The Curiosity Club
Originally established as a settlement in Pensnett Chase, a wooded area to the south and west of Dudley, West Midlands, Brierley Hill began expanding rapidly following the chases enclosure in 1748 and was first recorded on a map in 1785 after the charting of the Stourbridge Canal.
Brierley Hill had become heavily industrialised by the beginning on the 19th century with a number of quarries, collieries, glass works and iron works in operation.
By the start of the 20th century the raw material deposits had become depleted, leading to the closure of many of the industries in the area. The decline in manufacturing resulted in an unemployment rate of 25% in Brierley Hill in the early 1980’s with the closure of the enormous Round Oak steel works in December 1982 adding to this.
The steelworks site along with the adjacent Merry Hill Farm were redeveloped into the Merry Hill shopping centre between 1985 and 1990.
Brierley Hill is currently ranked as one of the most deprived areas in England, with residents facing high levels of social isolation and loneliness.
The Curiosity Club takes as its starting point the belief that collaborative noticing, paying attention and exploration enhances our everyday lives and through the metaphor of the club seeks to support the development of inclusion and community connectedness.
Workshop 24 in partnership with Brierley Hill Library, The Glasshouse Heritage Centre, Hawbush Community Gardens and St Michaels church is running a number of workshops and dérives over two years, developing relationships through experimentation and the investigation of local places. In a series of co-created events and performances, Helen Garbett, Bill Laybourne and club members invite others to join them in an exchange of curiousness.
The Loneliness Library contains background research to the project and is also a resource for anyone wishing to learn more about loneliness and social isolation. The Loneliness Library can be found here.