by members of the Italian families, include the entrance to Villa Park (now covered) and in the Hall of Memory in Centenary Square.
- Most of the families dispersed due to Italians seen as enemies of the Allied state – and the dense concentration became a target. There was also economic reasons when families moved to more affluent areas as they increased their financial stability.
A second workshop will be arranged working with local community members and school children to curate physical features and material processes once we are able to synthesis the historical references towards a suitable design strategy.