The Club’s Conception
(or How the Egg Was Cracked)
Ryan Kearney and Intervention Architecture
Recent Activity, 80-82 Floodgate Street, Digbeth, Birmingham, B5 5SR
4 May - 1 June 2019
The Club’s Conception (or How the Egg Was Cracked) is an exhibition which looks to retrace the past venues of Birmingham’s longest-running queer space, The Nightingale Club. In collaboration with those who attended its three preceding venues, Intervention Architecture and Ryan Kearney map these spaces from recollections, replacing absent photographs while positioning personal and collective narratives within archival significance.
Founded as a member’s association in 1969, The Nightingale Club leased a two-up, two-down house on Camp Hill. Much like a home, visitors requested entry and could be denied, reflecting the necessitated subtlety of early queer establishments. Following a compulsory purchase order in 1975, the venue moved to a working men’s club on Witton Lane, before taking up residence in a fishing association on Thorp Street in 1981, where it remained until it was sold in 1994. The club’s previous sites reflect ongoing threats of regeneration in Birmingham’s LGBTQ+ community, and the need to shift, occupy and adapt heteronormative structures while providing important spaces for queer people.
The Club’s Conception (or How the Egg Was Cracked) consists of armatures which carry the participant’s sketches and their culmination as architectural renderings, models illustrating the club’s structures based only on recollections and text which blends descriptions of walls, floors, doors and windows.
Using architecture as a point of departure, the exhibition confronts the problematics of a queer venue. Initially run for and by gay men, it was only in the mid-1990s that women could become members of The Nightingale Club, something which is reflected by the ratio between men and women in the project’s list of participants. Prior to becoming a member, women would need to be signed in by and have their drinks purchased for them by a male member. While eventually permitted entry, participants describe entire rooms being annexed by female attendees, creating a safer space within a so-called safe space.
Art Monthly, July 2019
Art Monthly Podcast, July 2019
New Art West Midlands, May 2019
Photos by John Fallon