21 Nov 2017

Faith and belief explored as Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery partners with the British Museum

• Birmingham Museums chosen as the British Museum’s only national partner outside of London for this project
• Ambitious ‘Finding Faith’ programme runs until March 2018 in one of the UK’s most ‘faithful’ cities, Birmingham
• Extensive programme of events launches on Saturday 25th November with a day of free activities, events and performances at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery

Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is launching a pioneering programme of unique events and activities, in partnership with the British Museum, to explore the role that faith plays in the lives of many of people in Birmingham and across the UK.

Launching on Saturday 25th November with a day of free performances and workshops, the ambitious Finding Faith programme will run until March 2018 and includes performances, debates and live panel discussions.

Finding Faith aims to encourage people to reflect on their own beliefs, celebrate the city’s multi-faith community and learn more about how faith and belief can help us understand the world around us today.

Birmingham Museums is the British Museum’s only regional partner outside of London for this project and the extensive programme of events and activities was developed in partnership with the British Museum’s ‘Living with gods: peoples, places and worlds beyond’ exhibition.

Running until 8th April 2018, the exhibition explores the practice and expression of religious beliefs in the lives of individuals and communities around the world and through time. Birmingham Museums’ complementary programme aims to bring the discussion outside of London and directly engage with people about what faith means to them.

Engaging performances and activities on the launch day begin from 11am and represent a range of faiths and beliefs. Opening with an expressive Hindu dance performance from artist and choreographer Jaivant Patel, which explores his relationship with personal faith and spirituality, the day continues with a Rastafarian drumming workshop, uplifting gospel music from artists AffieJam and Jabez Walsh, spoken word poetry by Carl Sealeaf, who identifies as an Atheist, and a Bahá'í craft workshop, which aims to introduce children and families alike to one of the world’s youngest major religions. 

Until March 2018 unique events will take place at BMAG and at other venues across the West Midlands as part of Finding Faith, such as Coventry Cathedral and University of Birmingham, to encourage interfaith conversations in a range of settings. 

To encourage discussion beyond physical spaces, there will also be live-stream discussions; including a panel event called Can I find faith? in which national faith leaders will explore what it means to live in the intersection as an LGBT+ person of faith. 

Recognising that young people are the future of interfaith Birmingham, Dr Andrew Smith, Director of Interfaith Relations for the Bishop of Birmingham, will lead an informal discussion with youth organisation The Feast exploring what it means to live in an interfaith city.

Other prominent events include The Birmingham Conversation, a series of discussions between representatives of different faiths, an artist installation and performance from leading South African artist James Webb, a faith and disability talk led by disability rights activist Hannah Eldritch, and Recipe for a City Feast Celebration, which will see different faith representatives take part in food swap with the public encouraged to try different recipes. 

Suriya Roberts-Grey, Finding Faith Programme Coordinator at Birmingham Museums, said: “Faith and belief is a key human characteristic and this extensive programme of exciting and though-provoking performances, workshops and discussions will bring to life the spirit of living in a multi-faith society.

“Working with the British Museum and being selected as the only regional partner outside London for this project is a testament to the Birmingham Museums Trust team, who have forged vital links with faith groups and communities across the region.”

Birmingham Museums was chosen for the collaboration following the success of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery’s Faith in Birmingham Gallery, which was developed by working in partnership with the British Museum and followed consultation with faith groups and communities across Birmingham.

Reflecting Birmingham’s multi-faith status and encouraging new visitors to the museum, the gallery includes objects such as an iconic Sultanganj Buddha statue, a 13th century stone figure of the Hindu god Ganesha, and two recently acquired Islamic artefacts. 

The Ottoman Qibla indicator is an instrument used by Muslims to ascertain the direction they should face for their prayers, and the second object acquired is an accurate 19th century French replica of a 14th century Egyptian glass lamp – both popular objects selected by worshippers at the Birmingham Central Mosque and Birmingham’s first purchase of Islamic Art for over a century.

Inspiring visitors until March 2018, Finding Faith aims to bring together people of different religious backgrounds and communities to start a UK wide conversation about the human nature of belief and the role that faith plays in today’s society.

For more information please visit #FindingFaith.