Tamed - turn flood defences into works of art!

A Community project Witton, Birmingham, United Kingdom

Create community spaces and turn flood defences into works of art!

MADE wants to celebrate the River Tame and Witton’s industrial heritage.

We want to turn flood defences into works of art!


Project Background

There is so much that is special about Witton. Two highlights are its industrial heritage and the River Tame – but they are both often hidden and forgotten.

The River Tame is a lovely river, but a lot of people don’t even realise it’s there. That is, until you have a disaster like 2007 when the river broke its banks and flooded Witton.

The flooding in 2007 caused a lot of damage and problems for the people in the local area. Shops and businesses were flooded out and closed for a long while. The memory of the flooding still worries local people – many go down to the river to check how high it’s getting during wet weather, hoping it won’t flood their houses again.

In 2013 MADE became aware of the Environment Agency’s plan to rebuild the wall between the Brookvale Road and the River Tame, to reduce the flood risk to houses and businesses in Perry Barr and Witton. As a charity interested in promoting a high quality built environment, we saw an opportunity to build on the basic function of the flood defence. Since then, MADE have been working with the community to develop designs which would improve the look of these essential defences and reflect the history of the area.

MADE’s Tamed project has allowed the people of Witton to uncover its hidden heritage and rediscover the river. The proposed artwork is an opportunity to celebrate this, to do something special for Witton and transform the area. In addition, in response to feedback from the community, we plan to create a unique community space where people can sit with a great view of the river. The main influence for the artwork, shown below, was the Kynoch Press, a printing house which was once Witton’s biggest employer.

This is a unique project; the first time that the Environment Agency has worked with artists to engage the local community in flood defence design. A plain and lifeless flood defence could be built, but local people have been adamant that they want something that will enliven the area. Government funding will cover the basic cost of the flood defences, but we need your help to bring them to life and celebrate Witton and the River Tame. 

This artwork will be a major talking point in Birmingham and beyond; a first for the city, the Environment Agency and for MADE.  It will promote the value of public art, encouraging other infrastructure providers to work with artists and local people when designing their projects.  It will put Witton on the map. Construction of the basic flood defences is commencing imminently in August 2015.

 Please pledge to this fantastic community inspired urban arts project; this is your opportunity to make a real and lasting difference to Witton!



The Designs

The MADE artists have talked to lots of people in Witton about the river, their memories and what is important to them about the area. They have worked with local school children and researched the history of the area. They have interpreted all of this to create artwork for the flood defences and community space. The £50,000 initial target will primarily go to financing the community area, as this is what local people told us was their favourite aspect of the proposals. If we exceed the initial target we will be able to deliver more of the fantastic designs!


Brookvale Road Flood Wall

The large words on the wall show the name of the river and the direction in which it is flowing. The words in between describe how the river behaves and what it means to local people. The typeface was designed and used by the Kynoch Press in the 1920s and 1930s. The letters will be made from smooth concrete whereas the brown background will be rough ‘pebbly’ concrete.


The 'turbidity' panels break up the words and show the letters and symbols used in the historic Kynoch Press. The patterns reflect how the water swirls around in the river, carrying plants and sediment, as it flows through Witton. The panels will be made using Graphic Concrete Art & Design™ (for achieving such an aesthetic finish this process offers the best value) with an anti-graffiti coating.


New Community Area

During public consultations into these works, residents of Witton expressed their desire for a community area.  The need to remove some of the existing vegetation behind the bus stop at the northern end of Brookvale Road, to accommodate the new flood wall, has provided the ideal opportunity for this.

We now have permission from the landowner to install a paved area with seats and an information board, giving the local community a space to sit with a view of the river, away from the busy road.



Atlas Bridge Flood Gates

To maintain the continuity of the defence, a flood gate will be installed at Atlas Bridge.

During normal (non-flood) times, the gates will be open and folded against Brookvale Road, showing the blue panel design by Tirzah Garwood.

During times of expected high river levels (potential flood), the gates will be closed showing the red wave panel design, including high visibility reflective paint on the panel marked ‘Z’.


The Rewards

The construction work is due to be completed in Summer 2016, so that is the basis of the delivery date for some of the rewards. The intention is to dispatch items which are not dependant on the flood defence works earlier than this date (such as thank you letters, postcards and prints). Details regarding the opening ceremony and the “Thank You” plaques will be sent out when the construction is nearing completion.

There are 5 designs available for the postcards and prints; rewards which involve a set will include one of each design.

To start pledging, click on the reward you would like to receive!


RoCS Champions

The Environment Agency is developing a scheme to recognise those who make significant contributions to flood defence projects. We want to put Witton on the map, as the first project to have Recognition of Community Support (RoCS) Champions!

Primarily for businesses (though everyone is welcome!) there will be three levels of the award: bronze, silver and gold. All Champions will receive RoCS logos from the Environment Agency, which they will be able to use on their publicity materials and websites. An example logo is shown below.

RoCS Champions will also be recognised on the Witton site, with a "Thank You" plaque by the new Community Area.

Bronze Champions will get their name/company name included in regular size font. Silver Champions will get their name/company name included in large font. Gold Champions will get their name/company name included in larger font plus their logo.

All RoCS Champions will be recognised at the Opening Ceremony.

The use of RoCS Champions in Witton is seen as a pilot and the intention is to expand the scope of the Environment Agency recognition scheme to cover a wider area. When this is launched, all Champions will be transferred onto the new scheme and receive the new logos if required.

Becoming a RoCS Champion is a fantastic way to give back to the local area and show customers you care about CSR!


Meet the Artists

Jenni Dixon: Artist and historian, Tamed project.

I’ve been working on the Tamed project for about two years now. As an artist working in the area with the local community, I’ve been exploring the heritage of the river and raising awareness of the works that are going to be going on. This is a really interesting project in bringing the history to life and also bringing the area to life.

Rob Colbourne: Artist, Tamed project.

Rob is a visual artist who has worked on a wide range of projects independently and in collaboration with a wide range of others including architects and urban designers, wildlife experts, archaeologists, historians, geographers, writers and other artists. Both he and Stuart use the initial process of research and on-site survey when they begin to work on a project. 

Stuart Mugridge: Artist, Tamed project.

Stuarts practice is focused on addressing relationship to places and events. He uses initial research around things like the history, ecology, geography and geology of a certain place as well as consultation and documentation to inform his process. 

For over a year Rob and Stuart worked directly with the Environment Agency Design Team developing the flood defences.  Their designs reinterpret what they, along with Jenni have found during their time and research in Witton.